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Justin Allen, NBC5 Street Team

“You’ve got to be f’ing kidding me.”

My friend Todd looked up from his beer and stared at the TV. The Dodger bench had emptied and the entire team was celebrating on the field. Joyous fans celebrated in the stands, while shots of dejected Cubs fans and players peppered the broadcast.

“Why would anyone want to be a fan of this team?” he asked. Even the faith of the most obsessive fans can be shaken after a 100 year drought.

Here come the man-tears.

Here come the man-tears.

“Seriously, why do we subject ourselves to this crap?” he continued. “It doesn’t matter what team they put on the field next year or the year after or ten years from now; it’s never going to happen. Never.”

My God.  What a thought.  There we sat, a table of the most strident fans the Cubs could have and we’re questioning why we do it.  And as we sat there debating the logistics of swearing off the Cubs forever, it dawned on me: we’re not going to give up the Cubs. Ever. Why? Because we’re fans. Not just any fans…CUBS fans.  More than any other fan in any other sport, we hold on to the notion that, regardless of how bleak the chances might be, there’s always still a chance the Cubs can do it.  There’s always next year.  And the year after that and the year after that and…

So for all my fellow Cubs fans out there, this song’s for you. It’s by the late Steve Goodman, a great American singer/songwriter and, just like you and me, a true, Cubbie blue, Cubs fan. I’m sure you’ll agree this pretty much sums up what being a Cubs fan is all about. Click here to check it out.

Until next year…or the year after that…

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Justin Allen, NBC5 Street Team

I’ve never seen a bar crowd lose hope faster than they did last night at Murphy’s Bleachers during Game 2 of the Cubs/Dodgers NLDS series. Watching the game with a few friends (all of whom are die-hard and weathered Cubs fans), we were amazed at lack of faith in the Boys in Blue displayed by even the most ardent and naive of bandwagoners. I’m sorry, but isn’t that the bandwagoner’s sole job? To cling to the idea of a miraculous 9th inning, come-from-behind victory despite all odds and evidence to the contrary?

So what? So let's dance!

So what? So let's dance!

Anyway, this got me to thinking…when it comes to watching the Cubs (or any other Chicago sports team, for that matter), your sanity depends on one thing: expectations. For example: you order a hot dog and demand that it tastes like a steak.  You silly goose.  That’s like asking any white male with a pulse not to dance to a Huey Lewis and the News song…it’s just not going to happen.

The same can be said for watching the Cubs in the postseason.  When they’re down 5-0 in the second inning with their ace on the mound, it’s a little unrealistic to scream at the TV when they can’t mount a comeback, then swear off the Cubs until next season.  But what’s a Cubs fan to do?  It a tough and depressing world out there for us, right?  Hell, this video (written and produced by yours truly after last year’s postseason sweep) is a testament to that fact:

Well here’s a tip I picked up from my father-in-law (a lifelong southsider and, get this, a White Sox fan) on how to deal with the heartache and stress that comes with being a Chicago sports fan: lower your expectations and lesson your anguish. Don’t demand that hot dog you’re mealing down on start tasting like a filet, and don’t think for one second that goofy white dude’s going to stop cutting a mean rug to “The Heart of Rock n’ Roll”, and for the love of all that is holy in this world, don’t think the Cubs are going to win it all this year.

Instead, base your expectations on a pitch-by-pitch, hit-by-hit and inning-by-inning basis, and you might make it through this postseason with some sanity…and you just might see a hell of a comeback while you’re at it!

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Justin Allen, NBC5 Street Team

I must be getting old. That’s the only way I can justify the fact that, as a lifelong, die-hard Cubs fan, I found myself  irritable and cranky as I walked through the crowds in Wrigleyville before the game last night. I guess the years of disappointment and loss have not been kind to my  tolerance of overly excited large crowds and high-priced Old Style.

The dream endures...

The dream endures...

I’d decided to head out to soak in some of the playoff atmosphere and find a place to watch the game among like-minded fans around the ballpark.  But after grumbling at the site of Ronny Woo Woo (why is he so famous?), and groaning at the site of some fan’s novelty haircut and seething as I waded through crowds of depressingly optimistic Cubs fans, I realized why I was acting like a angry old woman: I was stone cold sober.

Your mother is very disappointed with your haircut.

Your mother is very disappointed with your haircut.

Silly me.  I knew better than to head into the baby bear’s den without a head full of hope and belly full of beer.  But this situation needed to be remedied…fast.  And in my state of mind, I was no shape for the Wrigleyville mainstays of Murphy’s Bleachers, The Cubby Bear, or even Sluggers, leaving me with very few options.  Luckily, the bar chose me.

“Cold beer here!” said a voice in front of me.

No. Way. A beer man on the street??  Suddenly, everything was coming up Justin.

“I’ll…take…a…beer?” I responded apprehensively.

“Sure thing, right down there,” he said pointing to a basement door with a neon Miller sign that read, “Bar Open.”

His fame remains a mystery.

Ronny Woo Woo: His fame remains a mystery.

Now normally, I’m not one to put myself in a situation where I think I might be murdered.  And frankly, in my mind, strange basements are typically a hotbed for that sort of thing.  But with with Def Leppard’s hit “Pour Some Sugar on Me” blaring through the door and a sign that read “$5 domestic cans”, I couldn’t help myself.

