Daley Plaza overcome with CUB MANIA!
It's hard to tell the exact intent of the Cubs playoff rally Monday.
Had hundreds gathered in Chicago's Daley Plaza to defy curses and will their beloved North-Siders to victory?
Or had they assembled to collectively thumb their noses at philosopher George Santayana, who famously warned that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it?
Either way, true-blue fans gathered for a lunchtime rally mandated by Major League Baseball in all playoff-bound cities. The group stood under overcast skies for 45 minutes, listening to politicians and Cubs employees tell them this year -- not next year -- is the Cubs' time.
There was no talk of billy goats or black cats. No mention of Leon Durham or Steve Bartman.
Instead, they talked of destiny. They talked of optimism. They talked -- gasp! -- of world championships.
"They have to win it this year," 14-year-old Ben Michal of Arlington Heights said. "We've been waiting too long."
The suburban teen skipped classes Monday to attend the rally with his mother, Marie. As the pair stood among the blue-clad masses, they held a sign proclaiming "'07 will be our heaven!"
Marie Michal, who has had her heart broken by the Cubs on several occasions, knows history isn't on her side. Still, there's something about this year that makes her believe this time it's different.
"It feels like they've gotten themselves together," she said. "This has got to be it."
Cubs fans seemed so confident during the rally they even cheered clips of the team clinching division championships in 1984 and 2003. Neither playoff berth ended happily -- one was marred by a ball going through Durham's legs, and the other featured Bartman's debut and the muff of a routine grounder by Alex Gonzalez -- but it didn't matter.
In fact, Cubs fans view these darker moments as proof something magical will happen this year. They believe they have earned a championship for simply putting up with all the ugliness of the past 99 years.
"You deserve this moment and much more," Cubs President John McDonough said. "Your unwavering support of the franchise justifies all of you as the greatest sports fans in all of professional sports."
The statement brought a huge roar from the crowd, who also cheered videotaped messages from pitcher Carlos Zambrano, outfielder Alfonso Soriano and Cubs legend Ernie Banks, among others.
Gov. Rod Blagojevich, a lifelong Cubs fan, led the crowd in chants of "Go, Cubs, Go!" before taking a swipe at the baseball experts who predicted the North-Siders wouldn't make the post-season.
"Guess what?" the governor yelled. "Next year is here. Next year is now, and to quote Harry Caray: 'Holy Cow!' "
Mayor Richard M. Daley, arguably the city's most famous White Sox fan, also appeared at the rally to wish his rivals well. Daley bet Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon a bounty of Chicago delicacies in anticipation of the team's upcoming series against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Donning a Cubs hat amid wild applause, the mayor stopped short of predicting a second world championship in three seasons.
"There are only (eight) teams left in baseball this year that have a chance to win the World Series -- and the Cubs are one of them," he said. "So support them as you always do and cheer them with confidence because they're going to play with confidence."
As the rally ended, the fans joined Harry Caray's widow, Dutchie, in singing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game." The song was followed up with a rendition of "Go, Cubs, Go" so spirited that it makes the "High School Musical" kids seem dour.
Wheaton resident Marge Flashing danced and sang merrily among masses, content to forget the painful past and celebrate a hopeful future.
"I believe this is the year we're going to get a break," she said. "The vibe is there."