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Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Flying the W: Scenes from Wrigleyville during the Cubs' World Series home games

Posted By on 11.01.16 at 05:12 PM

  • Paul Boucher

Freelance photographer Paul Boucher has been on hand to capture the exuberant energy of Cubs fans—and vendors looking to cash in on that energy—outside Wrigley Field as the Cubs competed in the World Series for the first time in more than 71 years.

Before you tune into game six, check out his photos from Friday's home game against the Cleveland Indians.

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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Why I'm rooting for Jason Kipnis in the World Series

Posted By on 10.26.16 at 04:32 PM

Cleveland Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis - JASON MILLER/GETTY IMAGES
  • Jason Miller/Getty Images
  • Cleveland Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis

If I'm going to root for one player above all others during the World Series, it won't be one of the Cubs. And I mean no disrespect to the Cubs. 

To explain, I have to start with the story of the 2007 trial of newspaper magnate Conrad Black. The CEO of Hollinger International, which owned the Sun-Times and London Telegraph among other papers, a member of Britain's House of Lords, and a hobnobber with international elites, Black is the reason the trial made headlines, although he wasn't the only defendant. Grandiose and imperious and incapable of taking seriously the obligations of corporations to shareholders, Black was one of four Hollinger executives who stood accused of defrauding their investors. The feds argued—and the jury agreed—that Black, his business partner David Radler (publisher of the Sun-Times), and two others pulled a fast one when Hollinger sold off most of its newspapers; they signed noncompete contracts with the new owners as a way of funneling some of the proceeds directly to themselves, when that money should have gone to the company.

There was one other defendant. Mark Kipnis, the corporate counsel, didn't make a dime from the sales, but he'd drawn up the noncompete contracts, and the feds threw him into the pot. There's nothing improper per se about a noncompete contract, and even Radler—who pleaded guilty and testified for the prosecution—told the jury that Kipnis had simply been doing the legal work he'd been asked to do. But the state did its best to make his role seem sinister. 

"If there is a document to be signed to complete this scheme, you'll see that Mark Kipnis has a pen," said a prosecutor in his opening statement. Like the others, Kipnis was convicted of fraud.

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How to remove Joe Buck from your life [UPDATED]

Posted By on 10.26.16 at 02:37 PM

The most hated man in baseball - SLAVEN VLASIC/GETTY
  • Slaven Vlasic/Getty
  • The most hated man in baseball

Because I am too cheap to pay for cable, last night's World Series game between the Cubs and the Indians was the first one all season I've been able to watch on TV in the peace and comfort of my own living room. Usually it's my custom to listen to Pat Hughes and Ron Coomer on the radio, WSCR (670 AM). Though I still miss the original Ron—Santo—Pat's voice never fails to comfort and soothe me, even when the Cubs are irrevocably losing.

Still, the prospect of being able to see one of those Javy Baez saves for myself was seductive. But halfway through the first inning, I started to feel depressed. It had something to do with Corey Kluber's string of strikeouts, but mostly it was the Fox announcing team.

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Monday, October 24, 2016

Scatter my ashes at Wrigley Field

Posted By on 10.24.16 at 12:55 PM

The iconic ivy beckons at Wrigley Field. - CHARLES REX ARBOGAST
  • Charles Rex Arbogast
  • The iconic ivy beckons at Wrigley Field.

If Saturday night's baseball game had been an ordinary game, we might have said it was settled in the first inning, when a double, a single, and a dropped fly ball put the Cubs up 2-0 against the Dodgers, and the pitcher who'd shut them out the last time, Clayton Kershaw. Already the Cubs had one more run than they'd need.

But this wasn't a game, it was a quest, and it began in 1945; that's the last time the Cubs won a pennant, and not many people around then are alive now. Or it began in 1908, the last time the Cubs won a World Series. That team's fans have all left the earth, along with most people who even remember them.

Failure so enduring isn't easily dispelled by good fortune. The Cubs scored again and then again, and I felt a threshold was crossed with the fourth run. It's the one that diminished the haunting precedent of the sixth game of the 2003 NL Championship Series, when the Cubs were sailing along with a 3-0 lead and had their ace on the mound, but disaster struck and the Cubs lost 8-3. (And the next night they lost the seventh game.) As the last few LA batters took their cuts, and the TV cameras scanned the stands, the score by now 5-0, some Cubs fans sobbed but others looked braced and fearful. But suddenly the game was over, ended not by disaster but by a double play.

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Thursday, October 20, 2016

Cubs fans should enjoy the postseason misery

Posted By on 10.20.16 at 04:18 PM

Javier Baez strikes out during the Cubs' loss to the Dodgers on October 18. - HARRY HOW/GETTY
  • Harry How/Getty
  • Javier Baez strikes out during the Cubs' loss to the Dodgers on October 18.

On Wednesday at this time, I posted a message on Facebook I called "an open letter to Cubs fans from a St. Louis fan." A lot of people liked it, and I think that's because my message, boiled down to its essence, was I feel your pain.

My God, what pain there was to feel! The Cubs had just been shut out two games in a row. They trailed the Dodgers two games to one in the National League Championship Series. Is this how the magical 2016 season was going to end—as just another memorable disaster?