What I saw after walking through that door can only be described as magical: TV’s as far as the eye can see, a large, easily accessibly bar, room to move around, yet still crowded enough to be fun…and the best part: $3 hot dogs and $5 domestic cans ($0.50 cheaper than most of its competitors).

Heaven awaits...

Heaven awaits...

I’d found a bar I thought to only be a Wrigelyville urban legend: DugOut Sports Bar & Grill.  Located at 950 W. Addison St., Suite B (read: between an ATM machine and a ticket reseller), DugOut is one of the best kept secrets in Wrigleyville.  Aesthetically it resembles the bar in your parent’s basement. Socially it’s much less pathetic. It’s a good mixture of true-blue Cubs fans who actually watch every single pitch, and the hangers-on and bandwagoners that help lift the true-blue fan’s spirits with their naive optimism.

Like your parent's basement...only less pathetic.

DugOut: A lot less pathetic than your parent's basement.

So as I feasted on a $3 hot dog and the old woman in me retreated back from whence she came, I marveled at the fact that win or lose, I’d found my new gameday hangout.

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank
As the only person to work for both Chicago baseball teams as both a player and as a broadcaster, current White Sox radio color analyst Steve Stone is the foremost authority on Chicago baseball. Stone or “Stony” as he is nicknamed, has also done television broadcasts for ESPN and TBS and will become the Sox television analyst in 2009. Stony, also 670 The Score’s lead Baseball Analyst, is well known and loved for his baseball predictions, the high rate at which these predictions comes true, and the multitude of products that he has endorsed over the years. From 1983-97, Stone was the WGN color commentator for Chicago Cubs telecasts, working with Hall of Fame announcer Harry Caray for 15 years.

As a player, Stony won a Cy Young and The Sporting News Pitcher of the Year award in 1980.

I had an exclusive with Stony on Saturday night before the Sox-Indians game. Here’s what he had to say about the Cubs and their postseason prospects:

“They’re certainly capable of beating anybody, but I think they scored 17 runs, total against the Dodgers for the season. So the Dodgers are a team that can shut them down, not saying that they will, but I do think the Dodgers can create a more difficult match-up. And then probably the other team is Philadelphia. The first round is when you’re more likely to be knocked out by a team you’re actually better than. In 3 of 5 a lot more so than in 4 of 7. Although in 4 of 7 the best team doesn’t always win either.

On his bold predictions, and how often they come true…

This year when I said the Cubs would win their division by 8-10 games and most people in this city thought I was crazy, I stuck by that. They were actually up 11 before they took their foot off the gas pedal, but they could have pretty much won the division by whatever margin they wanted to because they were far and away better than anyone else in the division. I remember on June 11th when I did {ESPN’s} “Pardon the Interruption,” I said to Cub guy Mike Wilbon, I want to have it on record that I told you the Cubs would win the division by 8 and 10 games, because they are a far superior team to Milwaukee.

To read more from this interview Click Here.

To check out my blog, “Chicago Blue State” on the Washington Times website, go here.

For more Chicago sports analysis and discussion go here.

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank

The media has certainly beaten a dead horse concerning the Cubs and 1908. But have you heard much about 1949? It’s the last time the Northwestern Wildcats won a postseason game. With college football bowl bids as plentiful as Amy Winehouse legal infractions these days, it’s quite a streak! Like the “Lovable Losers” in Wrigley Field, they’re another Chicago team that went through an embarrassingly LONG losing spell in the 60s, 70s and part of the 80s. However, in the last 25 years, both the ‘Cats (’05, ’03, ’00, ’96, ’95) and Cubbies (’07, ’03, ’98, ’89, ‘84) have been to the postseason a previously uncharacteristic 5 times!

Is this, the sixth trip, the breakthrough year for both? Many college football experts forecasted Northwestern to be 8-4 this season and their schedule certainly seems to be conducive to obtaining this mark. They looked impressive in week one, as their defense -a unit provoking much skepticism- held Syracuse to just 225 total yards. The Cats gained almost 500 yards of their own on the way to a 30-10 victory. Remember, Illinois went to the Rose Bowl at 9-3 last season, so an NU upset somewhere along the line could actually mean a BCS bid. No, Seriously! The Wildcats are coached by Pat Fitzgerald, a native of suburban Orland Park, and All-American Linebacker/National Defensive player of the year during his playing days at Northwestern. His teams won back-to-back Big Ten titles in 1995 and 1996.

Current star tailback Tyrell Sutton, a Doak Walker Award (best national collegiate running back) candidate, is on pace to become the school’s all-time leading rusher. That feat is quite impressive considering the school’s tailback tradition includes recent or current NFL backs Jason Wright, Damien Anderson, Noah Herron and Darnell Autry.

The final similarity they share with the Cubs is seeing their home field star on the silver screen. Universal Pictures shot the football scenes from the soon-to-be-released movie, “The Express” at Ryan Field. The movie profiles former Syracuse Heisman Trophy winner Ernie Davis, the first African American to win the prestigious award. Numerous films have featured the Friendly Confines.

You can hear my audio exclusives with Fitzgerald and Sutton, by following the hyper-linked text. They both address the program’s bowl game victory drought. For more Chicago sports analysis and talk go here.

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