Morning briefing

Times Staff Writer

Will Cubs finally get their goat?

Is this the year that Chicago Cubs fans can again hope for the improbable?

With the Cubs sitting atop the NL Central Division with the best record in baseball so far this season, Chicago Sun-Times columnist Jay Mariotti says yes.

“This is the one,” he wrote Wednesday. “There, I said it . . . this is the club that has the best chance of tranquilizing your pain and letting you fathom the unfathomable.”

The Cubs, of course, have not played in the World Series since 1945 and haven’t won a championship since 1908 -- a century ago.


And Mariotti wrote that “it’s important for me to clarify this is not -- I repeat, not -- a forecast that they will win the World Series” this season, either.

But he noted that the Cubs’ record this year “does give credence to theories that this team is uniquely equipped to blast through the bad karma, starting with a factoid: The last time the Cubs owned baseball’s best record in early June was in . . . 1908.”

Trivia time

Who led the Cubs in hitting when they last reached the Series in 1945?

Let’s hear it

Mariotti also placed hockey great Bobby Hull on his list of the worst singers to have led the Wrigley Field crowd in “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” during the seventh-inning stretch.

Others include Mike Ditka, Tony Romo and NASCAR’s Jeff Gordon. But the worst: Rocker Ozzy Osbourne.

Take five

After breaking the world record for endurance walking with a 103-hour trek, three Coloradans finally stopped -- and had a beer to celebrate.

Ulrich Kamm, 60, of Littleton; Debbie Richmeier, 47, of Wheat Ridge and Glen Turner, 48, of Louisville cooled their heels at Boulder’s Lazy Dog Sports Bar & Grill, the Boulder Daily Camera reported.


They were the only participants in Boulder’s first-ever “Extra-Mile Endurathon” to keep walking -- with 10-minute breaks -- for four days and nights without sleep. That broke the record of 102 hours set Nov. 30 at a similar event in Buenos Aires.

“We finished at 103 hours,” Kamm said. “We did what we had planned to do.”

Olympic trials

NBC reportedly is scrambling to sell out advertising time for its broadcast of the Olympic Games in August.

The network was $150 million to $300 million shy of its sales target of $1.1 billion to $1.2 billion, partly because of the sluggish U.S. economy, the New York Post quoted unidentified ad executives as saying.

But NBC spokesman Brian Walker said ad sales were “on pace with past games.”

Dog days

Commuters aren’t the only ones feeling the pain of soaring fuel prices. So are mushers.

The entry fee for the 2009 Iditarod, a 1,150-mile dog sled race in Alaska, will be $4,000, a nearly $1,000 increase from this year’s event and more than double the $1,860 fee of the previous year, the Associated Press reported.

Race organizers cited higher expenses, mainly energy costs, for the changes. That includes fuel for powering snowmobiles and planes that support the mushers and their teams throughout the trek from Anchorage to Nome, said Stan Hooley, executive director of the Iditarod Trail Committee.

“Everything’s related to fuel,” he said.

Trivia answer

First baseman Phil Cavarretta, who hit .355 (with 177 hits) to win the league batting title. He also was named the National League’s most valuable player and batted .423 in the World Series, where the Cubs lost to the Detroit Tigers.


And finally

Authorities hope to keep the skies clear of potential threats when the European Championship soccer tournament starts Saturday in Switzerland and Austria.

Military planes flew over the tournament’s stadiums in Switzerland on Wednesday to prepare a “no-fly zone” policy on match days.

Security organizers also plan to use unmanned drone planes to monitor fans from the skies above Basel and Zurich, where games will be played.