It's great to be a Cubs fan ... unless you're in Rome

I had one important question before planning to move my family to Rome for the year: Do the Chicago Cubs have a chance? Every Cub fan I knew said, "Follow your dream. Move to Italy." "But I have two dreams," I said. "Living in Italy and the Cubs winning the World Series." Everyone concurred: "One dream is more likely than the other."

But I could envision the nightmare. After waiting my entire life for the Cubs to make it to the World Series, I'd move to Italy, the Cubs would get to the Series, and I'd have to fly back and forth to Chicago, depleting my wallet, my energy, my sanity.

Everyone told me I could watch Cubs games on the Internet. They've never lived in Rome. Just getting our telephone line was an adventure. The telephone company called seven times to change our number. Getting DSL involved countless calls, paperwork, and canceled appointments.

One day, an Italian guy on a motorbike rang our bell and dropped off a package. "What's this?" I asked.

"DSL," he said, putting on his helmet again. "Wait!" I yelled. "Install it! Please!"

"It's easy," he barked, sputtering down the street. "Call 186 if you have problem."

We had problem. We called 186. We got taped instructions in Italian beyond our comprehension. DSL is not yet installed.

The day the Cubs were to clinch the title, I called a fellow American who is also new to Rome, who had ordered cable from SKY so he could watch baseball. Not unexpectedly, SKY hadn't worked. When my friend called for repair instructions, he was told to leave his TV running for 48 consecutive hours, day and night, and the service would mysteriously kick in. That was two weeks ago. His TV is still on with no SKY in sight.

But like everything in Rome, it takes time. We'll get our DSL. He'll get his SKY. If not now, maybe then. Meanwhile, you eat pasta and forget about it.

On Saturday, the day of the Cubs' amazing title victories, the Romans were celebrating "La Notte Bianca," or "White Night," when all of Rome's museums, galleries, and shops remain open all night. My family went out for dinner with my fellow baseball fan's family. Midway through dinner, I knew. "The Cubs just did it," I said. "They won." It was pure intuition.

A few hours later, all of Italy went into a blackout. Back at our apartment, in total darkness, I checked my e-mail (thank goodness for batteries). One from my parents had a subject heading, "How 'bout them Cubbies?!" I was elated, but lost. I had not a Cub fan in sight to hug and jump up and down with.

The next day, Sunday, I wandered around Rome with my family. Church bells were ringing everywhere. As I ducked into various churches to see the art, I got it. Every painting in every church depicts a miracle. Rome is about miracles, as are the Cubs. Living in Rome is about enduring hardships - and remaining happy. Just as being a Cubs fan is about enduring hardships - and remaining happy.

Like any Cubs fan, I've lived through my share of heartaches. Since l975, I've lived in Portland, Ore.; Athens; Providence, R.I.; and New York City. And through it all, I've worn my Cubs hat and never lost hope.

I talked to the owner of the local sports bar down the street, where they show every soccer game and American football on Sundays. "You are going to play the playoffs and the World Series," I said. "Certainly," he said, with a typical Roman smile.

"But if the games start at 9 p.m. in New York, that's 3 a.m. in Rome," I said. "Yes," he replied. "So what time do you close?" I asked. "2 a.m.," he replied. "So how will we see the Series?" I asked. He shrugged.

I need another miracle, fast. Either the bar has to stay open or I need to figure out how to install my DSL or my friend's SKY cable needs to tune in. More likely: I'll fly to Chicago. I'm glad I've saved my airline miles.

James D. Barron is the author of "She's Having a Baby - And I'm Having a Breakdown" (William Morrow).

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