General

Cubs [W]in! [W]hat a time to be alive

cubswinFrom the Saturday, Nov. 5, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …

The WISCH LIST

I was wrong.

Last week, I wrote in this column that if the Cubs do win their “first championship since 1908, I don’t think it can possibly be more emotional for me than it was seeing them reach the World Series for the first time since 1945. It may be just as emotional, but I don’t think it can be more so.”

Yeah, I was dead wrong.

When Kris Bryant scooped up that ground ball and fired it to his pal Anthony Rizzo – Bryzzo! – for the final out of the soul-twisting, brain-bending, gut-wrenching Game 7 of the World Series to hand the Cubs their first championship since 1908, I erupted in pure joy and utter disbelief.

But in the moment, I really couldn’t process it all. And it wasn’t until a few hours later, when I sat alone in my condo a mile from Wrigley Field – long after my parents had left and my wife went to bed – that the enormity of what had just occurred began to truly settle in. Perched on my couch with the TV volume finally down, I scrolled through my Facebook newsfeed and saw all of the giddy celebratory posts from my many Cubs fan friends. Immediately, it made me think about growing up as a die-hard Cubs fan and dreaming of this day as a little kid.

And with that, I broke down. And I absolutely bawled.

I’m not at all ashamed to admit that. In fact, I’m quite proud of it. Because after a lifetime of hearing stories about the Billy Goat and the Black Cat, after watching the grounder roll through Leon Durham’s legs, after sitting in Wrigley’s upper deck when “Bartman happened,” I knew that all the pain and heartbreak of the Cubs’ 108-year wait – and their 108-year weight – was completely worth it.

For all Cubs fans. And it was also so very emotional.

Even more than I could have ever imagined.

General

More Snapshots from a Blue October

img_1555From the Saturday, Oct. 29, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …

The WISCH LIST

My 100-degree temperature returned to normal long ago, but I’m still dealing with a lingering cough this week.

So, I’m pretty sure that my Cubs Fever remains intact.

And, really, how could it not be, what with the North Siders sending spirits soaring by playing in their first World Series since 1945 … at Wrigley Field … on Halloween Weekend.

Talk about a scary good time.

Since I last checked in with some snapshots from Wrigleyville after the Cubs clinched the National League Division Series, I’ve seen plenty more transpire in Chicago. And here a few more tidbits to satisfy your appetite.

After all, they do say to starve a cold, but feed a fever, right?

All the feels

As the World Series builds to a crescendo, the excitement is again continuing to mount throughout Cubs Nation. But if the team does win its first championship since 1908, I don’t think it can possibly be more emotional for me than it was seeing them reach the World Series for the first time since ‘45.

It may be just as emotional, but I don’t think it can be more so.

After all, I’ve spent my life watching the Cubs fail to reach the World Series, not fail in the World Series. While Boston fans suffered the heartbreak of seeing their Red Sox lose in the World Series in 1946, 1967, 1975 and 1986 after the Curse of the Bambino in 1918, Cubs fans were forced to watch the door slam in their faces before even reaching the Fall Classic.

In my 40 years, I saw the ground ball roll through Leon Durham’s legs in 1984, watched Greg Maddux’s and Andre Dawson’s vanishing act in 1989, and saw every tragic thing that unspooled during Games 6 and 7 of the 2003 NLCS, along with oodles of other painful postseason moments.

And that’s to say nothing about those who are old enough to have lived through the nightmare of 1969. No matter what happens in this World Series – and I’m feeling good about it – just reaching it was so incredibly special.

General

Cubs vs. Tribe: Something’s Gotta Give

ws

My buddy Brian Pokorny over at Cleveland Sports Torture asked me to share my thoughts on the Cubs-Indians “Something’s Gotta Give” World Series for his blog.  So, here they are …

I like you, Cleveland.

Much like country music and going to the movies alone, I think you’re much better than your rep. In past years, I’ve gotten the opportunity to visit your ballpark (it’s quite nice), your Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame (ditto) and a sizable swath of your local drinking establishments (same deal).

This past June, I particularly enjoyed watching your Cavaliers knock the smug look off the faces of the Golden State Warriors faces and slap smiles on those across Ohio. In fact, back in 2010, just a week after LeBron infamously took his talents to South Beach, I was at my buddy’s condo in downtown Cleveland when I told him that I believed that once LBJ got Miami out of his system, he’d eventually return home to win a crown.

Without a doubt, after 68 years with anything to celebrate except perhaps the retirement of Michael Jordan, your city deserved that championship that LeBron finally earned.

