A friend of mine wrote a book.
It’s called Wrigley Field: 100 Stories for 100 Years and it’s remarkable. I picked it up in November, but finally cracked it the other night.
I was sitting by a roaring fire at the ladyfriend’s mom’s house in Topeka, Kansas. I was sipping berry wine and petting a dog. I was wearing a Mizzou T-shirt while everyone else watched KU basketball.
But I wasn’t there.
I was at Kerry Wood’s last game, Ferguson Jenkins’ first one. I was in the booth with Bob Costas calling “the Sandburg game.” I was at proposals and out with the ballhawks and hanging with Ronnie Woo Woo and heckling players with the Bleacher Bums and at all the other places and moments my friend and his co-editor got 100 players, fans and other notables to contribute on the occasion of Wrigley Field’s centennial.
100 stories for 100 years, get it?
Here’s one story they didn’t get. Here’s mine.
I’m not a sports fan so much as a baseball fan. I don’t know the players’ names. I don’t follow the season. I don’t go gaga over meeting sports stars (although I did once make an ass of myself in front of “Daily Show” comedian Lewis Black).
But I do find baseball eminently watchable. It’s relaxing. You have a conversation because there’s not much you’re missing. Get a beer. Eat a hot dog. Try not to get into sports talk with people who know a lot more than you (i.e., most of them) and kill a sunny afternoon. It’s beautiful when I can be bothered to get there.
That’s not my story. My story is about two men who don’t like sports spending years shivering their buns off on opening day.
My father is the source of my sports apathy. His dad was a huge baseball nut and his dad (my great-grandfather) was on a barnstormer team. But with my dad, it didn’t take. We camped and grilled and built Adirondack chairs and did other manly stuff whilst I grew, but sports were rarely part of the equation. Just Notre Dame games every few years and the yearly frozen haul to Wrigley Field for opening day.
My dad’s work would buy a block of seats on opening day and all the legal aid lawyers would drive from Rockford to sit in the cold and wet to watch what was usually a loss. Year after year, even during the early teen years where I developed sarcasm and the desire to poke everyone in the eye, my dad and I would sit in the cold and watch that lousy gray day.
That’s it. That’s my story.
I love that story because baseball is such a little part of it. My dad and I would shiver our buns off in the spring on opening day and shiver them off again in October for our yearly Columbus Day camping trip. We liked both activities fine, but not enough to really go for the sake of baseball or sleeping bags alone. (And who camps in October, anyway?)
My Cubs story has nothing to do with the Cubs. My Cubs story is me and my dad, two men doing something neither one particularly enjoyed, just for an excuse to spend time together.
We’ve traded opening day and October camping for a glass of scotch when I’m in town. We’re taking a trip to Azerbaijan and the Republic of Georgia in the spring (long story). So we’ve started to do things we actively like.
But I’ll always think fondly of those cold, wet opening days. I’ll remember them as a father and son, both miserable, but neither wanting the moment to end.