...And That's My Opinion©
By Sandy Goldman
The Rogers Park Community Curmudgeon
A Cub Fan's View
Last month I went to a baseball game.
Not just any baseball game!
Last month I went to the Cubs - White Sox game.
Last month I went to the North vs. the South baseball game. (Or as native Chicahgans would put it "The Nort' vs. the Sout'").
Forgive me Mrs. Elia. (see previous column: "Someone to Watch Over Them")
Those readers not from Chicago will no doubt have trouble understanding that this is more than a baseball game. It is the Hatfields and the McCoys - the Cubs and the Sox. Even if, as I read, the descendents of the former are ready to make peace - the latter are not!!
The first thing I noticed as we approached the high tech 1,300,000 square foot, pre-cast colored concrete, 5-level behemoth was the arched windows (they are not visible at all from the inside) and the west exposure which resembled a huge ugly parking facility. Another thing I noticed is that there were no hawkers selling parking spaces in front of their homes, in their driveways, lawns, empty lots or in front of or alongside bars and restaurants. In fact there were no bars and restaurants in the immediate vicinity. There was an awful lot of football type tailgating. Perhaps it's a Sout' side mental affliction manifested by sports confusion.
There was also, a huge concrete area manned by yellow-jacketed attendants moving around like little hornets, waving cars here and there, in lots marked Lot A, Lot B etc. Iím sure that the lettering is so that happy Sox Fans can stomp around and sing in unison "Now I know my ABCís."
It should be noted that there are 12 escalators, 11 elevators, six outdoor kennels (I should refrain from the "going to the dogs" comment - but what the heck) and three industrial strength garbage compactors (no comment needed).
The stadium, it should be further noted, is owned by the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority and is leased by the Chicago White Sox. It was 100% funded by public financing - $167 million - from a 2% hotel tax in Chicago. Maybe there should be a fourth garbage compactor.
In the Wrigleyville area there are any number of interesting watering holes. One of them is the Cubby Bear lounge. If the Chicago Cardinals football team had not left the original Comiskey Park some years ago there might have been a Soxy - Cards lounge. I donít think so!!
But there is plenty of food inside the park and plenty of booze also. The attendance that day was 44,140; I swear that at one time or another half of them were waiting in line for food or beer. Did they come to eat or watch baseball?
The concourse area is 40 feet wide and runs from one end of the stadium around to the other end. It is a food emporium selling hot dogs, Italian beef, pastrami sandwiches, chicken, pretzels, beer; soda and ice cones in paper cups; and a sugary little delicacy whose name I donít want to remember. There is also a variety of non- novelty shops. In right field there is a kids corner and kids gift shop for ages 12 and under - that is years, not I.Q. Near the third base side there is a baseball card photo shop. Behind the home plate area there is an ATM which was in constant use. I must hand it to the White Sox executives - they have figured out more ways to nick the customers than any carnival I have ever worked.
For those who donít want to mingle on the concourse there is the Stadium Club, a special rendezvous for season ticket holders - at extra cost of course. It provides three levels of Levy Enterprises full food service. For those who want to mingle with those who donít want to mingle with the crowds, there are over 100 luxury skyboxes called Diamond Suites, at extra cost - corporate level living.
The first level of the Stadium Club is the bar; the third level is the Club and in between is a white tablecloth restaurant. The Club and the Restaurant are terraced (I did not get to the lower level) thus affording a good view of the field. I was told the first row seats along the window have a cover charge. All seats were $5.00 extra after the first pitch. Extra special living. The Club level has a huge circular bar and it was crowded. There was also a gaggle of friendly, efficient wait-staffers, both male and female.
The best was yet to come. Walking through Section 534, I noted the change from letters to numbers, now happy Sox fans can demonstrate their ability to recognize numbers as well as the alphabet.
The stadium is huge. Looking back at the steep incline 29 rows up, I was reminded of our recent trip to Peru and climbing the intrepid Machu Piccu. In Cuzco, Peru they give people a mild tea made from coca leaves to adjust to the altitude. I think Sox fans do the same thing, only itís not the leaves.
I must tell you that I was not prepared for the next sight. Across the field from home plate, left, right and center was a wall - just a big blue eight foot wall!! Where was the ivy? There-was-no-green-ivy. My God - no ivy of any color! There was, however, a plethora of advertising above the wall and the bleachers: some illuminated, some moving and rotating, some flashing, but all dizzying and distracting.
In the middle, over the 3,400 bleacher seats was the 140'X80' exploding scoreboard which produces the famous fireworks when a Sox player hits a homerun. (Yes, yes, I know I heard it, not once, but twice!) I leave further explanation alone, enough has been written about the fireworks. But in the center of the scoreboard is the 26í x 37í Sony Jumbo-Tron screen which sometimes is instant replay and sometimes not. But it is always transmitting extraneous pieces of baseball trivia. It must make the Sox fans feel as if they are contestants on "Who Wants to be a Millionaire". Iím sure the operator must feel like Regis Philbin. When it is not testing the accumulated acumen of the fans (note: no grades are given - whew!) it displays the picture and stats of the current batter. This so those who went for food can know whoís at bat. Those who went for beer donít know what city theyíre in , much less the park or the batter. There are 38 public washrooms! I donít have a gender breakdown, but Iíve been told that sometimes, when it is crowded, it did not make any difference.
Below the right field bleachers, Cub fans will not believe this, is a picnic patio and a bar near the bullpen. If they had staged the Bleacher Bums, a well-known play (at least to Northsiders), using Comiskey Park instead of Wrigley Field as the locale, it could have been titled "Picknicky at Comiskey".
For those who did not come to eat--watching the game is now secondary--there is a section devoted to audio/visual games and, now get this, a batting cage. All Sox fans fantasize about being Carlton Fisk. Fisk was a true hero who is tied for Sox homeruns in a single year(37). He also holds the major league record for catchers (376). A six-time All Star he played 11 years for the Boston Red Sox and then changed colors for 12 years with the White Sox. He left the White Sox on such bad terms that he might go into the Hall of Fame wearing a Red Sox hat. He came to play not to eat. Although he did a lot of the latter but not at the ballpark!!
For those who feel the need or are informed of the need, there is , so help me, a misting shower area.
My first visit to the park was several years ago when a torrential downpour ended the game at the third inning. Running to our car to avoid the flood I was sure that Mrs. E was going to send Noah to save her two Cub fans. This was my second visit. The game lasted 14 innings; we stayed for 12. To avoid the crowd on the Dan Ryan, always a good move late at night, we drove down (or is it up?) Canal Street. Lo and behold there are houses on this street. There are people who live in them. My companion, or is it guide, told me that this was Bridgeport. I looked for the mayor. I was told he had moved. Natch!!
And now so must I. Maybe my next visit should be to the Schaumburg Flyers. Do they have food?
Oh, by the way, the Sox won!! It was a great game!!
Postscript: We left at the right time. It seems that some Bridgeport thugs beat up a reporter from WMPV at 33rd and Wells . This is several blocks from the stadium at one of the few nearby bars.
There are bums and hooligans everywhere--North and South!!!
...And that's my opinion.
And I'm Sandy Goldman
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