There was something sad about walking through the ballpark Thursday night. No one was slitting their wrists -- that I saw -- but there was a palpable sense of disappointment, despair and failure in the air, a feeling that is common for this park in October. Shocktober? No.
Walking through the cattle car that is the upper deck, the downtrodden faces crammed together in mutual suffering was in complete contrast with Duran Duran's peppy "Rio" that played on the park's speakers. Nice choice, Cubs. I would've picked something more fitting for the mood, like "Brick" by Ben Folds Five or maybe the Star Wars Death March, but I guess that's why I'm not a DJ.
The fans are always a big story at Wrigley, for some reason or another. They've stuck with a losing outfit lo these many years, filling this stadium nearly every game. I don't know how many times I've heard Cubs players enthusiastically respond to the same, tired questions about how the crowd's enthusiasm, or how the Cubs have the best fans on Earth, or how they deserve a championship.
After a poor, tense showing Wednesday, the fans were great early in game two. As a 2-0 series deficit became apparent, after the Cubs' infield of errors betrayed Carlos Zambrano - four total, one for each infielder - they grew sarcastic, cheering an easy infield fly snag by Aramis Ramirez at third, and then angry, booing Kosuke Fukudome with utter contempt and malice.
So maybe it's good the Cubs get out of town. In October, Wrigley's more of a haunted house than a home field advantage. I don't believe in curses, the occult or any of that crap, but I do think the pressure on this club is almost too immense to overcome right now. All season long, the questions have gotten more and more desperate. Is this the year? After a while, as the Cubs kept piling up wins, it became like a chanting mantra. The fans (and believe me, there are plenty of fans in the extended media) wanted some kind of guarantee that it was finally the Cubs' turn to win it all, to have it all.
It all fell apart in the second. Ryan Theriot botched a barehand snag. Mark DeRosa and Derrek Lee made back-to-back errors. Russell Martin cleared the bases with a smoked double to left-center. Just like that it was 5-0. The Cubs were so tight, they could have used frying pans for gloves and you wouldn't have noticed a difference.
It's a long plane ride out West. Maybe the Cubs will have their own Manifest Destiny, taking two in L.A., and come back for an encore in Chicago. It's nice to dream.
But more than likely, it's "wait 'til next year," this year. Some things never change.
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