Saturday, May 20, 2006

Pilgrimage to My Mecca

As I have done at least once a year since I was in college, last Thursday I made my annual pilgrimage to mecca. That is mecca with a small "m," since it is being used as a metaphor. My top two choices for mecca have been pretty much ruled through impossibility or impracticality. My first choice for mecca would be the Old Chicago Stadium, where the horn after a goal could deafen you, it was the loudest arena in the NHL, and of course, the cheering throughout the entire Star-Spangled Banner as Wayne Messmer belted it out completely undeterred. But, they tore it down, built the shitty United Center, and the Hawks have sucked even worse since then. The second choice for mecca is Lambeau Field. I have been a Packers fan since the Randy Wright days, which was long before the Favre years, and even though they have sucked the last few years, the Packers do not suck nearly as bad as the Blackhawks have the last few decades. The Hawks will always be my first love, but the Packers have been my mistress for the last 10 years. Needless to say, the Packers only have 8 home games a year, and they all sell out, the waiting list for season tickets is 95 years, and I lack the money to buy from a scalper. Therefore, my only trips to Lambeau have been during the offseason, and therefore, it cannot qualify as my mecca.

However, like every good American boy, I grew up with Baseball. It was only later that the ADD caused me to move away from baseball and into other sports. But seeing how hockey and football failed me, I am left to resort back to baseball. That is not such a bad thing. Even though the draft sucks, the regular season is three weeks to long, there are not enough teams in the playoffs, and Mark Buehrle and Mark Mulder are the only guys who know how to keep a game moving, and getting a 30% is considered good, baseball is still the only way to fill the long summer months (as it was once predominate, other sports scheduled their seasons around it, and it has stayed that way). Given my penchant for crappy teams, there is only one baseball team that I could possibly like. Yep, I am a Cubs fan.

I try to make my way to Wrigley every year. The last couple of years, before I was in Law School, I had a job and could therefore get pretty good tickets (even though it cost a day of work. Think about it, several internet windows (or tabs, as I use Firefox), sitting in the virtual waiting room, waiting for my number to get called, so I can finally buy tickets). Before I get to this years trip, we should all take a trip down memory lane, all the way to last year.

I was able to procure some pretty good tickets by ignoring my work for the first four hours of the day. So, on a beautiful July day, we headed down to Wrigley, my mecca. The sight of it always gives me chills, like a goose running over my grave or sticking a fork into a toaster (my dad did this once, when he was a kid, its a great story, with him ending up on the other side of the room). It sits there comfortably, on the corner of Clark and Addison (just a block from the Metro) like a shrine. It is almost the way that Muslims see their temple when they head into Saudi Arabia and see the Kaaba. Maybe not the exact same feeling, but it is close. I love seeing it. Even in winter, when Wrigley lies in slumber, you still know its importance. Tinkers, Evers and Chance played here.

Anyway, we went up to Wrigley last year, in the quite expensive seats that I bought. Greg Maddux, Mad Dog, was pitching that particular day. And he decided not to pitch that well. He gave up an ungodly number of runs through the first couple of innings. The game was over, so I did the only thing I could. I flagged down the beer man, and began imbibing Old Style. Apparently, it can get you drunk. In a way, I think this was Maddux's way at getting back at me. Back in 2003 when the Cubs made the playoffs, I bought a ticket for a playoff game (at a hefty price) to watch Mark Prior go head to head with Maddux. I booo-ed Maddux like it was my job, him being a Brave at the time. But the boos were more hearty than him just being on the opposing team, he was an ex-Cub, returned to Wrigley, and not just an ex-Cub, but an ex-Cub who became one of the greatest pitchers of all-time. Granted, I know the stories, GM (at the time Maddux left) Larry Hughes basically told Maddux to fuck himself. But still, Fans do not care about money and politics and such things, we just care about the guys who are helping us win (like San Fran fans with Bonds, though he cannot even sell out a game).

So, I gave Maddux the third degree (along with 50,000 of my best friends) and he must have known that I was back in the stadium, got nervous, and crapped the bed, giving up 6 runs in two innings, forcing me to careless about the game, and more about finding the next vendor. I am not sure what else happened that night, if we went to a bar, or whatever, but the bottom line is, I forgive Maddux, and I think he forgave me.

So anyway, back to Thursday, May 18, 2006. Kerry Wood was making his comeback from injury. I cheered him when he ran out onto the field. After all, it was good to have him back, since we (the Cubs) are paying him $10 mil. this year. He proceeded to have a great first inning, struck out two, got through on about 12 pitches. I clapped, but the idiots in the stands decided to do more than clap. My 40,000 friends gave him a standing ovation after the first inning. My thoughts were "What the fuck, its been one inning, yeah I am glad he is back, that is why I cheered when he took the bump, but I am not going to go nuts after one inning." Wood proceeded to give up three home runs over the next two innings. I felt justified, but in a hollow way. After all, I would have much rather seen Woody throw a no-hitter.

The game carried on, the Cubs sucked as usual, but it was not out of hand, so I did not drink myself into a state where I was unable to realize what was going on. Because, as it turned out, the defining play came in the bottom of the ninth. The Cubs had two men on base, with two outs, and they were down by two. There was a runner on first and on third, so with two out, we needed a couple of base hits to tie the game, or a home-run to win it. Neifi Perez was up, and he pretty much sucks (I told my buddy, "I have no idea what Dusty Baker's infatuation with this guy is, he keeps playing him. He must have nude photos of Baker with Don Baylor and Jim Riggleman). So what happened, Perez bunted, with two outs. How fucking stupid is that? Rest assured, in my slightly drunken state, I called Baker a few names, realizing that bunting, even if Perez did get on base, was about the worst idea in the history of man. The Japanese sending balloons over the Pacific in World War II, which had incendiary bombs attached was a better idea. And that was a pretty fucking stupid idea. This time, I Booo-ed as hard as I could. I never knew people could be that stupid.

So the game was over, and I was feeling hollow, as were my 40,000 friends. Of course, I blamed them for giving Woody a standing O after the first inning. But in the end, it probably did not make a difference.

As with most of my posts, there is not real point to this one. I am just recounting my experiences. After the ball game, my buddy and I went to Denny's, then bowling, where I bowled like crap.

Needless to say, the Cubs suck this year. Baseball season is over.

[Side Note: If you missed the Hurricanes/Sabres game today. I feel bad for you. This is going to be a great series. If you have OLN, at least check out one period. This is hockey like it was back in the 80's and Gretzky's heyday.]

[Side Note #2: The Cubs/White Sox brawl today was classic. Check out Sportscenter, you will not be disappointed.]

[Edit: This is what happens when I skip a day, you get a gargantuan post.]

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