CHICAGO - Saturday was an unusually warm and calm October night in the Windy City. With no breeze to push them away, the ghosts of failures past hovered mockingly over

the ivy-covered outfield wall of

Wrigley Field.

In the stands, most of the standing-room-only crowd had stuck around to see high-priced free agent

Alfonso Soriano meekly fly out to end the game,

end the

Cubs' National League

Division Series against the upstart Arizona Diamondbacks, and end the season.

For minutes, they simply stood there, stunned by the Diamondbacks' three-game sweep; agonized by the reality that next year they would enter the 100th season without a World Series championship on the north side of Chicago.

As I was leaving Wrigley Field, a woman in a Cubs jersey came up to me and asked if she could have my media credential. She said she wanted a souvenir

from the series.

Since there wasn't going to

be a Game 4, I gave it to her

and tossed in a copy of the Cubs 2007 postseason guide.

Hey, spreading a bit of sunshine in moments of gloom is just the way I roll.

On the CTA No. 172 bus up

Addison Avenue, a couple of the Cubbies faithful in their early 20s saw the other credential

I had on my lanyard - the one from Games 1 and 2 of the NLDS in Arizona and proclaimed I was a VIP.

I assured them I wasn't, saying that if I were a VIP I wouldn't be riding on a jam-packed bus just to transfer to a jam-packed train.

Thus began our spirited discussion of the failure of the Cubs.

Naturally, it immediately

degenerated to a pity party about the Cubs not having won

a World Series since 1908.

Once again, it was time for me to brighten miserable spirits the way only someone with an understanding of the history of professional sports in Philadelphia, or perhaps Cleveland, can do.

I said, look, I understand that a century is an incredibly long time to wait for anything, but strictly by the numbers, the Cubs actually have two World

Series.

The Phillies, by comparison, have won just one World Series in 125 years of existence. I explained the statistical impossibility of that.

I told them that during one 10-year period (1936 to '45), the Phillies had seven 100-loss seasons and that this year they

became the first franchise in the history of American professional sports to lose 10,000 games.

I didn't even bring up the collapse of 1964.

Then I asked one of the guys how old he was, and he said 25.

I flashed a sad smile and informed him that there are fans around his age in Philadelphia who had never seen a professional sports championship parade for any of their hometown teams in their entire lives.

I told him the sad Philadelphia saga of the 1983 Sixers being the last team to win a championship and that collectively, with the Phillies about to be eliminated

in the NLDS by the Colorado Rockies, the city had now gone 93 seasons without a parade.

I said, dude, in that time,

Chicago has gotten six NBA titles from the Bulls, a Super Bowl from the Bears and a World

Series from the White Sox - OK, so bringing up the White Sox' 2005 title to a Cubs fan was a bit cruel, but I was on a roll.

I explained that the Super Bowl didn't exist the last time Philadelphia won an NFL title, and that the Eagles, Flyers,

Phillies and Sixers had won just eight championships in their combined histories. That was just two more than Michael

Jordan personally delivered

to Chicago.

To my surprise, he said he felt a little bit better but just a little bit.

I completed my dissertation

by saying at least his franchise is going to offer him hope, because during the offseason they would address their faults and try to get another step closer to that elusive World Series title.

I said that at least when Lou Piniella proclaimed postgame, "This is just the start, gentlemen. We're going to get better with this . . . We'll regroup.

We made some nice strides this year. We'll do some things over the winter with this team. We'll reconvene next spring and get ready to take this thing further," Cubs fans could believe him.

I said I doubted that Phillies manager Charlie Manuel would make any kind of bold proclamations like that, and even if he did, Phillies fans burned by years of budgeted spending from bean-counting ownership, would know to take it with a grain of salt.

That was just about the time

I reached my stop at Cumberland Station, and I could tell that some of the other Cubs fans on the train were glad to see me

go because my lecture had put a tiny lump of sugar in their bitter cups of misery.

Still, as I drifted off into the darkness, I left one last niblet for them to chew on, "Yes, 100 years is a long time, but everything

is relative - just ask Philadelphia." *

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