Anyone familiar with the baseball rivalry between the Chicago Cubs and the St. Louis Cardinals knows that it’s the greatest rivalry in the history of sports where at least one of the teams constantly sucks. Since it’s baseball, I’m sure there’s a stat about that somewhere. So it’s a decidedly lopsided rivalry, which may be why Cardinals fans love it so much. Imagine if that big kid on the playground, Tommy, kept picking on poor little Billy because Billy could hardly stand up for himself and all the teachers stood around saying, “That’s good thinking, Tommy, picking on the little guy.” Those teachers are Cardinals fans. And it’s hard to blame them, seeing as how their team doesn’t have over 100 years of futility behind them (and possibly ahead of them).
What I can blame them for is how they all show up at Wrigley field for every freaking Cubs-Cardinals tilt, which results in ticket prices that would make a major oil company executive blush. Those games routinely sell out in February, leaving the secondary market a cesspool of wanton greed. A quick, perfectly legal check of NSA records shows that more than one Middle-East prince has gassed up their private jet, put out their best designer suit, rocketed across the ocean to Chicago, only to turn away from Wrigley and hop back on their plane with their mouth agape, saying, “Those tickets are how much?!”
But, God help me, I bought those tickets.
Okay, so that’s my fault. But I totally have a fall guy for this: my family. Relatives and in-laws are a lot more expensive than they should be, that’s all I’m saying. And it’s the Cardinals fault (and their little fans, too).
See, over the weekend my sister and her husband dropped by for a visit. Originally, it was just going to be my sister, who was going to drive down from the U.P. on Friday to drop off her three kids with their grandmother who was driving up from Missouri to claim them for three weeks (and I wish her luck on that extended grandchild visit). I asked if my sister if she was going to stay on Saturday and we could do something like catch a baseball game. I then said that it was too bad her husband couldn’t make it because a baseball game at Wrigley Field can be a good time. It is, after all, the world’s largest beer garden. The next thing I know I get a call from my brother-in-law telling me that it turns out he can make it and he can’t wait to go see a baseball game at Wrigley. So now, of course, I had to deliver.
I went to the Cubs website, where I saw they were playing the Cardinals over the weekend. Great. Really, why does God hate me? Well, I thought, the tickets can’t be that bad because the Cubs aren’t going anywhere this year, which usually means cheaper seats. But I’d forgotten that the Pirates were somehow on top of the division, meaning the universe was in a state of inter-dimensional flux: up was down and left was right and all that quantum physics stuff that they can’t really explain so they say, “It’s because of quarks!” and you can’t really argue against quarks.
Anyway, there weren’t any tickets available on the team site, so I went to a resellers market where, for my convenience, the tickets were priced at three times the face value (that didn’t include the convenience fee, which is obviously there to make everything extra-super convenient).
So everyone arrived Friday night. The kids and grandma left Saturday morning and by mid-afternoon I was on my way to the Cubs-Cardinals game with my sister and my brother-in-law.
“What do we owe you for our tickets?” they asked.
“Don’t worry about it,” I said (this response to eat the ticket prices myself was clearly part of the evil plan of Cardinals fans everywhere and, therefore, not my fault).
We drove into Chicago, arriving almost two hours early so we could enjoy the neighborhood, take some pictures in front of Wrigley, and maybe find a local bar for some pre-game drinks. As we walked by the gates of Wrigley on our way from the Red Line El stop, I noticed they were giving away replicas of the Harry Carry statue to the first 10,000 fans. Cubs fan fantasy come true! But, of course, if you go in to get a statue, you can’t come back out because they won’t let you back in to the game (without a good excuse). So I had to walk away without a statue in order to enjoy Wrigleyville with my guests, but not before I blamed my missing out on the give-away squarely on the shoulders of Cardinals fans everywhere.
About two hours later, after kicking back at an excellent bar down the street, we took what turned out to be our pretty darn good seats at Wrigley. My sister had never been to Wrigley Field and her husband had never seen a professional baseball game. There’s something special about being there with friends and family when they do something fun for the first time. We had a fantastic time, even surviving this attempted Kung-Fu sneak attack from a rogue Cardinal’s fan:
The Cubs won 6-4 in what looked like a laugher early but became tense late. We celebrated every hit, every run, every strikeout; we ate Italian sausage and drank low-end beer; and we high-fived every stranger we could find.
When we arrived back at home after the game, I reflected on just how perfectly those Cardinals and their fans had played me. And I cried a little bit inside. See, my brother–law, still pumped up from the game, drank my last beer. Surely, that was the end game from those sneaky Cardinal fans all along.
Stupid Cardinals, making me have a memorable evening with my family at an epic Cubs-Cardinals rivalry game when I could have just as easily stayed home, pouted about ticket prices, and went bowling or something.
One day, I promise, I will have my revenge.
I’ll make it up to you. Come up and I’ll take you to the Keweenah Mountain Lodge where we can play a couple rounds of disk golf and then, I’ll buy some good beers for you.