Monday, August 13, 2007

Buy Me Some Peanuts

Team loyalties are an interesting thing (for example, check out Bill Simmons’s rules here, #’s 18-20), and after a week spent enjoying some of the finer baseball seats of my life, I can confidently say that I’m so very glad to be a White Sox fan.

Amy and I decided that, with the summer running out faster than Julio Franco’s career, we’d spend our remaining days enjoying some live professional baseball. The fragrant summer breezes at the ball park carry fresh cut grass and warm steam from the centers of all-beef kosher hot dogs, while eager kids point out their favorite players and pleadingly offer their baseballs for autographs.

It’s just such a positive, relaxing experience, lounging in the stands two hours before the first pitch just to watch the guys shag balls and hit batting practice, and that’s exactly what Amy and I did last Wednesday when we drove up to U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago to take in a Sox game.

But we got way more than we paid for.

The following is a list of awesomeness that occurred during our White Sox experience. Allow me to indulge:

1. We received free vintage White Sox t-shirts.
2. Amy got her new pink Sox cap signed by Chicago third basemen Josh Fields.
3. Our seats were awesome.
4. The game went thirteen innings.
5. I was inches from snagging a foul ball. For the record, an older broad to our left ended up with it after it bounced off my hand. Amy could’ve snatched it, but she ducked. Mostly, I blame her.
6. In the eighth inning, some guy ran onto the field in flip-flops like a streaker at a soccer game and waved his free t-shirt over his head, except he actually did have clothes on. But he was drunk and funny and dodging all the security guards, so it was immensely pleasurable.
7. Two for the price of one hot dogs.
8. Amy is awesome to watch baseball with because she knows what she’s watching, she’ll cheer because she appreciates the game, and she can even throw a ball like a dude. I should probably marry her or something.
9. A walk-off home run by Juan Uribe in the bottom of the 13th for a White Sox win.

Need I say more?

The not awesome part of the experience was these two extremely annoying Latina preteens sitting right behind us. They kept yelling at Scott Podsednik (Ray Liotta? Does anyone else see it?), either to get his attention or to try my patience, not sure which. Their voices were so piercing and frustrating that Amy and I kept looking back at them to give stern teacher looks. Whenever we did though, they’d just giggle and start making fun of us in Spanish. Amy probably would’ve slapped one of them on the mouth if she were guaranteed not to lose her job as a fourth grade teacher.

Otherwise, though, it rocked. Sox fans are rowdy, blue collar people from an extremely diverse cultural palette, which makes the experience enjoyable for a guy like me. Patrons yell at the players during the game as if they know them: “Come on, Bobby! You can put these idiots away! Send these jerks back to Cleveland!” When the team loses, the concourse on the way out of the stadium may as well be a morgue. Everyone’s extremely bent out of shape and crabby, and the visiting team’s fans better not say anything taunting lest they be shot by gun or crossbow. I seriously love the south side of Chicago.

That Friday, Amy and I continued our baseball exodus by heading south to see her team of choice, the St. Louis Cardinals. We sat 12 rows behind the visitors’ dugout, easily the greatest seats of my life.

Once again, there were free t-shirts (tremendous), but this game ended with the home team losing in rather dramatic fashion, and the food was about 40% more expensive. Also, there wasn’t an awesome Mexican guy running out onto the field in flip-flops, alluding security.

But hey, you can’t win ‘em all, right?

The biggest difference I noticed was that while White Sox fans are a very eclectic collection of white people, black people, and Latinos, Cardinals fans are primarily of Caucasian descent—and they aren’t as verbally angry as Sox fans, either. They also take losing incredibly well; as we left the ball park after the game, everyone heading out the gates was still ho-humming and moving on with their night. I didn’t even see a kid that looked mildly disappointed.

Don’t get me wrong. Cardinals fans are die-hard people; I just think they’re a little calmer, probably because they’ve won the second-most World Series in MLB history. So many other teams have had much worse success over the years and are therefore significantly less patient. (The Cubs would be a good example of this. Remember that time the Cubs didn’t win a World Series in like 100 years? Remember that? Amy and I do. Ah, the memories). Plus St. Louis is still on its honeymoon from winning the 2006 title, so how can anyone be all that angry?

The bottom line is that I like my fiery, blue-collar White Sox better than the uppity, expensive Busch Stadium atmosphere, though I will say that both experiences were pretty sent me home deeply content with my evenings. It’s hard not to love baseball, no matter who you cheer for. Deep down though, I can only really put my full heart into rooting for the Sox. That’s just where my loyalties lie.

And now I’ve got a craving for more two for one hot dogs—anyone up for a game next week?

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