Fresh from the success of last week’s ball game, we repeated the experience today. Chicago does like its sport. I have never seen so many sports shops selling Cubs, Bears, Bulls, White Sox and Gray Skids merchandise. The two baseball teams are the Cubs and the White Sox (yeah I know, can you imagine going into M&S and asking for a pack of Pringle Sox? Just go with it). From watching the TV it would appear that the Cubs are on the verge of winning their division, whilst the White Sox are 4th in a division of 5. Before I proceed, let me give you an idiot’s guide to the baseball leagues (I have already had requests from teachers for my explanation of Congress from the other day).
The baseball and American Football systems are virtually identical. There are two Leagues (American and National) both of equal stature. I think it’s an historical thing. They are then split into 3 divisions (East, West and Central…well it is a big country) and each division has 5 teams. So do the math (yes I know) and that gives you 30 teams. So the 5 teams in each division play each other (endlessly it would appear), winners go into a playoff, you get a league winner and the winners from each league play each other in the World Series (named after the original sponsor “The World” newspaper). Got it? Good.
So Chicago has 2 teams, but one plays in the National League (Cubs) and the other in the American League (White Sox). What this means is that the only time they would ever play each other is in the final of the World Series. As a result, there doesn’t appear to be the same inter-team rivalry you would get at home between the Liverpool, Manchester or London football teams.
We were trying to decide who to go and see; the soon to be crowned champions or the team lingering at the bottom of their division. Well, they both had afternoon games coming up; but the forecast for Friday (when the Cubs play) is for thunder, and the Sox games were easier to get hold of and they were giving away t shirts at their game, whereas the Cubs were giving away those bobble head things. Sox it was then. I’m sure many a team’s allegiance has been founded on weather, freebies and ticket availability.
We took the transit (as its called) to 35th (yep they use that system here as well). All was going well, a bit of a squeeze, but it was ok. Then at Roosevelt we were told that the train was becoming an express all the the way through to 63rd so we were all kicked off. This caused much constination and colourful language from most of the passengers “63rd…who wants to go to 63rd!”. Well exactly (I have no idea what is at 63rd or why the train was so keen to get there, but we had plenty of time, so I was quite chilled, for a change).
When we arrived we did the usual security queue (we have been doing lots of that). Inch high private eye (Karen) had already spied the boxes of T shirts. They were only available for the first 10,000 people through the gate. We were offed the sizes of medium or XL, neither of which were particularly useful, so we got one of each (actually the both fit us better than you would think, if a little large). We then filled in a form to do with something for Holiday Inn, just to claim our free can cooler and we headed off to our seats. Karen had already commented that the crowd was slightly different to the game on Saturday night. There were fewer women, no children and lots of “men of a certain age” as Karen put it. I guess with it being a weekday afternoon game it was going to attract a different audience. This was the baseball equivalent of day 1 of a county championship cricket match. These were hardcore fans and they let us know it. One guy sat about two rows behind us was very vocal; “Load the bases! Load the bases!” was one of his favourites.
One pleasing thing about the stadium was that it was more symmetrical than the Nationals’ Park. The down side was that it was called Cellular Park. Call me old fashioned but I do like a stadium to have a proper name. I don’t mind a sponsor’s name attached (I’m just about getting used to Emirates Old Trafford) but when the name is just a sponsor I think the place loses something. If you want proof of this, where do Bolton Wanders play? Nope, it’s not the Reebok anymore it’s the….oh you know…that other sponsor.
What this stadium did have though was screens. Three massive ones. It was both awesome and a massive data overload. With the stadium being so empty (capacity 41,000; attendance 14,400) we moved seats a few times. No one seemed bothered and we ended up in the most expensive seats behind the batsman for the 8th and 9th innings. If the last game was a one nil slow moving affair, this was a two one thriller (yeah, that is a run rate of one per hour). The Sox won by the narrowest of margins, but a win is a win. We headed home happy. Well I say home. The Cubs game began at 7:00 so we actually spent the rest of the evening in a bar watching the game. Do you know what, I think I quite like this baseball lark.