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Monday, October 17, 2016

A Hasidic rabbi outside Wrigley Field teaches Cubs fans how to bless their team

Posted By on 10.17.16 at 07:49 PM

Rabbi Dovid Kotlarsky and Cubs fans in Wrigleyville - COURTESY DOVID KOTLARSKY
  • courtesy Dovid Kotlarsky
  • Rabbi Dovid Kotlarsky and Cubs fans in Wrigleyville

The 2003 National League Championship Series coincided with the weeklong Jewish festival of Sukkot. During that week, Rabbi Boruch Hertz, an emissary of the Lubavitch Chabad, built a sukkah across the street from Wrigley Field and encouraged everyone, but especially Jews, to come in and pray with him.

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Street preacher Steve the Rebuker calls for Cubs fans to repent

Posted By on 10.17.16 at 07:16 PM

Outside Wrigley Field, a van driven by an acquaintance of Steve the Rebuker evangelized before game two of the NLCS. - AIMEE LEVITT
  • Aimee Levitt
  • Outside Wrigley Field, a van driven by an acquaintance of Steve the Rebuker evangelized before game two of the NLCS.

The crowd started gathering around Wrigley Field midafternoon on Sunday, approximately four hours before the Cubs were scheduled to face off against the Dodgers in game two of the National League Championship Series. And on the corner of Addison and Sheffield, amid the stream of fans, vendors, drinkers, gawkers, and wanderers all clad in blue, stood one lone stout, white-haired figure in red with a hands-free microphone over his ear and Bible in his back pocket.

His name, he said, was Steve the Rebuker. He rooted for neither the Cubs nor the Dodgers. "I'm on Team Jesus Christ," he said, though when pressed, he allowed that he is nominally a Baptist. His mission was to preach the word of God to people. There were a lot of people outside Wrigley Field.   

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Friday, October 14, 2016

What makes the Cubs so irresistible? Winning personalities winning games.

Posted By on 10.14.16 at 12:16 PM

The Cubs: so good, so excitable, so large and likable - MARCIO JOSE SANCHEZ
  • Marcio Jose Sanchez
  • The Cubs: so good, so excitable, so large and likable

"So this is what it's like to be a Yankees fan," I thought at the beginning of baseball season.

The Cubs were working counts, drawing walks, advancing runners by hitting to the right side, delivering in the clutch, and both pitching and fielding impeccably. They expected to win, and win they did, racing out to a 25-6 start.

Yet it would have been slighting these Cubs to compare them to the Yankees. There's always been a forbidding, somewhat chilly mystique to the Yanks. Yes, their players had personality, but it was the personality of efficient professionalism. From Joe DiMaggio through Derek Jeter, the Yankees, when they were good, were good because they were the best at their field. They played professionally, proficiently, and occasionally something more, as in the undeniable genius displayed by Jeter in his relay between the pitcher's mound and home plate to nail Jason Giambi in that 2001 playoff series with the Oakland A's. Yet, with the notable exception of the so-called Bronx Zoo Yankees of the 70s of Reggie Jackson and Billy Martin, the team lacked warm personalities. Even Mickey Mantle had it drilled out of him in the end.

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Tuesday, October 11, 2016

How to swim like a mermaid

Posted By and on 10.11.16 at 09:00 AM

The authors as mermaids - NORA KAITIS
  • Nora Kaitis
  • The authors as mermaids

A few weeks ago an e-mail popped into the inboxes of the authors of this post inviting us to swim like a mermaid. We knew we had to accept, because how often in your life do you get to fulfill one of your most cherished childhood dreams?

The message from Nora Kaitis of AquaMermaid Chicago, the local franchise of a company based in Montreal, promised we would be provided with actual mermaid tails and taught how to swim in them. So last weekend we headed down to the pool at the UIC Sports and Fitness Center, where Kaitis teaches classes every Sunday at noon.

After we signed a rather daunting disclaimer that absolved AquaMermaid of any responsibility should we drown (we were comforted that we were very close to the UIC Medical Center), Kaitis showed us how to put on our monofins, which fit on our feet like sandals, and fit the stretchy cloth tail over it. Then we plunged in. Somehow we had forgotten in our excitement that Kaitis had promised it would be a workout.

Herewith our reflections on our experiences:

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Thursday, September 22, 2016

Don't expect the Cubs to win just because they're really good

Posted By on 09.22.16 at 03:30 PM

Fans in the bleachers hold W flags after the Cubs beat the Cincinnati Reds Wednesday. - JONATHAN DANIEL/GETTY IMAGES
  • Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
  • Fans in the bleachers hold W flags after the Cubs beat the Cincinnati Reds Wednesday.

If and when the Cubs are eliminated from world championship contention this autumn by an inferior team, their heartsick fans need to keep something in mind: the defeat will have nothing to do with karma, or a curse, or the gods amusing themselves at Chicago's expense.

No, injustice will reign because Major League Baseball wants it that way.

Faced with the task of defeating three slightly inferior teams in short series, the Cubs are likely to be upset by one of them. In an earlier era, a pennant rewarded endurance; the pennant winner might not be the strongest team in the league on the last day of the season—recent injuries might have decimated it—but over the long season it had been the best, and nobody begrudged it the trip to the World Series.

But MLB wanted divisions and it wanted wild cards. It wanted fan interest kept at a boil. The price was paid by justice—but isn't it always?

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