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Lucky towel, square pizza: Can Cubs fan rituals break Billy Goat curse?

As the Cubs look to beat the Los Angeles Dodgers during the National League Championship Series this week, fans in the Fox Valley will be cutting pizza into squares or putting their left shoe on first. They'll be looking to lucky towels and well-timed bathroom breaks to bring the Cubs a win.

These are among the rituals and superstitions residents of the Aurora and Elgin areas say are key to the Cubs reaching the World Series and breaking the Curse of the Billy Goat.

"Obviously, we have no effect on the outcome of the game," said Rachael Woolley, an Aurora resident and self-described die-hard fan. "But as fans, I don't know. You feel better. You feel like you're doing your part."

For Woolley, 43, it's all about the Cubs gear. Whatever she's wearing when the Cubs game begins is what she will remain wearing throughout the game — nothing changes. That means she will never turn a hat inside out and upside down into a rally cap to encourage the Cubs, she said.

Woolley and her best friend, who now lives in California, began the tradition years ago. Now Woolley's children have picked it up, she said.

Sometimes it requires advance planning. The family won't wash Cubs shirts or jerseys worn during a game until the team loses, when they wash off the bad luck. They try to wear their jerseys over another shirt, just in case. And if her 17-year-old son has to work during a game, he'll wear Cubs gear under his work clothes because he can't change once the game starts, she said.

For other fans, it's about the timing of their bathroom breaks: Never go during the game, only in the middle or end of an inning, Elgin resident Jaimie Ericson said in a Facebook message. Penny Horn Beam, a former Elgin resident who now lives in Crystal Lake, advised always putting your left shoe on first.

Cubs fans aren't the only ones who put their faith in superstitions. When a baseball pitcher has a no-hitter going, he sits by himself when he's not pitching so the other players won't break his streak. And many players have their own pregame rituals.

Still, fans like Christina Aragon feel they have the power to influence games. Aragon, from Oswego, relies on a lucky towel she got at the last game she attended. She puts it in her back belt loop to bring a win, and waves it when the Cubs score.

Aragon didn't have her towel on her during Sunday's game. So it was only to be expected that the Cubs would lose 1-0 to the Dodgers.

When Debbie White Rupnick, who lives in East Dundee, is watching a game on TV, she changes the channel when the opposing team comes up to bat. Since the playoffs began, Linda Poppen Knight hasn't touched her teddy bear dressed in a retro Cubs uniform and bearing the slogan, "#1 Cub Fan Linda," a gift from her husband, she said.

"I won't even dust that table for fear of moving him a millimeter," she said via social media.

Oswego resident Brad Lemar, a fan since age 5, hasn't bought a single piece of Cubs apparel since the season started for fear of jinxing the team.

Even former Fox Valley residents who now live nowhere near Wrigley Field try to do their part for the team. Tom Cocoran, a former Elgin resident who now lives in Arizona, said in a Facebook message he cuts his pizza into squares only when watching the Cubs.

Former West Dundee resident Kim Costello, who now lives on the East Coast, said via social media she might, in fact, be the curse. The team loses whenever she goes to a game.

Roy Chapman, who used to live in Elgin, also said the Cubs lose whenever he's outside of Illinois and watches a game live. So now, he takes one for the team.

"I now live in Texas and haven't watched a game live all season," he said in a Facebook message. "You're welcome."

Sarah Freishtat is a reporter for the Beacon-News. Mike Danahey is a reporter for the Courier-News. Megann Horstead is a freelance reporter.

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