Dublin: 8°C Saturday 16 October 2021

Rugby firmly in the back seat as Cubs fans slowly turn hope to belief

It’s an exciting time to be a sportsfan in Chicago.

Advertisements for Saturday's match adorn lampposts all over the city centre.
Advertisements for Saturday's match adorn lampposts all over the city centre.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Sean Farrell reports from Chicago

THE MIDWEST IS young and restless, but the old hospitality still shines through.

The mood of the city was lifted even higher last night as the Chicago Cubs put themselves in place to make all kinds of history by trouncing the Cleveland Indians 9 – 3 away from home in Game Six of the World Series.

Victory tonight would make them just the sixth team to win baseball’s biggest prize after slipping to a 3 – 1 deficit and the Cubs have been starved of the title for 108 long years.

There was still work to be done after an entertaining day in the New Zealand camp, so we heard the landslide start before getting a chance to see the damage the Cubs hitters were doing.

The banging started on the floor above while the cheers filtered through off the street shortly after when the game’s third batter Kris Bryant smashed one out of the park to set the tone. By the time we got sitting down to eat in a northside bar, the Cubs were cruising, a grand slam homer taking them 7 – 0 up.

Delerious celebrations, but they were brief. Nobody wants to be responsible for another jinx.

The air of hope and forboding fear that it could all go horribly wrong in the windy city is inescapable. And with training down days scheduled for Ireland and their Kiwi opponents today, both squads must have been drawn into the excitable fervour last night.

On a high stool next to The42, Ola and Erin are a couple who are slowly beginning to believe. Such is the power of the Curse of the Billygoat and a lifetime watching the World Series as an outsider, they refuse to countenance even playing Game Seven, never mind winning the whole thing, until the ninth inning was well under way.

Strangers offer high-fives after each run and particularly satisfying strike-outs, and Erin recounts how sparse and accessible Wrigley Field was in the not-too-distant past.

“Tickets were, like, $10. I used to get the tickets free, but since the new guy (Theo Epstein, head of operations) came in, there’s no more free tickets.”

The baseball bandwagon is well over capacity.

Kieran Read Kieran Read gets ready to swap his flip-flops for boots at training in Chicago Fire's Toyota Park. Source: Photosport/Andrew Cornaga/INPHO

The couple are well aware of rugby, it was played in Ola’s high school and he is familiar with the concept of the All Blacks. The US Eagles however, haven’t caused a blip on their radar.

News that New Zealand are in town and will play in Soldier Field is an exciting development, but notice is too short for them to cancel their 3pm Saturday plans and go along.

For rugby fans, that marker in the week’s schedule is The Big One.

Steve Hansen’s squad are doing a fine job of staying relaxed for every moment they’re not hard at work while Joe Schmidt’s men are clearly excited by the novelty of playing this side of the Atlantic with unseasonably warm Illinois November weather.

Craig Gilroy, Rob Kearney and Devin Toner Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“I like an ‘Irish car bomb’… wait, is that offensive?” Ola asks as the Paddy’s presence inevitably leads the chat to drink. It’s not. And not nearly as annoying as a hotel concierge’s offer of Lucky Charms, Guinness and an expression of love for that awful Leap Year film Amy Adams inflicted on us.

Still, we won’t begrudge them if they shut the city down with a Game Seven win in Cleveland tonight.

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About the author:

Sean Farrell

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