A few times a year, my husband and I attend a sporting event in the city. He has a buddy who has a sports memorabilia company and has season tickets to everything. When he has scheduling conflicts and will be unable to use his seats, he offers them to us at face value before putting them up on StubHub. This is how I’ve gotten to sit four rows off the ice at a couple Black Hawks games; a dozen rows from the top of the flying saucer, but on the fifty yard line, at Soldier Field; decent seats at what I will always call Comiskey Park; midway to the rafters at Bulls games and really, really great seats at Wrigley Field.
We go to one or two of the home team’s games each year, more for the experience than for a true love of whatever the sporting event is, at least from my perspective. Except for the Hawks and the Cubs. Given a choice — and more than a few thousand dollars – I would love to have season tickets for both. I also wouldn’t say no to season seats for the Bears, except for the part that a good portion of the season requires more layers of clothing than I own.
This is how we came to have plans to see the Cubs play the Phillys Thursday night.
I say plans, because our friend knew more than a month ago that he wouldn’t be able to use his tickets on this particular night. Usually, the option and therefore the decision to go to a game comes up just days in advance.
Tuesday night while we were watching the evening news about the practice protests going on around the city ahead of the NATO summit, my husband suddenly remembered we were going to a Cubs game soon. Of course, he
had to check his day planner to find out when. Yes, he is the Julie McCoy of our
The conversation went from excitement that our first Cubs game of the season was in two days to trepidation of what the traffic, route and general chaos would be on the eve of the NATO summit in Chicago. Being proper type A personalities, we started checking on the Internet for potential protests or gatherings both along our route as well as around our destination.
The first thing we learned was confirmation of what we had previously thought of all the planned protests. If there is an issue someone is for or against, there will be a group gathering somewhere in the city to get their message out. Exactly what each message is really seems to be lost in the dizzying and usually conflicting opinions and agendas.
There are so many, each competing for their 15 minutes I can’t help think that it would make more sense, and have more impact, if they weren’t jostling for time, space and sound bytes with every other cause, action and concern. Up with this. Down with that. No more of something shouting over more of something else. It all ends up being white noise.
After spending more time than I had ever wanted to or had interest in researching what would be going on, I was no more informed about most of the agendas of the various groups. The only one that really stuck out for me was a bus tour of the
Englewood neighborhood. The intention was to see, first hand, the urban blight,
poverty and general ugliness of one of the most crime-ridden parts of the city.
Of course, the cause of all this misery was someone’s fault. I can’t recall who was said to hold the blame, either because it wasn’t clearly named, or if it was just that amorphous perennial Bogey man, the government/military/industrial consortium of evil doers.
I’m simply amazed at the hubris of loading a bunch of people onto buses to drive down streets where near daily drive-by shootings occur and illegal drug transactions are carried out in broad daylight on just about every block and street corner. I wonder if the tour includes a stop at a shooting gallery, so the protesters can see crack being consumed by the poor, downtrodden and oppressed firsthand. I’ll be searching the news over the next day or so to see if some intrepid reporter did a man on the street type segment, to get the reaction of neighborhood residents being treated like exhibits in an anthropology seminar.
Normally when going to a night game at Wrigley, we leave Plainfield around 4 o’clock in the afternoon. Yes, the game doesn’t start until 7:05 p.m., but again, thanks to our friend, we learned the trick is to drive to DeVry Institute and park there. For a measly six bucks, you get to park in a secure and guarded lot. You also get tickets for however many are in your vehicle for a shuttle bus which drops you off and picks you up right at the corner of Clark and Addison. No $40 fee for the privilege of parking in an alley within walking distance, and no hassles with the traffic congestion around the park before or after the game. Best of all, no standing in a sort of line with inebriated fans waiting for overcrowded, and currently potentially rerouted public transportation. But, this means allowing for extra time to get to the game.
Because the news has been talking nonstop about how awful traffic is going to be, we were fully prepared that we would be sitting on the I-55 for most of that three hour window. Having been born and raised in the city and knowing it like the back of my hand, I had contingency plans for alternate routes to alternate routes. We had even talked about what surface streets to take if we had to bail from the expressway at LaGrange Road. Or Harlem. Or Cicero. I even smugly informed my directionally challenged husband that we wouldn't need the GPS, as I could list from memory all the major arteries through the city and most of the side streets as well.
Instead, it was one of the least congested trips into the city we’ve ever experienced. In the middle of what should have been rush hour, there were almost no delays at all, even at that traffic planning sadist’s chokepoint that is the merge from the I-55 to the I-90/94.
Once on the surface streets, traffic remained abnormally light. We figured the media’s scare tactics must have actually worked, and most locals had simply decided to go home earlier than usual on this Thursday evening, or they had stayed home all together.
What we also didn’t see were any protesters. Or raging mobs. Not even a single sign that every hotel from the Wisconsin border to somewhere in Indiana is filled to capacity. It was an almost normal day, except there were less cars and people than is standard for rush hour in Chicago.
The World’s Largest Outdoor Beer Garden that is Wrigley Field was as filled as usual. Whether the Cubs are on a hot streak or in their usual pathetic slump, the place is never empty, something which always amazes me. It is a fact and truth about Cubs fans, they are there to enjoy themselves and The Friendly Confines, not because they anticipate seeing their Cubbies play a great game. Though, the crowd that stayed past the seventh inning stretch did have a moment of hope. The Cubs rallied from an 8 to 2 low to almost tying it up in the 9th, ending with a more respectable loss of 8 to 7.
The people sat and watched as things seemed to go as bad as expected, only to be pleasantly surprised that in the end, it wasn’t nearly as bad as was feared.
Hopefully, the same will be said next Tuesday morning when the NATO Summit is