But, I’m sorry, you’ve already filled your title quota for 2016.

Because here on North Side of Chicago, this one is ours.

Now, I know that my pal Brian of Cleveland Sports Torture – the biggest fan of The Land that I’ve ever met – doesn’t think that Chicagoans have truly suffered when it comes to sports, what with those six NBA titles, a Super Bowl right, a White Sox World Series trophy and all that recent Blackhawks bling collected over the past 30 years.

But, here’s the thing, while Brian may now be a Chicagoan, he isn’t a Cubs fan. And, trust me, for those of us who are we’ve suffered.

In spades.

I’m 40, and in my lifetime I’ve endured the ground ball through Leon Durham’s legs in 1984, Greg Maddux’s and Andre Dawson’s vanishing act in 1989, and every tragic thing that unspooled during Games 6 and 7 of the 2003 NLCS (both of which I attended at Wrigley Field), along with oodles of other painful moments. And I’m not even old enough to have been one of the Cubs fans that lived through 1969.

Those poor souls.

General

Snapshots from a feverish week in Wrigleyville

chicago-cubs-nlcs-san-francisco-giants-nlds-game-4-mlb-playoffs

From the Saturday, Oct. 15, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …

The WISCH LIST

Early last week, my allergies started acting up. By the time the weekend rolled around, they had developed into something more severe that eventually required a visit to a clinic. The doctor I saw didn’t specifically diagnose the bug ailing me before writing a prescription, but I’m pretty sure that I know what it is.

Cubs Fever.

And, hey, if I have to battle the symptoms all month long, I’m good with that. After all, it’s the least I can do if it helps the Cubs win their first World Series since the Model-T was two weeks old.

As Chicago heads into its second week of postseason wackiness with the Cubs hosting the Nationals tonight in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series, I wanted to share my personal highlights from the NLDS.

So, batter up.

Welcome to Chicago

During Game 1 of the NLDS, one lonely Giants fan clad in a Buster Posey jersey was in my section of the Wrigley Field bleachers. When the spunky Latina woman in a Cubs cap near me noticed she turned and said, “Man, you sat in the wrong city.”

Serious business

The feeling before the first game of the NLDS at Wrigley this year vs. the Giants was markedly different from last year vs. the Cardinals. Last October, the vibe was more electric and giddy. This time around, it was much more serious and business-like.
The 2015 Cubs were a revelation. The 2016 Cubs have a job to do.

Getting a grip

As the Game 1 pitcher’s duel between Jon Lester and Johnny Cueto remained locked in a scoreless tie, a Cubs fan in the bleachers row behind me clutched a baseball in his hand. When asked by the guy next to him if it was a “throwback ball” (in case he caught a home run), the fan shook his head.

“No,” he said, “It’s a stress ball.”

General

October’s pressure is on – time for the Cubs to pop it

cubs-celebrate-nl-central-title-inline-3From the Saturday, Oct. 8, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …

The WISCH LIST

It’s October. So, naturally, the monsters are out in Wrigleyville.

This time, they’ve emerged from the San Francisco mist in the form of Giants casting championship spells every other year and led by a MadBum.

For fans of the Chicago Cubs, it’s undeniable that that October never has been the kindest of months. The tricks usually start weeks before Halloween – and nobody ends up with any treats. It’s also true that the month did the Cubs no favors again this year by pitting them against the formidable Giants who boast championship experience – and bling – from 2010, 2012 and 2014, along with a deep starting rotation that includes postseason legend Madison Bumgarner.

The Giants are scary. But, then again, so are the 103-win Cubs.

And as a Facebook friend put it, the only team that can likely beat the Cubs this month is the Cubs. I largely agree with that sentiment, although as I’ve argued before, for the Cubs to win their first World Series since 1908, there is another obstacle they need to overcome. And it has little to do with the Giants, Nationals, Dodgers, or any team from the American League.

Ever since Oct. 14, 2003, when I sat in the upper deck at Wrigley Field watching the eighth inning tragically unfold during Game 6 of the National League Championship Series, I’ve been convinced that for the Cubs a “curse” does truly exist. But it isn’t in the form of an actual billy-goateed specter of evil that looms over the ballpark tugging on the Cubs’ marionette strings.

Rather, in the sense of the pressure that’s built up for a franchise during more than a century of futility – which can manifest itself in the postseason – there absolutely is a tangible entity that’s haunted the North Side ball club.

