At a crowded Starbucks in downtown Chicago, there’s a buzz in the air, and it’s not just caused by caffeine.
“Did you see the game last night?” one excited fan said to his friend. “Oh yeah, the Cubs crushed the Dodgers! I couldn’t sleep” the friend responded. A third coffee drinker nearby overheard the conversation, nodded and gave a thumbs up.
As the Chicago Cubs baseball team battles its way toward the World Series, emotions in the Windy City are on fire. White flags with blue “W”s, signifying “win” fly from highrise building windows and are posted in businesses across the region. The team logo can be seen in every direction of the city.
"I was born and bred a Cubs fan and I bleed Cubbie blue," declared 61 year old Blake Deboest, a self-described lifelong fan who works in advertising in Chicago.
“Everyone in my office is talking about the Cubs. It dominates our staff meetings, and a lot of us are wearing blue every day for good luck,” added Sheldon Donor, an accountant who works just outside the city.
While it’s no surprise that fans of a baseball team doing so well would be excited, in the city of big shoulders, the thought of the Cubs even playing in the World Series is almost a fantasy.
Just a few years ago, most people would’ve laughed at someone suggesting it would happen. “Wait until next year” became a common slogan at the end of every baseball season, for the last several decades.
"True fans live and die by the team, the constant ups and downs are part of being a fan of the team," Deboest said.
But fans are hopeful that 2016 just might be “next year.”
"I'm ecstatic, I’m truly happy," exclaimed Deboest. "I really want to see them in the World Series in my lifetime and now I might get the chance."
Seats in Wrigley Field have become the hottest tickets in town, with some going for thousands of dollars.
Longtime Cubs fan and season ticket holder Lori Boukas set up a shrine in her living room for the Cubs, which includes her World Series tickets, a foul ball she caught at a game, an American Girl doll wearing Cubs’ gear and other fan memorabilia. She lit candles around it, hoping it will channel positive energy and bring the team luck they haven’t necessarily had in the recent past.
While the team has come close to the big series some years, often the Cubs would falter at the end. There wasn’t much consistency and fans learned not to expect it.
What makes this year different is that the Cubs have repeated their dominant playing form all the way through the season.
Fans are feeling faithful again.
The “curse of the billy goat” that many blamed on years of losing baseball seasons, may finally be over.
As the story goes, in 1934 a baby goat that had fallen off a truck at Chicago’s stockyards wandered into a nearby tavern owned by Greek immigrant Williams Sianis. The goat became a constant companion of Sianis, who considered the animal his lucky charm and named his business “The Billy Goat Tavern.”
"He took it to different sporting events, it was his pet," said John Sianis, who is Williams Sianis’ great nephew and a bartender at the original Billy Goat Tavern.
In 1945, when the Chicago Cubs last played in a World Series, the older Sianis bought two game tickets, one for himself and one for his goat.
"Because it was raining the goat smelled extra bad...they would not allow the goat in the ballpark" the younger Sianis explained.
Williams Sianis’ "…was so insulted and hurt he proclaimed the Cubs would never win the World Series again," John Sianis added. The Cubs lost that 1945 series and have never played in one since, which is considered a record drought in Major League Baseball.
At first, nobody paid any attention to the tavern owner with the goat, but after so many years of struggling baseball seasons, fans started to believe the curse had actually taken hold.
Over the years there have been several attempts to reverse the curse.
In 1994, after Sianis’ death, his nephew Sam, accompanied by Cubs alum Ernie Banks, brought a goat to the ballpark. The two walked the goat clockwise around the bases, in reverse of the way batters run, hoping the effort would reverse the curse.
How to change the hometown team’s luck is a regular conversation at the original Billy Goat tavern, a gritty, rustic, burger and beer place located in a secluded corner on the lower level of Chicago's downtown streets.
The restaurant is best known nationally as the place comedians John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd would hang out, and who later went on to make it the subject of a popular Saturday Night Live skit in the 1970's.
On Oct. 6, which is the 71st anniversary of the day the curse was made, the Billy Goat Tavern threw a “Reverse the Curse” party for fans which included a live goat.
“Whatever it takes!” shouted diehard Cubs fan David Bonn.
"We have definitely reversed the curse" John Sianis assured devotees.
But unlike many superstitious fans, the young Sianis doesn’t give all the credit for this year's premier playing year to the goat, "Cubs management is kinda also a big reason."
For Chicagoans, all the years of waiting for the beloved team to make it to the World Series has made them very energized and hopeful, but cautious.
“I have this feeling inside of me like a bunch of fireworks want to go off, but I have to control myself because of the years and years of disappointments,” Boukas said.
“Well, this year, it actually could be our year,” she added with a smile.