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A somber Wrigleyville the calm before the storm?

CHICAGO -- The bartender popped out from behind the bar and apologized.

"Sorry about that," he said to me and a friend, knowing I was there for the story of Wrigleyville on the brink, as if he could make the Chicago Cubs score a run in a 4-0 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals to open up their National League Division Series.

Some good people still take Cubs baseball personally in Wrigleyville, where the relationship between the Cubs and the fans is the lifeblood of the industry.

At Bernie's Tap, one of the old-school bars still left north of what they derisively call "Bourbon Street," they live and breathe Cubs baseball.

"I'm one of the few bar owners that cares about the Cubs winning more than business," said Bernie's owner Tim Dillman, the grandson of Bernie.

Dillman, 34, over-scheduled security Friday after a wild night Wednesday when the Cubs beat the Pirates 4-0 in the wild-card game. Clark Street was flooded with partygoers eager to welcome in a new era of playoff baseball.

No one was quite sure how the crowds would be on a chilly Friday for an early evening game, but it was pretty tame all night.

When I got off the train about an hour before the game, the bars were empty. Sports World had some browsers checking out its long front table of Cubs playoff merchandise. One lonely guy tried to peddle "Break the Curse" T-shirts in front of the team store.

As the game began, Bernie's had a good crowd that was into the game, and was far more crowded than it would have been to watch a Blackhawks-Islanders game, but it wasn't packed. Dillman sent the extra security guys home.

Murphy's Bleachers was pretty full when I walked through early in the game, but I could walk, so not that packed. Sports Corner and Casey Morans were sedate. The cavernous Cubby Bear main floor was mostly empty.

Dillman says he thinks it was just the calm before the storm. The one-game wild-card setup was perfect for bringing people out Wednesday. The next few days will be a little more rowdy. We have Cubs games Saturday at St. Louis and Monday/Tuesday at Wrigley Field. It's a fun little schedule that could either portend a busy October or a start to Blackhawks season.

Dillman watched the game from the back room in a Ron Santo hat and said he was prepared for a crush of fans Saturday and throughout the week, but was fine with who he had in Friday.

"We get the real fans," he said. "That's who we want."

The 2015 Cubs have been a godsend for local businesses as locals have come back to the Cubs to join the tourists. For those business owners and service workers who have been there through thick and thin, it's helping them get back to the old days.

"From 2008 through 2012 or 2013, we were down about 50 percent," Dillman said. "We're up about 30 percent from those years. But back then, there weren't 40 places around here."

This season has been like a tent revival of Cubby worship, with Jake Arrieta, Kris Bryant and the rest causing people to throw up their hands and renounce their wicked ways. But walking around the bars, I heard people speaking in familiar tongues as the Cubs teased and tormented their faithful.

"Ahhhh!!!! Yes!!!! Yesss!!!! Yesss!!!! Gogogogogo!!!! F--------!!!!!!!!!"

I'm not overselling it, though. There isn't Cubby Apostasy just yet. It was only one game, and Jon Lester was good for most of it, even if it was against the Cardinals. The Cubs came in on a nine-game winning streak, riding the wave of a monster second half, so any playoff loss would feel like a punch to the jaw.

But, for those with long memories and nervous stomachs, this was the Cubs' seventh straight division series loss. The Cubs have scored 12 runs in those games.

"Am I nervous?" Cubs fan Guido Lima said. "Yeah, even though it's only Game 1 and I know we have a long series ahead."

Lima, 27, was wearing a "W" flag shirt and a Cubs official postseason hat. He was only a kid the last time the Cubs were in the playoffs, but he remembers feeling terrible going back to school.

My fellow ESPN writer Scott Powers was with me and wondered if the younger Cubs fans are missing the pessimism that defines the older generations.

But another fan I talked to remembers much worse disappointments, and still is optimistic.

"I suffered through '69," 58-year-old fan Mike Fulton said. "But this is different."

Fulton, who was wearing a game-worn Kyle Schwarber jersey he bought from the Cubs for $1,000, said he gets his confidence from the Cubs themselves. Arrieta's cockiness before shutting down the Pirates and Schwarber's bluster over his home run in Pittsburgh make him optimistic that this team won't fold in the playoffs.

"For Arrieta, the moment wasn't too big," he said.

Letting the moment swallow them has been a Cubs problem in the past. Arrieta starts Monday, when Wrigleyville should be at capacity with fans hoping to find religion in his right arm.