CRYSTAL LAKE, Ill. -- On the day Karen Patras first realized her daughter's love for the Cubs had spun out of control, she also understood there was nothing she could do about it.
Patras was pulling her car in the driveway that night eight years ago, when Anna and her older brother ran out to meet Mom in the driveway. "They had this horrible look on their faces -- like somebody had died," Karen said. "And I said, 'Oh my god. Oh my god. What happened? What's wrong?'"
No one had died, Anna explained, but the Cubs had just announced they weren't going to re-sign Mark Grace.
Eight years later, Anna is a high school softball star and honor student. And her love for the Cubs has only grown. It has earned her trips to detention, fights with Mom and plenty of crazed looks from her friends. It's more than the "Go Cubs Go" ringer on her cell phone or the framed pictures of Wrigley Field on her bedroom wall. It's that she can't go 10 minutes without knowing the score -- even if she's in school. "It's something I was born with," Anna says. "It's just a part of me like the way red hair is a part of me, and there's nothing I can do about it."
In seventh grade, when a teacher refused to put the game on in the classroom, Anna responded by staring at the blank television and pretending the game was on anyway. In the middle of a lesson, she jumped up and yelled, "Derrek Lee home run," and started high-fiving classmates. That earned her a series of detentions.
On the detention slips her parents had to sign, Anna was described as "unruly, disruptive and a bad influence." She brushed it off to her parents as a troubled teacher taking out his own personal problems on his students. And they bought it.
That same year, Anna borrowed a Walkman that her parents had received as a wedding gift and listened to games in her English class until her teacher caught her. Now in high school, where the reception is terrible, she follows the team by checking the score on library computers and texting family and friends. "If I don't know the score I usually feel uneasy, like I'm in a haze," Anna says. "I can't focus on anything else."
She knows people think she's crazy. She knows they struggle to understand her. But she doesn't care. Nor does she worry about growing old and never seeing the Cubs win a World Series. "Not at all," she says. "Because I know for a fact that they are going to win. They are going to win this year."
Wayne Drehs is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.