Tuesday, July 1, 2008
Baseball is the ever-present sport of Americana. It is often spoken of in glowing terms, being mentioned in the same breath as apple pie and amber waves of grain. All my life, however, I never really caught on. Baseball, to me at least, was a sport that was on TV, airing from either Houston or Atlanta. From the living room chair, baseball brought out the impatient sports fan in me, with only little spurts of action, and what seemed like hours of watching the players pace around the plate, hit foul ball after foul ball, spit, and occasionally loose their tempers. That changed last Tuesday.
The nearest souvenir shop to the PepsiCo office was in the basement of the Sears Tower, so after darting their after work to purchase a standard blue Cubs T-shirt, I made my way to the Merchandise Market to meet up with Paige Nichols, fellow LSU Tiger and Chicago native. Paige was kind enough to set up an evening at Wrigley Field for her first Cubs game of the season and my first MLB game ever. Filing on to the crowded Red line, we headed out of downtown and into Wrigleyville, the home of the Chicago Cubs.
Pouring out onto the streets of what seemed like a serene neighborhood any other day of the week, I found myself in a sea of blue-donning Chicagoans. Meeting up with Paige’s friends and weaving our way through the crowds, we walked through the gates and up into the bleachers of the immortal Wrigley Field.
Baseball gets lost in the genre of conversations. It’s so closely tied to events throughout the twentieth century and the memories of old men, yet its politics are shouted, its flaws are exposed and analyzed, and its players are traded like stocks. A combination of these conversations flew around me. The fans were interacting with the stadium itself, discussing old friends, fond memories, or simply just family events. The excitement of the fans only revealed itself if the plays were tight, the outs were unjustified or when home-runs revived the spirit, otherwise the stadium reminded me a picnic. Fans surrounding me debated if the owners were getting a return on their $38 million investment in one of the newest star player, Kosuke Fukudome, who clearly had an off night.
Not only was it my first MLB game, but it was a classic one at that. I stacked my drink cups, I ate a $4 hotdog, I belted-out a lovely rendition during the seventh inning stretch and occasionally joined in the chorus of “Fukudome is my homie.” One corner of the stadium was the setting sun and the Chicagoland Suburbs below it, and in the other corner was the reflective sheen of the Chicago Skyline. The Orioles took a win from the Cubs, but after experiencing a game in Wrigley Field, and everything that goes along with it, I pulled off a win as well. Not thinking that I had much invested in it at first, I was surprised to find myself experiencing the disappointment with other Cubs fans. Next time, Cubs, next time. I took the crowded Redline to Clark, switched to the Blue, and arrived back to the dorm a Cubs fan.
On a bittersweet note, two of my close friends left Chicago recently, heading on to new adventures and experiences. Bill and Sophie, together the three of us explored as much of what this city had to offer as we could. Some of my fondest memories with you two were exploring the Museum of Contemporary Art and then the Art Institute. The joyous feeling experienced when looking upon priceless works of art is only heightened when you experience it with people who have the same appreciation for it. Thank you for the amazing memories and I am sure that your departures are not the ends of our friendship, but only minor interludes.
"A Friend may well be reckoned the masterpiece of Nature."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson