Humanity (and Magic) at Wrigley Field


 

 

A professional baseball game is a dandy place to experience humanity at it’s best…and it’s worst. Take the Cubs/Mets playoff game last Wednesday evening at Wrigley...

 

When my husband, son, and I arrived early enough to watch batting practice, the atmosphere was magical: It was a beautiful, warm evening. A soft breeze blew in from Lake Michigan. Kids (and many adults) wearing mitts vied for the attention of generous outfielders in hopes of getting a ball tossed their way. Onlookers cheered for the lucky ones. Lively organ music added an old-fashioned touch. Even the moon was adding its luster to the proceedings.

 

I was smitten. How fun! How family-friendly! “This really is the friendly confines,” I remarked to my husband, who gave me an indulgent smile. “I can’t believe it’s been twenty years since I’ve been to a game.” (My husband and son typically attend a couple games during the regular season.) 

 

Out there on the bleachers, we were surrounded by people in full Cub-fan regalia. I felt like I was peeking in the door of an exclusive club that had plenty of room for more. I was becoming more sentimental by the minute. We’d been handed a small white towel with a big blue W (aka, “the W flag”) at the gate. I had it ready to wave.

 

And then the game—and my education—began.

 

Top of the first inning:

Drunk fan behind me (DFBM): “I’m so sorry!”

“That’s okay,” I say good-naturedly, while wiping beer off my shoulder and arm. “I’ve got my towel.” My husband and I grin at each other. 

 

The Mets score 4 runs.

 

Bottom of the first inning:

DFBM: “I’m so sorry! Listen, I know exactly how you feel. If I do it again, you can beat the [stuffing] out of me.”

Since the Cubs were already down by 4 points, I laugh and say, “Listen, if the Cubs win this game you can pour beer on my head.” 

A pause. “Really?”

 

Top of second inning (4-0, Mets):

DFBM to his equally drunk friend (EDF): “Hammel is throwing [bleeping] meatballs.” 

DFBM to the world at large: “Get Hammel the [heck] out of there!”

Father and son (F&S) four rows back: “Let’s go Cubbies! Let’s go!” (clap-clap)

 

The Mets score 2 more runs.

 

Bottom of second inning:

DFBM: “I’m so sorry! I promise I’ll never spill beer on you again.”

I sigh. He’s sweetly contrite. My husband asks if I’d like my raincoat. “I might,” I say.

EDF to umpire: “Are you [bleeping] blind?”  (Mind you, we’re over 365 feet from home plate…)

DFBM: He’s hitting [bleeping] meatballs!

DFBM to hitter: “You [stink!]”

 

I listen, amazed, at these guys and many other fans around us yelling obscenities at the Mets AND the Cubs. “Why do they do that?” I ask my husband. “Why aren’t they more supportive?” He shakes his head and shrugs.

 

Third inning (6-0, Mets):

EDF to DFBM: “Wood came to put the fire out with his gas can.”

I think, Yay! Something positive.

 

Top of fourth inning (6-0, Mets):

DFBM: “I’m so sorry! I promised I’d never spill beer on you again. Listen, I owe you one.” He repeats this several times.

I wave him off. “No problem.” My husband places my W flag around my shoulders. 

F&S: “Let’s go Cubbies! Let’s go!” (clap-clap)

 

Bottom of the fourth inning: 

Cubs score! We all perk up. The diatribes soften.

 

Fifth inning (6-1, Mets):

EDF and DFBM on their way to get more beer. Hand on my shoulder. “You want one?”

“No thanks,” I say, lifting my water bottle. “I’m good.” (When they come back, we lean forward until they are settled.)

 

Sixth inning (6-1, Mets):

There’s an atmosphere of despondency. What happened to our winning team? (We beat the Cardinals, for Pete’s sake!)

The vitriol toward both teams increases exponentially. 

 

Seventh inning stretch:

The magic comes back temporarily while we sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” I pull the cloth off my shoulders and sway it back and forth like a banner of hope.

