'Next year' is dejected cry

CHICAGO -- Chicago Cubs fans believed this was the year
their team would end a fabled curse and get back to the World

Instead, they were crushed again, left crying and cursing
Wednesday night when the lovable losers blew perhaps their best
chance since their last trip in 1945.

The Cubs lost three straight games to the Florida Marlins in the
National League championship series, the final defeat 9-6 in Game

Still, no matter how sad they were, fan after fan returned to
the bittersweet Cubs refrain, "Wait 'til next year."

"It's heartbreaking. It hurts me. I believed at three-one, I
believed at three-two, I believed at three-three, I believe in next
year once again," said Bob Samansky, 31.

The end of Wednesday's game was met with almost complete silence
among the formerly boisterous crowd on Waveland Avenue behind
Wrigley Field's outfield wall. Fans just started walking away.

Inside the ballpark, fans booed the Marlins as they raced on the
field to congratulate themselves. There also were chants of "Let's
go Boston." The fans cheered as Dusty Baker walked onto the field.

Mike Fritz, 38, had been listening to the game on a radio while
standing on the street, but he immediately switched to music when
it was over.

"It's just another day. It's going to happen. If you're a
die-hard Cubs fan, you're always going to come back. I'm getting
depressed talking about it, but I'm coming back next year," he

The crowd in and outside of Wrigley was up and down all night,
but the mood turned increasingly glum as the game progressed. Under
the Wrigley sign in front of the stadium, chanting fans began to
break up into quiet groups huddled around portable TVs.

"That hurt. We've been aching to win," said Michele
Grozdanovic, 18. "I was expecting so much. It turned out so bad."

Throughout the Cubs postseason, fans talked about finally
beating a curse that many believe had kept their team from glory.

The story of the curse goes this way: The owner of a Chicago
tavern put a curse on the Cubs when he and a goat were denied entry
to a 1945 World Series game against Detroit. The Cubs went on to
lose that series 4-3.

Since then, it's been one heartbreak after another.

The curse seemed real Tuesday night when a Cubs fan deflected a
foul ball away from left fielder Moises Alou in the eighth inning.
The Marlins, who had trailed 3-0, rallied to win 8-3.

Game 7 didn't start well for the Cubs, who were quickly down
3-0. But Kerry Wood and Alou each hit two-run homers to resurrected
fans' spirits.

"That was about the greatest moment of my life," said
18-year-old Bruce Lee.

Lee was among hundreds of fans crowded on the street behind
Wrigley, cheering and hoping for home run balls even though they
couldn't see the game. The throng of fans took their cues from
inside the ballpark by watching the scoreboard and following the
roar of the crowd.

When the Cubs trailed in the first inning, it was almost too
much for some fans to stand after Tuesday's loss.

"After last night's game, I actually went out in my cul de sac
and burned an old Cubs hat trying to reverse the curse, but if they
lose tonight, I'm going to the South Side," said Dave Degeus, 40.

He left the ball park after the Cubs went down 3-0 in the first
inning and didn't return.