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WHACK REDS' ADVENTURE IN WRIGLEYVILLE

7.9.10
BY:MEH
ASKING FOR IT
WHACK REDS' ADVENTURE IN WRIGLEYVILLE

I arrived at Wrigley Field during the third inning of the Reds' 12-0 Cub beat down on Friday July 2, 2010. After battling traffic for over an hour on I-90 while listening to 720 WGN, and passing US Cellular Field twice because of an emergency pit stop, West Addison Ave. couldn't have breezed in any more rapidly. It wasn't my first time in Chicago or my first run in with Cubs fans, but it was my first and perhaps last visit to Wrigley Field.

With Bronson Arroyo on the mound and an early 1-0 lead, I ventured to the will-call window at Gate 13 where two tickets in Aisle 126 were awaiting my accession. Advancing through the gates briskly with little time to admire the 96 year-old structure, I ventured to our seats behind the visiting Reds' dugout. Our seats in row six were taken, but there were several right next to ours. We slid past the two Cub fans (father and son) residing in our blue chairs and sat down a few seats away assuming we would ask them to move, if someone asked us to move, and so on. Several apparent Cub fans behind us must have noticed our subtle hesitation to settle and offered unwanted seating assistance. We explained that our seats were taken and were just a few feet away, but they seemed to hear otherwise. Their comments surrounded us not being blamed for wanting to move down to such nice seats. We never showed them our tickets or moved from our seats, but they assumed we pulled a fast one on a Wrigley Field usher and they thoughtfully never told on us.

Settling into my rusty blue chair, I began to soak in the mecca of baseball that is Wrigley Field. To my right was the video-less hand-operated scoreboard, the outfield's famous bleachers and rooftops on West Waveland and North Sheffield Avenue, and the almost ad-free ivy. Peering left I noticed the depth of the shaded lower deck at Wrigley, the exclusive retro architecture, and Harry Caray's comical outline above the WGN radio booth. The stadium was splendid as I expected, but I was there to watch the first-place Cincinnati Reds.

I was presuming mass distractions during my visit to Wrigleyville, but had yet to endure any. I was rooting for the rival, sporting their detested former manager's shirt, and was surrounded by what some call the worst fans in professional sports. With countless dreadful encounters with Cub fans during the past in Cincinnati, I was expecting the worst. Frankly, I was asking for it.

The second kind gesture that the gentleman seated behind us dished out was during the top of the seventh inning. Both Bronson Arroyo and Ryan Dempster were pitching well up to that point allowing only two hits each and the score was still 1-0 with the Reds on top. With the bases loaded and no one out, Dempster walked Arroyo and Brandon Phillips putting Cincinnati up 3-0. The men behind us asked if we appreciated the "courtesy" runs that Chicago gives Reds fans when we come to visit. I politely chuckled and said "Thank you."

The Reds worked the scoreboard operators that inning as they proceeded to score seven more times off Chicago pitching. Scott Rolen, Jonny Gomes, and Ramon Hernandez both drove in a pair of runs during the Reds' nine run demolition in the seventh inning. Noticing some fellow Reds fans rejoicing obnoxiously, I remained quietly seated and respectively cheered as the Reds placed the game out of reach. The overly excitable crowd of Cub fans was silenced for at least a day. Leaving Wrigley Field rewarded with a 12-0 Cincinnati victory, not a murmur of detest or hardihood entered my ear drums. I was surprised to say the least. At that moment I questioned the negative brand that has been placed upon Cubs fans for so many years and questioned my own prejudice against the Chicago Cubs. The thought would not linger in my imagination for long.

Johnny Cueto faced Randy Wells on Saturday and squealed through five innings. Seated in section 505 miles away from our elite seats from the previous day, I noticed Cueto's imperfections early on. Cueto was clearly overthrowing, but managed to keep the Cubs from scoring after allowing seven hits. A quality Cub team could have easily reciprocated the Reds' annihilation from Friday, but they left a whopping 17 men on base during the game only going 3-16 with runners in scoring position. Randy Wells snuck a no-hitter into the seventh inning, but allowed five during his next 1.2 innings of work. Combined with Carlos Marmol, Wells and the Cubs limited the Reds to only one run and walked away with a 3-1 win. Beyond their teams' disgusting performance with runners on base, a double-digit distance between themselves and first place in the NL central, and losses to the Reds in the first two games of the series; Cubs fans had found something to cheer about.

Observing my hometown Reds from the "cheap seats" at Wrigley Field ($30) contrasted exclusively to the experience from the day before. Banter was prevalent and ongoing throughout the nine inning affair. There were put downs galore concerning the Reds shouted by cowardly Cub followers anonymously from behind. The Cub fans' enthusiasm considered admirable by some, became a nauseating display of over-hyped achievement. Fans also decided that day to embark on the idea of undressing Reds' manager Dusty Baker. The jeers were unoriginal and quaint. Dusty himself explained his relation with the Chicago fans who once called him their skipper prior to his visit:

ďItís tough, and the number one reason itís tough is because nobody lets anything go of the past. Everybodyís still counting. I was here only four of the 100 years. You talk to most people, they act like I was here the whole 100 years. And Iím only 61 years old.Ē

Cubs fans were able to place Dusty Baker's horrific four-year tenure behind them that day. They were also able to forget about the 102 years they have suffered without winning a World Championship. Thoughts of Steve Bartman and that Billygoat were no where to be found. It seemed visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads as they arrogantly ceremonialized their triumph. The fans then burst into song. As "Go, Cubs, Go" blasted through the vintage speakers at Wrigley Field, Cubs fans belted out every word. The song was written during the 1984 season by Steve Goodman. The Cubs missed a World Series opportunity that year as they lost to the San Diego Padres in the NLCS. Goodman's jingle became the Cubs official victory song during the 2007 season in which the Cubs won the National League Central. The cultish and harmonized unity was like something I had ever seen. There was little left to cherish surrounding the celebrated Wrigley Field where so many greats had once played.



Outside of Wrigley after the game there was more fun to be had by Cubs fans. Comments from local bars' patios were aplenty. Random cracks and salty ridicule filled the thick air as we boarded the Red-line train and headed back to South Chicago. Dusty Baker and the Reds were criticized heavily during the train ride. I defended the Reds and their manager tacitly, but was careful to keep my disappointments undercover. My despair of the moment would have been enjoyed by Cubs fans and I felt they had enough excitement for one day. Upon exiting the train, I exposed my Duty Baker shirt that had been hidden up against the wall.

As a baseball fanatic, my trip to Wrigley Field was a must. The retro atmosphere reminds us of what is great about the game of baseball. Wrigley Field defines simplicity while humbly honoring and commending the game's integrity. It is sad and unfortunate that the men and women who fill the seats at Wrigley Field 81 times a year fail to resemble what their distinguished ballpark stands for.

The next day was observed for celebrating America's freedom. On the Fourth of July, the Reds defeated the Cubs 14-3 and won their third game of the four game series. I witnessed the Reds' victory as I filled my belly with grilled chicken and zucchini. The sweet taste of destruction complimented the grub like a finely aged red wine.

Happy belated freedom everyone and go, Reds, go!
 

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JOHN FAY

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