 

Seventh inning (6-1, Mets):

A DF (in front of us) yells at a Cub outfielder who missed a catch: “[Bleep] you and your [bleeping] glove!”

DFBM to EDF: “This is a microcosm of my life. Just bring me here and take out my heart.”

 

Eighth inning: Both Mets and Cubs score two runs. The energy escalates. We’re cautiously hopeful. 

 

Ninth inning (8-3, Mets): 

EDF is escorted out after nearly (deliberately) pouring his beverage on my son’s head. (My son had the audacity to stand up with 99% of the crowd and cheer his team, blocking EDF’s view. I had to use my mom voice on EDF, a middle-aged man.)

F&S: “Let’s. Go. Cubbies. Let’s Go! C’mon people, stand up! Let’s go, Cubbies. Let’s go!” (clap-clap)

 

Neither team scores. Final: Mets 8, Cubs 3. 

 

It was quite a night. In terms of observing the human animal, it was a rich experience. My takeaway is that there is a spectrum of fan support. I may not understand or identify with all the expressions of it, but even the most verbally-abusive fans seem loyal.

 

I was most impressed by the father and son who remained positive inning after inning. While they didn’t have a winning team, they showed unwavering support, sacrificing their vocal chords in support of their beloved Cubbies. In my book, that’s a home run. That’s the magic of baseball. I wish I could give them a hug and a throat lozenge. Maybe next year…

 

 

 

 

 

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Comments: 8
  • #1

    Margaret de Leon (Tuesday, 27 October 2015 13:36)

    Your description put me at the game. The only thing I don't hear is "Hey, Frosty Malt!" Hot dogs, Frosty Malt and Cracker Jack are game essentials. We know about the beer. I have to go wipe off my shoulder with my little W towel.

  • #2

    Cindy Angell Keeling (Tuesday, 27 October 2015 14:59)

    Thanks, Margaret. Yes, those foods are certainly iconic. Yum!
    The towels come in handy, don't they? :)

  • #3

    Amy (Tuesday, 27 October 2015 17:15)

    Oh my Cindy... Norman would not have handled that well, at all. Sorry the Cubs lost, I guess Back to the Future was wrong.

  • #4

    Cindy Angell Keeling (Tuesday, 27 October 2015 19:06)

    It was quite an experience, Amy. Alas, we were counting on the Back to the Future prediction. (In addition to eating goat meat, dancing under the full moon, doing creative visualizations, and swearing off chocolate...) Whatever works, right? ;)

  • #5

    Jane (Wednesday, 28 October 2015 23:01)

    Thanks for the write-up.
    Wow, I could not have handled the beer thing like you did. I guarantee someone else would have gotten wet too. You know, I might turn around and "accidently" knock the beer into his lap..


  • #6

    Cindy Angell Keeling (Thursday, 29 October 2015 09:20)

    Hi Jane! The fact that the guy was sincerely contrite made it easier.
    And as Garrison Keillor once said, "Nothing bad happens to writers--it's all material." ;)

  • #7

    Nikola (Sunday, 15 November 2015 18:41)

    I'm SO glad the 3 of you got to share the experience together! Not many people have seen the Cubs get as deep into the year as you all did. Baseball is such an interesting reflection of society in so many ways. Players doing everything they can to get "home" safely...and the shadow side of competition - keeping the other team from doing so; the egoic paradox of winning and losing - being successful means the other team isn't. And the behavior of the fans - of the way they react to external events as reflections of their internal beliefs, of the way they behave in the world - the spectrum from abuse to support. It really is an amazing opportunity to experience the collective; at its best AND its worst. Thanks for your colorful and entertaining distillation of the experience - I'm looking forward to when you go to a Chicago Blackhawks hockey game!

  • #8

    Cindy Angell Keeling (Sunday, 15 November 2015)

    Thanks, Nikola. Well put. Yikes...I expect a Blackhawks game would require courage and a set of rain gear!