The View From Section 416: A Cubs fan abroad, awash in a sea of Yankees caps

Greetings not from Section 416, but from Car K on the 15:30 Edinburgh-to-London train. Your faithful correspondent is on a two-week holiday away from Chicago -- and it's killing him. Things have gone terribly wrong, and I don't just mean the recent pair of tough losses to the Cardinals that ended the Cubs' 11-game winning streak.

Being away from my sweetheart, friends, regular bartenders and Chicago is always rough. But missing any of this season's action has turned out to be tougher than I'd anticipated, even if being abroad during the baseball season isn't the utter disconnection it once was.

When I first studied in Ireland in the early 1980s, I'd get the baseball scores a day late, via the International Herald-Tribune; and no box scores either, just line scores. As recently as 2003, I had to learn of Kerry Wood's NLDS victory over the Braves via a phone message from a student. The landlady in my Oxford B&B told me "Caroline rang to tell you that Chicago beat Sri Lanka." A cricket test match, I thought -- or perhaps we beat "Atlanta."

Nowadays, the minute I wake up six hours ahead of Chicago time, the ever-giving gift of the geek geniuses (aka the internet) lets me check the prior day's score on my phone before getting out of bed. Then I read the local beat writers and columnists, the play-by-play game account, the blogs, and the Twitter chatter.

If there's any time left in my day, I go to a museum or a play, visit my friends or do some other tourist thing that brought me across the Atlantic. Occasionally check the Twitter chatter again. Then maybe just one more time after that.

And there's the rub.

I cannot get chatter abroad; live conversation about the Cubs virtually doesn't exist here.

There's no one to dissect the game details with, no one to help me comprehend the bullpen injury flow chart, or the crazy roster squeezes, much less the Tommy La Stella drama (the Cubs' version of the South Siders' Adam-and-Drake LaRoche soap opera?).

Dublin, Cork, Edinburgh and London are of course full of Americans during tourist season, and some folks who live on this side of the water do follow baseball, but that doesn't mean you'll automatically connect with someone to talk Cubs baseball with the way you can in the Windy City.

Brian and Peggy, whom I met at my Dublin hotel bar on Custom House Quay, are from Boston and keen to talk Red Sox, but admitted to knowing little of the Jorge Soler saga. Milwaukee's Kaylie and Aaron, over a pint in a pub on the Western Road in Cork, for some inscrutable reason were more interested in talking about Packers vs. Bears than Cubs vs. Brewers.

My oldest friend in Dublin did her best, but being asked. "So, how are the Cubs doing this season?" by a White Sox fan who emigrated back to Ireland in the 1970s wasn't gonna cut it. I despaired of finding anyone to talk Cubs with.

And then it got worse.

I suffered an unprecedented loss, one that obliterated my chances of randomly meeting a Cubs fan to talk about how crucial Dexter Fowler is.

I lost my Cubs cap.

Every year, on Opening Day, I buy a new cap for that season. This year, it was a replica 1918 cap. In a minor rainy squall, a gust of wind tore it off my noggin and deposited it in a 20-feet-below-grade front yard on Lombard Street in Dublin.

I'd have needed a fishing rod and reel to retrieve it, and a Twitter plea for them came up dry.

So, there was no way that a fellow Cubs fan in the Easter Rising exhibit at the National Museum of Ireland might spot my cap and say. "To heck with 1916, this is the year." No one in St. Patrick's Cathedral would tip her own cap and say, "Joe Maddon is my personal savior." I was not visibly a Cubs fan, and so it was unlikely to randomly meet any other Cubs fans who might have some insight into whether the Aroldis Chapman deal was a moral failing.

I sought a new cap immediately, to no avail. The souvenir shops had plenty of "Irish Drinking Team" caps, complete with bottle openers built into their bills, but the only actual MLB baseball gear available on O'Connell or Patrick streets was, of course, New York Yankees caps. And it's not safe to assume someone in a Yankees cap will want to talk about Starlin Castro and Adam Warren.

The Yankees are the Manchester United of baseball. Americans who know nothing about Premiere League football sport a Man U kit, and Europeans who don't know a double play from Abner Doubleday recognize the Yankees' brand and logo. I've seen a couple dozen people wearing Yankees caps since my Cubs chapeau pulled a La Stella, and not one was worn by someone I'd feel right approaching to chat about whether Jake Arrieta will get his control back.

We'll see if I have any better luck in London, where perhaps the metropolis will include a few North Siders also missing the homegrown, albeit unfamiliar, feel of a 10-plus-game NL Central Division lead.

With any luck, the Cubs will still be rolling along when I return, and I will surely have some fellow fans to talk about the game with in person. I kind of pity the first person I see wearing a Cubs hat on the Blue Line in from O'Hare.
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