Chicago's winning streak- baseball, Obama

CHICAGO There's a chance the next president will be a Chicagoan. And Sen. Barack Obama is already talking about ending his SECOND White House term by welcoming the world to his hometown for the 2016 Olympic Games.

Talk about "The Audacity of Hope." Anybody who reads the paper -- pick a section -- knows there's nothing Second City about Chicago these days.

From the entertainment page comes news that "August: Osage County," the hit drama for Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre Company and a 2008 Pulitzer Prize winner, is the odds-on favorite to win the Tony Award for best play.

On the food page is the news that Grant Achatz of Chicago's Alinea restaurant has been named the country's top chef by the James Beard Foundation.

"When you think of great moments in Chicago pride, this certainly is one of them," said Tim Samuelson, the city's cultural historian.

For perspective, consider these numbers: 148, 104, 102 and 100. That's how many years it has been since, respectively, an Illinois lawmaker (Abraham Lincoln) was elected president; the Olympics were in the Midwest (St. Louis); the White Sox and Cubs played each other in the World Series (the Sox pulled it out in six games); and the Cubs won the World Series.

So, how does Chicago handle all this possible good fortune?

Deny it, of course.

"It hasn't kicked in," said Bill Kurtis, a longtime Chicago news anchor who now hosts A&E's "American Justice" and "Cold Case Files." "I think we are just stunned."

Jim Bodman, president of the Chicago-based Vienna Beef, agrees. Bodman said he's not sure anybody believes that all of the good things that might happen actually will happen.

But, he said, it could.

"Every dog has its day," said Bodman. He should know; his company sells that Chicago staple, hot dogs.

From his standpoint, Dominic Pacyga, a Columbia College history professor who has written extensively about the city and rooted passionately for the White Sox, isn't ready to throw his skepticism away, particularly when it comes to the Cubs.

But, he said, there's no denying that Obama is the first Illinois politician in decades to have a real shot at being elected president.

If that happens, he said, "I think it would enhance the city's bid for the Olympics (and) give Chicago much more clout."

Chicago, which last year beat out Los Angeles as the U.S. bid city, last week was named one of four finalists to host the 2016 games along with Tokyo; Madrid, Spain; and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

There is one person who dares suggest that Chicago can have it all, that the city might just be on the cusp of something truly historic: Obama himself.

"White Sox are winning, Cubs are winning," he said to wild cheers at a rally in downtown Chicago last week. "And Chicago's going to win the 2016 Olympics and Paralympics. And your senator, he's winning, too."

Of all the could-bes in Chicago these days, though, the Cubs come with the biggest question mark.

From the day a tavern owner put a curse on the team for kicking his goat out of the stands in 1945 to the night during the 2003 National League championship series when a foul ball headed toward a Cub's glove was tipped by a fan named Steve Bartman, the Cubs have found new ways to blow fans' hopes to bits.

"We've had our hearts broken so many times," said Therese Glascott, an owner of the North Side bar Glascott's Groggery and a lifelong Cubs fan. "It's always in the back of your mind it's going to be another disappointment."

But there are signs -- really strong ones, if you ask certain Cubs fans -- that all that may be changing.

"A lot of things seem to indicate this is the year," said Grant DePorter, the president of Harry Caray's restaurant. He bought the so-called Bartman ball for just under $114,000 and blew it to bits.

And why not? Exactly 100 years ago, the White Sox and Cubs were in first place in June, and their records were nearly identical to what they are now. (DePorter says he checked.)

Then there's this: When the Red Sox won their first World Series in 86 years, they did so with a record-setting eight straight postseason victories. When the White Sox ended their own 88-year World Series drought the next year, they did it with eight straight wins.

"And this is 2008," said DePorter, emphasizing the last digit. "Everything seems to point to '08."

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