In the years since 2003, I’ve told people countless times about the sensation that crept around Wrigley after Steve Bartman reached for that fateful foul ball and Moises Alou flipped his lid. The murmur that spread among the fearful crowd was the eeriest feeling that I’ve experienced, and unless you were actually inside Wrigley that night it’s almost impossible to fully explain. But trust me when I say that you could literally feel the mood shift inside the ballpark.

It was palpable.

General

Welcome to October: How to spend it in Wrigleyville

joemaddonbeard
From the Saturday, Oct. 1, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …

The WISCH LIST

Two years ago, I was at a crossroads.

After more than a decade on the waiting list for Cubs season tickets, my number finally came up. But at the same time, the team had piled up 464 losses over the previous five seasons and was staring at future still murky.

Facing a now-or-never decision, I was reluctantly leaning towards never despite being a die-hard Cubs fan living within jogging distance of Wrigley Field. But then about a week before my deadline something unexpected happened.

The Cubs hired Joe Maddon.

Suddenly, I saw how “The Plan” could actually start coming together. So, I recruited my brother and a buddy to split a nights-and-weekends ticket package for the bleachers, and the three of us pulled the trigger.

Thank goodness that we did. Because if I had passed on an opportunity to be part of this incredible Cubs ride – which came together far for my quickly than I ever imagined – I’d be kicking myself like a goat for the rest of my life. Instead, I’ll be kicking it in the bleachers for much of the Cubs’ upcoming playoff run. And for that, I feel incredibly fortunate.

But I want everyone else to be in on the fun in Wrigleyville this October too, and here’s a primer on how to do it.

Tickets

The ticket lottery for the National League Division Series has already passed, but you can still register at cubs.com for a chance at the NLCS. That deadline is noon Oct. 7, followed by Oct. 17 if the Cubs advance to the World Series.

If that doesn’t pan out, well, be ready to dig deep. Currently on StubHub, tickets are starting at $120 for NLDS games, $375 for the NLCS and a minimum of $2,000 for World Series.

Those are the prices for Standing Room Only tickets, mind you.

General

Chicago has plenty of treats in store for October

 

marathonFrom the Saturday, Sept. 24, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …

The WISCH LIST

Last month, I told you that September may be my favorite of them all in Chicago. And while that’s true, it could end up being bumped aside by October.

That’s entirely up to the Cubs.

But whether you’re a North Side baseball fan or not, the 10th month of 2016 still offers plenty of treats throughout Chicago. Here are a few ways to enjoy the start of autumn in the Windy City.

Bacon and Beer Classic
Oct. 1

With the way the Bears have looked so far, this event might be the best thing to hit Soldier Field all year.

Featuring more than 80 beers from Midwest breweries and over 30 bacon-infused dishes from local chefs, the Bacon and Beer Classic also offers guests the opportunity to explore the historic stadium, play giant Jenga, battle it out on a bungee run and even compete in a bacon eating contest.

Maybe that’s something the Bears could actually win.

For more information, visit baconandbeerclassic.com.

Chicago Marathon
Oct. 10

Maybe you’re running 26.2 miles through the streets of Chicago on Oct. 10. Or perhaps you’re tired just thinking about the idea of it.

No matter your fitness level, if you’re interested in watching the Chicago Marathon – one of the city’s most impressive sporting events, with 45,000 participants – then there are a number of great spots to do so.

One of them is right at the start. From atop the Randolph Street overpass above Columbus Drive just north of Millennium Park, you can watch as the rough equivalency of a Cubs game day crowd – including the rooftops – passes beneath you.

Other hot spots include the corner of North Avenue and Wells Street, Chinatown near Cermak and Wentworth, and Michigan Avenue south of Roosevelt Road, where you can watch as the runners power – or struggle – through the race’s final mile.

For more information, visit chicagomarathon.com.

General

Finding Chicago across the pond in Ireland and London

irelandFrom the Saturday, Sept. 17, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …

The WISCH LIST

During our adventures this month throughout Ireland and London, my wife and I learned a lot.

We learned that the Irish love U2, but hate Bono (“He’s too political!” one Irishman ranted. “Just sing the songs!”). We learned that there are 3 million bubbles in a single pint of Guinness (we performed considerable field testing). And we learned that surfing is an actual thing in Ireland (very pale lifeguards).

In London, we learned that Lady Gaga was staying in our hotel (she didn’t find us to say hi). We learned that England’s capital is 47 percent green space, including 8 million trees (the world’s largest urban forest). And we learned what it’s like to share a revolving door with John Cleese of Monty Python fame (alas, no silly walks were involved).

We learned a lot of other things too. And here are just a few, some with a delicious Chicago twist.

