Friday, September 29, 2006

Meditations on Chicago Baseball - Part I

White Sox
I need to lead off (hey, I'm using the jargon) with a note on how gracious and even-handed EdP was when I took him to Wrigley. He wrote a very nice post and was an all-around gentleman about the experience. I have to make it clear to everyone that Ed is a much better person than I, and as much as I appreciate his gratitude, if I were to only say nice things the post would end here.
Elise demanded that The Girl and I come out to see a Sox game while we were back in Illinois, so on August the 25th we headed out to the lost civilization known to locals as "Chicago's South-Side".
It was Friday, and as a preventative measure to miss "crush-hour" weekend traffic into the city, we left at 1PM. It didn't work. We were caught firmly in the grasp of the Hillside strangler - 290E was a fucking parking lot. We had been standing motionless in one spot for about 15 minutes before I realized that the mook on the billboard trying to sell me Brazilian meat was Ozzie G. We were stuck there in that one spot for 35 fucking minutes with the OG smiling down at us with his meat-sword firmly in hand.
We finally got through all of the 290 traffic, just in time to hit the LSD traffic going south. Fuck. It took us over 2 hours to get down to UofC (1 Hour & 15 minutes longer than it took for us to get to Wrigley the week before).
We had a couple of drinks with Elise and headed out to the park through the fabled "South-Side". For those of you not in the know, Chicago's south-side has all of the charm and grace of Mogadishu with the scenery of Eraserhead. Although, I did learn that all you need to turn a vacant lot into a tavern/open-air drug market is (apparently) 2 abandoned couches and a card-table. Go figure.
We found parking off Halstead and were promptly accosted by a local who was pissed-off that we were parking on his street. We placated him with a (local) pilfered parking pass and a tip of the Sox cap. He promised that he'd look after our car, shouted something about keeping Cubs fans out of the "hood", gave us a thumbs-up, and returned to the sofa on his front porch. He reminded me of an old confederate - the South-Side WILL rise again.
Anyway, we headed out toward the Cell meandering past a series of storefronts featuring plastic furniture, animal-print women's wear, ceramic animals, and FOR RENT signs. We continued on past several blocks of empty buildings, through dank concrete tunnels, around a bunch of overly-enthusiastic guys hocking self-screened t-shirts, and emerged at our destination: U.S. Cellular Field (USCF from here on out).

What can I say about The Cell? Well, it's a lot like paying $40 to go to a time-share presentation. That, or being stuck in a commercial loop. Man, do those fuckers love to sell shit. The ambiance of USCF is what I'm sure soviet propagandists imagined the US (as a whole) to be - One loud, blinding, garish assault of consumerism. At every available opportunity there was either a commercial, or some crappy song blaring through the PA system. Corporate logos illuminated the stands from the jumbotrons, and slogans circled the park in an unending loop of "go buy this". In the short time I was there I learned what car to drive, which bank to keep my money in, were I should get gas from, what company to get my long-distance from, which "exclusive issue" jersey I should be wearing, who's wieners were the plumpest, etc., etc., etc. Hell, I even got an insurance pamphlet from a what can only be described as an "ad-stripper", and got questioned by a survey poll-taker (a different kind of "pole-taker" than the stripper) while I was having a cigarette (at least a got a fake dollar outta that, which I promptly stuck in the fake-stripper's shorts).
The one thing that I knew that they were way off-base on (hey, using the jargon again) with their ad-blitz was that I should "Choose Miller", but choosing otherwise was a mother-fucking adventure.
Elise and The Girl were happy with their margaritas (margaritas at a fucking baseball game?!?), but I wanted a beer, dammit. I wandered off trying to find ANYTHING other than MGD or Lite. I must've walked 1/4 of the way around the stadium before I found a single tap of Sam Adams (meh.) - I kept walking. I found the line before I found the stand - a city block long for anything other than Miller or Sam. Fuck me. I learned (during my epic wait) that due to an exclusivity contract, there were only 2 stands at each end of the park that sold any variety of beers. I emerged from the half-hour line with 2 Old Styles, and finished the first one before I got back to my seat. The other one was gone shortly thereafter. Later, I ordered a MGD through clenched teeth - That one got warm before I finished it. That was the only sporting event I've ever paid for that I've left dead-sober. I guess that it all worked out for the best because the one attempt at using the Men's room resulted in a long-ass line, no troughs, and two pollacks getting into a fist fight three urinals over. Classy.

I almost forgot; Between all of the ads, the lines and the cigarette breaks, I'm pretty sure there was a baseball game, but I'm not 100% on that. If memory serves, the Sox lost to some team that was supposed to be contracted back in '01 - I think they were from Minnesota, maybe. Well, that's not important because right after the game came a HUGE fireworks display to the sounds of AC/DC, Guns & Roses, Europe, and any other butt-rock 80's band you can imagine. It was truly impressive and went on forever. By the end of that bombastic barrage, I had forgotten about everything earlier that night, and could only comprehend the prettiness of fireworks. I was so dumb-struck that I totally forgot to pick-up that $45 "limited edition" tie-dyed Sox cap outta the gift shop. Before I knew it we were out of the Cell and into the wall of panhandlers.

We had Shootin-Fest 'o6 the next day out in Plano, so we went straight home afterward, and had our responsibility rewarded with a shit-load of "lush-hour" traffic heading out of the city at the midnight. Just can't win.
While standing stationary on 290, I caught a glimpse in the rear-view mirror of the other side of a billboard - it was Ozzie G holding his meat and smirking at us as we crawled, defeated, toward home.
How appropriate.

Post-script: I really did enjoy going out with Miss Elise* to the game, and it was something I really wanted to do once in my life (ONCE).
I'm not trying to be mean-spirited (okay, just a little), and the SS Sox will continue be my horse in the American League.
From now on, I'll just make sure to watch 'em at home where I can mute the commercials, and drink whatever beer I want (unfortunately, there still will be fights in the bathroom).

*who totally freaked out at the' Neverending Story' thing, God knows what she'll do when she reads this


OleKobe said...

We went to The Cell last year and the wife and I thought the same thing. The place is a nightmare if you have ADD and you haven't taken your meds.

DC Liar said...

Yeah, the whole experience seemed completely diversionary.
I'm sure that there was at least one kid there with Down Syndrome, but why cater to his tastes exclusively?

bigsoda said...

I miss the old concrete bunker. When they first built "The Cell," I thought it was a boring ass look-good-on-TV park. Now it's a you're-in-a-TV park.

Prairie Dawg said...

I was there before they pimped it out. It was really bland but we sat right behind the dugout and it seemed every second the andy frain (or whatever they're called there) wanted to sell me some meat & beer. I was about to buy my 3rd brat when my wife intervened. I never had baseball seats that good so I enjoyed the hell out of it.

Nice depiction of the South Side but now I'm hoping for a similar treatment of "Wrigleyville."

edP said...

Yeah yeah yeah - and on top of that - JIMBO'S may be closing!!!

I've posted on why I like the new Sox park - I'm not going to have an argument over what folks like or don't like.

Mac Fail resigned and the only guy worth a damn in the front office took his job - so if they can ride out the rest of Hendry's disasterous tenure there should be hope somewhere on the horizon for the other team.