Have you ever fallen in love and thought, this can’t be happening? We have absolutely nothing in common. What will we even talk about? I fell into a lifelong love affair starting in my 20s that took me by surprise.
With the Chicago Cubs’ Wrigley Field turning 100 this month, I’m outing myself and publicly declaring my love for this monument of baseball.
I am an avid hater of professional sports. Most people are gonzo for their special team, even considering it a member of the family. However, I grew up avoiding sports on television. There were a million things I would rather be doing. About the only sport on my family’s television was tennis. It was the heyday of the sport with McEnroe, Connors, Evert and Navratilova. Who wouldn’t have wanted to watch?
And then I had a life-altering event — I moved to Chicago. The Chicago Bulls had six recent championships under their belt. The Chicago White Sox now had three World Series championships. But it was the ever floundering Chicago Cubs that caught my heart.
When I moved to Chicago, I found myself in the neighborhood of Lakeview. This neighborhood is made up of a number of unofficial sections, including Wrigleyville where Wrigley Field is located. The field was close enough for me to hop a 10-minute bus and just far enough away that I didn’t have to fight the summer parking schedule and tourists.
The first time I had the chance to go to see the Chicago Cubs play, I figured it would be a great way to spend some time with the girls. A friend of mine had managed to wrangle seats a few rows back from the field right next to first base. The clear, sunny sky was a brilliant blue, which made the shock of green on the playing field that much more bold. The older stadium doesn’t have all of the huge private boxes and architecture muddying the view. Instead, you feel like you’re taking a step back into time to the heart of where baseball began. Wrigley Field, no matter what you think of baseball, is truly a sight to behold.
Chicagoans will be the first to tell you — if you are a true baseball nut, you follow the Chicago White Sox. You will know all of the stats, the history of each player and watch every game. If you are not, you follow the Chicago Cubs. What many Sox fans don’t necessarily understand is that going to a Chicago Cubs baseball game isn’t just about going to see baseball — it’s about community, family and Chicago.
Going to a game is a full blown experience. When I was in my 20s, it meant grabbing a drink with friends to kick off a wonderfully lazy afternoon of sunning myself in the bleachers before heading on to the locals bars well into the evening. Were the Cubs winning during the game? Probably not, but we still held them close to our hearts. In my 30s, it felt like coming home every time I entered the stadium. By then I lived within an easy walk to Wrigley Field with my husband and reveled being so close to the neighborhood. Gone were the marathon days of hanging out with friends but not the love of going.
Now that I’m in my 40s, I can’t wait for my kids to go to their first baseball game. What better gift than to have it be at Wrigley Field. We’ll hop the red line down on the L to take in the game. I can’t wait to see their expressions as they’re delightfully overwhelmed by the whole spectacle of the stadium. It’s a moment no parent should have to miss.
I still don’t know who the players are and I don’t necessarily know their current stats. That’s not particularly important to me. The love of what baseball represents, the community of experiencing a game together and the intertwined connection to Chicago is what has kept this love affair with Wrigley Field going for 16 years.
For me, Wrigley Field isn’t just a revered baseball stadium. It is a place I felt embraced as being a part of the kick-ass city of Chicago. It is a magical experience I shared with friends. It is what makes me proud to say that although I wasn’t born in Chicago and now live in the ‘burbs, I am a Chicago citizen through my core.