Cubs' fans also suffer with loss in Game 7

Wrigley faithful shocked by yet another collapse

`hurts more than ever'


CHICAGO - They have been arguably the most patient, forgiving fans in sports, tolerating years of losing with a smile and a simple shrug of the shoulders.

But make no mistake: What happened the past two nights stings, hurts and gnaws worse than anything Chicago Cubs fans have ever experienced.

And it's likely to linger for a while, too.

"This hurts more than ever," longtime resident Linda Young said. "Every year you build up hope. Every year you think it's the year. Fifty-seven years I've followed this team. I thought this was our best hope. Someday. Someday."

The 39,574 in attendance stood in stunned silence as the Florida Marlins celebrated their Game 7 win at Wrigley Field. Some shook their heads. Others stood, mouths ajar.

Thousands remained in the stands 15 minutes after the game, trying to understand how this could happen. Again.

"It's ridiculous," Carson Drake said. "It's not like we lost to the Yankees. We lost to the Marlins, for goodness sake. We expected a lot more.

"And the worst thing is this just adds to the talk of there being a curse. It's bogus, but with losing a 3-1 lead and what happened with the fan in Game 6, it makes everyone think there's a curse. I'm tired of it. I'm furious."

"You're always disappointed when you get that close," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. "But that's how life is, sometimes. It doesn't always go your way. A lot of things went our way this year.

"It just didn't go our way," he added, "at the end."

It's the same lesson that binds generation after generation of Cubs players to one another, from Hack Wilson to Ernie Banks to current ace Mark Prior, and all of them to their fans.

The Cubs haven't appeared in a World Series since 1945, haven't won one since 1908.

"It's sad," fan Don Tjader said. "I'm only 27, and they've never done anything in my life. I was sure we would win."

On the cusp of watching their team advance to the World Series, Chicago fans instead witnessed one of the sport's monumental collapses.

First, there was the blown 3-0 eighth-inning lead in Game 6, executed against Prior, and aided by a lifelong Cubs fan whose pursuit of a foul ball likely cost the Cubs a crucial out.

Then there was the squandered 5-3 lead in Game 7, with the other staff ace, Kerry Wood, on the mound.

"I felt I let the team down, the organization down and the city of Chicago down," Wood said. "I choked."

"It's a choke, for Mark Prior and Kerry Wood to get lit up like that," fan Joe Barna said.

"It's heartbreaking," Tracy Laluzerne said. "I thought this would be the year."

Joe Perfetti, a salesman from Chicago, bought tickets but couldn't bear to watch. He spent the last three innings on a stadium concourse.

"Now I know how Red Sox fans feel," Perfetti, 23, said. "After what happened Tuesday, I would say we're cursed."

Dave Muschler, a Chicago lawyer, remained in his seat 20 minutes after the game, wondering what might have been.

"I'm sick of being called long-suffering Cubs fan," he said. "It's disappointing, but it's life. But the reason we've lost for 58 years is we've been cursed with not very good players."

And yet, Cubs fans remain hopeful. More than a dozen said they had confidence the franchise would make a World Series in their lifetime.

"Next year," Eileen Devlin said. "A Cub fan is an eternal optimist."

Even if there never seems to be a payoff.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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