Welcome to Cublin

In Dublin, much of the sports chatter was about the All-Ireland Hurling Championship (Hail Tipperary!), while London was atwitter about last Saturday’s Manchester United-Manchester City football clash.

But we also found Cubs fever in both cities.

While wearing my team cap, I received a few “Go Cubs!” shouts from passersby on streets, while one Dublin pub actually had Cubs stickers behind its bar, prompting a Facebook friend to dub Ireland’s capital city “Cublin.”

A bit of the Chicago craic

Inside that Cubs-loving Irish pub, which prominently promoted Lagunitas Brewing, I was regaled by a bartender who claimed that the establishment recently sent two employees to tour the Lagunitas brewery in Chicago.

He claimed that the pair met a group of bikers in town, ended up following them to their local bar and then eventually took joy rides on the backs of some motorcycles, with both Irish lads falling off and suffering broken bones.

“We sent ya for TWO days!” my bartender shouted in what may or may not have been a tall Irish tale, but was a hilarious one nonetheless.

General

Summer stays strong in Chicago through September

jazz-featureFrom the Saturday, Aug. 27, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …

The WISCH LIST

I find a reason to enjoy most months in Chicago – even the ones capable of producing a Snowmageddon. But out of all of them, September just might be my favorite.

The weather is generally a little cooler, but far from chilly. Football season is beginning just as the baseball season is really heating up. And while the kids have gone back to school, summer still isn’t over. In fact, in Chicago it’s going strong all September long.
And here are some ways to milk it for all it’s worth.

Chicago Jazz Fest
Sept. 1-4

Since 1979, the free Chicago Jazz Festival has declared as its mission on Labor Day weekends “to showcase Chicago’s vast jazz talent alongside national and international artists to encourage and educate a jazz audience of all ages.

This year’s incarnation – and education – kicks off with a session from noon to 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 4., inside the gorgeous rotunda of the Chicago Cultural Center (78 E. Washington St.), before an evening session at 6:30 p.m. at Millennium Park, where the festival is held the remainder of the weekend through Sunday.
For a full schedule and lineup of artists, visit cityofchicago.org.

Oktoberfests
Sept. 8 & 23-25

One of the other great things about September in Chicago is that it allows you to enjoy “Oktober” early.

This year, the 31st annual Berghoff Oktoberfest (berghoff.com) is a month-long extravaganza kicking off on Sept. 8 with a Tapping of the Keg at 5 p.m. inside The Berghoff Restaurant (17 W. Adams St.) and with evening celebrations running Thursday-Saturday each week through Oct. 8.

Later in the month, Oktoberfest at St. Alphonsus Church (oktoberfestchicago.org) will take place Sept. 23-25 with a lively street fest at 1429 W. Wellington Ave. outside the church with one of the most beautiful interiors in the city – and I’m not just saying that because I got married there.

General

As Lovie Smith era begins, Illini eyes are smilin’

Lovie_Smith_Illini

From the Saturday, Sept. 3, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …

The WISCH LIST

By Dave Wischnowsky

Top o’ the mornin’ to ya.

As you read this, I’m about 3,600 miles west of Illinois in Dublin (that’s Ireland, not Ohio) and depending on what time of the day you grab the paper or jump online, I’m likely enjoying a pint of Guinness before, during or after the Boston College-Georgia Tech football opener (that’s American, not European) held today at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium.

Since I’m cheering on my wife’s alma mater over in Ireland (“Go Eagles”) as part of my 40th birthday celebration, I won’t be in Champaign to celebrate the start of the Lovie Smith era at the University of Illinois.

But as luck would have it, I have plenty of thoughts about it.

Patience pays

Last December, when the University of Illinois decided to extend football coach Bill Cubit’s contract for two seasons, I was told by many an angry Illini fan on Twitter that the move was a catastrophe. It would kill recruiting, they howled. It would make the job toxic, they ranted.

I didn’t agree.

Rather, it was my opinion that the short-term stability provided by Cubit’s contract clearly offered Illinois the best long-term options. For a program still reeling from the debacle named Tim Beckman, Illinois simply couldn’t afford another multi-year mistake by giving Cubit – or any other coach – a lengthy deal when the school still didn’t even have a permanent athletic director in place.

I believed that it was highly unlikely that the best possible coach would take the Illinois job without knowing whom his permanent AD was – and equally unlikely that the best possible Illinois AD candidate would want a job where he was stuck with a new long-term coach he didn’t hire. To avoid settling, I liked how the Cubit deal bought the Illini time to hire the right AD, rather than just an AD, which could then lead to the right coach.