A few weeks ago, I had the rare (for me) and unique opportunity of attending two baseball games on two successive weekends at the two ballparks of the two Chicago teams – The Chicago Cubs and The Chicago White Sox.

Now, I am not exactly a big fan of baseball – but that does not mean I don’t watch it. I am really a shameless, opportunistic sports fan – more so when it comes to baseball. I do watch some playoff baseball as for some reason many aspects that I find boring in that sport all of a sudden become actually interesting. This is actually the remarkable thing about baseball. When the game is on the line and your team is rallying or even trying to put the final nail in the coffin you feel like screaming and cheering for so many things that in other situations would be quite “mundane”. You then go “YAAAA” for every strike, every ball, every out, every hit, every walk that favors your team. I did a lot of that in both games as both the Cubs and the Sox won their respective games.

Our (extended) family in Chicago has more enthusiastic White Sox fans than Cubs fans. We attend one White Sox game as a family outing every year. This year though, one of my old family friends visited us from Houston and he was nice enough to treat us to a Cubs game, a game in which they were playing the Houston Astros. Hence, my very first Cubs game outing.

First Weekend: Chicago Cubs vs. Houston Astros at Wrigley Field, Chicago

Cubs vs Astros

While usually both Chicago teams generally suck every year, this year the Cubs are doing well, while the Sox are down in the cellar. So the game at the Cubs was bound to be important and potentially interesting. For the first 5 innnings are so, the Cubs were down – and so it was a bit dull. But I had bigger concerns – I was afraid, afraid that I was going to seriously hurt before the game was over. I guess I did not know that my friend and his son were going to quite vociferous in their support for the Houston Astros. When Craig Biggio came on, they were two lone voices leading a B G O, B G O cheer. A huge guy in front us turned and gave us dirty looks many times. But to no avail as our guys either pretended to not notice or did not really notice. I cowered in my seat with my mind racing about possible excuses to use at the right time I don’t really know them – they just happened to sell us tickets at this Indian party (Or) They are Indians from Texas you know? (Or) They just now got off the plane from India and don’t know which team is which. They have never been to a baseball game

But then I counted my lucky stars as I realized that the T-Shirt I was wearing just happened to have the Cubs colors of blue and red, albeit a bit reversed i.e. more red and less blue rather than more blue and less red. The blue tone was even the right one! And it was not even a conscious choice! I knew that I will be safe and I could smile.

But anyway, soon the Cubs rallied and won. It turned out to be quite a good game. Some highlights/lowlights of the whole ballgame experience:

  • Very interesting game for the last 4 innings. I really got into the rally.
  • The houses/buildings around the ballpark which were tall enough that their owners have built proper stands in their terraces looking down into the stadium. Sort of like “mini galleries” all around.
  • Urinals at Wrigley field. Reminded me of the urinals at my high school in India. I usually think that if I handled that, I can handle anything. That resolve was tested well here.
  • 7 freaking bucks for a lousy beer! They know how to rip people off! I skipped the beer but went for slightly less expensive, watered-down, fake tropical fare.  Yeah – I still got screwed, but I chose how and I sure wasn’t going to get screwed on taste too 😉 Getting ripped off on drinks at a baseball game – ain’t that an American tradition?
  • Trying to eat “soft serve” ice-cream super-fast before it became like runny milk shake (hot day). This was in the middle of a cubs rally with everybody around us were standing up and screaming. My friend’s young son was so distraught that his Astros were losing their lead that he had two quick spoonfuls and decided he had enough ice cream (!?!). But I didn’t let him off – told him he had to finish enough that the rest will not “overflow”. He must have thought – what a strange dilemma!
  • Saw a guy whose T-Shirt read “White Sox” in the Sox black and white colors. I thought Is this guy dumb? Is he asking to get killed? But then I saw that that I missed one more word on the T-Shirt – a very bold SUCK. So of course he was quite safe, and also quite at home. BTW, if you are not familiar with the sports dynamics of US cities with more than one team playing the same sport – the simple concise rule is that the fans of each team loathe the fans of the other team. And actually the word loathe here is an understatement. I think there is no word in the English dictionary that can represent the level of hatred here.

Second Weekend: Chicago White Sox vs. Minnesota Twins at U.S. Cellular Field, Chicago

Sox vs Twins

This game was a general yawner even though the Sox won. This is mainly because the game meant nothing – the Sox were dead in terms of contention for playoffs by that time. There was quite a bit of excitement in the form of home runs along with fireworks display after every Sox home run. One reason why the game felt like it lacked life in spite of all this could be because we were like 30,000 feet up on the upper-deck on a not-too-crowded stadium. You do get nice views from the upper deck, but you feel very detached from the game. But that did not mean all was lost as you could concentrate on Nachos, French Fries, Funnel Cakes and drinks, and other sights. After all even for baseball fans, these are as important if not more important than the game itself.

Highlights/Lowlights:

  • Like I said – the game was not that gripping. But I still yelled loudly as the Sox took the lead and closed it out. It is so easy to get into it when everyone else is into it. Something about the electricity of the crowd.
  • Listening to my daughter and her younger cousin sing “Take me out to the ball game” at least fifteen times during our ride to the park. I loved it every time.
  • Cool breeze (thanks to Lake Michigan) at the very top of the upper-deck on a hot day – it was heaven I tell ya!
  • Very good curly french fries and funnel cake.
  • $6.50 (i think) for a lousy beer! I again skipped it and went for equally expensive , watered-down, fake tropical fare.
  • Also once again saw what must the most favorite T-shirt of Sox fans. The White Sox won the US Major League Baseball Championship (“World” Series) couple of years ago and that means each player gets a ring – a big deal. In sports talk in the US “getting a ring” means winning it all. So anyway, this T-Shirt calls out “Hey Cubs Fan!” on one side. The other side has a hand “showing the finger” with the World Series ring on it – nice touch 😉

A few photos of the ballparks that I took are here on flickr.

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