The CUBS are Number 41!
No, it's not what you think. The up-and-coming Chicago Cubs are not 41st in a 30-team league.
I'm talking about Thursday's Freedom Celebration Committee parade, in which the Champaign-Urbana Baseball Stalwarts will be the 41st entry, proudly marching behind the Illinois National Guard and just ahead of a group mysteriously called "Champaign County Elected Officials," who apparently aren't marching with the Republicans (No. 51) or the Democrats (No. 67).
I sense that some local politicians pulled strings to get adjacent to the CUBS, thinking the cheers and applause would wash onto them as well.
Smart thinking, but if the parade crowd is full of Chicago Cubs fans — as it usually is — those people are quite accustomed to cheering wildly one minute and booing lustily the next.
Think Carlos Marmol. Or Antonio Alfonseca, Mel Rojas, Kyle Farnsworth, LaTroy Hawkins or Rick Aguilera. All are members of an elite corps of Cubs "closers" who often closed the game for the other team, coming into the game with a Cubs' lead and leaving it with a Cubs' loss.
But enough of the negativity. This is a different Cubs team from those of three or four years ago, with a different manager, a different general manager and different owners.
Even the results are different; as I write this on June 27, the Cubs are 32-44, in last place and 15 games behind the first-place St. Louis Cardinals. On June 17, 2012, they were 26-49, in last place and 15.5 games behind the first place Cincinnati Reds.
See the difference? Things are looking up. From last place.
Anyway, the CUBS will be in the parade Thursday and will welcome all fit, tough, loyal and forgiving Cubs fans to join them for what we hope will be another refreshing 2-mile march from Champaign into Urbana. Last year, you might recall, the temperature at the start of the July Fourth parade was a delightful 100 degrees (you can look it up).
This year's parade starts at 11 a.m., two hours earlier, however, so it should be downright comfy.
We will meet beginning at 9:30 a.m. (but you can come later) in the E-14 lot, on the west side of the building once known as the Zuppke Hall (aka the Assembly Hall and the State Farm Center). We'll have water, plus signs, flags and banners to carry.
Wear your Cubs apparel or throw on a Chicago Blackhawks sweater, if you must gloat. I bet I know at least one Kacich, maybe more, who will do so.
And yes, Cardinals and even White Sox fans are welcome to join us in the parade and experience the joy and delight of being a Cubs fan.
On the following night, July 5, we'll have our annual CUBS Night at Danville Stadium when the Danville Dans play Quincy. Game time is 6:30 p.m. We'll give away some attractive prizes coveted by any Cubs fan.
Another thing to watch in Thursday's parade: U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, and his 13th Congressional District challenger, Urbana attorney Erika Harold, will be marching about a block apart. Davis is No. 53 in the parade, Harold is No. 59.
Davis passed his first bill last week: HR 2383, which would name the new Interstate 70 bridge over the Mississippi River the "Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge."
The measure, which passed the Senate two days later, cleared the House on a 395-2 roll call. The two "no" votes came from Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., and Thomas Massie, R-Ky.
"Stan Musial was more than just one of the greatest baseball players of all time. He was an ambassador for the game of baseball, a veteran and a kind, upstanding person," said Davis, the lead sponsor of the bill and an Atlanta Braves fan. "With this legislation we also recognize that nearly 1.3 million of America's 21 million veterans live in Illinois and Missouri. Naming the bridge that links these two great states is another way we can honor both the brave men and women who have served this country and 'Stan the Man.'"
The bill is now on President Obama's desk.
Rising stars. A story in this month's edition of Illinois Issues magazine mentions state Sens. Mike Frerichs, D-Champaign, and Jason Barickman, R-Bloomington, as potential up-and-coming leaders in Illinois politics.
Also on the list: U.S. Reps. Adam Kinzinger, R-Manteno, and Aaron Schock, R-Peoria; Democratic Sens. Daniel Biss of Evanston and Andy Manar of Bunker Hill; and Democratic Reps. Elaine Nekritz of Northbrook and John Bradley of Marion.
Tom Kacich is a News-Gazette editor and columnist. His column appears Sundays and Wednesdays. He can be reached at 351-5221 or at email@example.com.