Saturday, April 26, 2008

Deep Dish Losing

That's not the way it was supposed to be.

About a month ago, I glanced at the upcoming Mets' schedule, noticed they had two games coming up in Chicago, figured I'd never been to Wrigley Field before and always wanted to go, so ... I picked up the phone and my brother and I agreed, "Let's play two." (sticking with the Cubs' theme here). Within minutes I hit and picked up tickets for the Monday night ESPN game, followed by a clump of tix for the following day, when Stu and I would be joined by his friend Bill and another old family friend. This was gonna be great!! Perhaps a little Portillo's Italian beef beforehand, or a post-game stop at Lou Malnati's for that a deep-dish pizza - with giardinare.

The Best Laid Plans - Silly me. A few days after getting the tickets and booking my SW flights to Chicago, what do I notice? Sure enough, the two games fell during Passover which, for me, means a somewhat curbed diet (i.e., no bread, yeast products for about a week). This, of course, meant no Italian beef and no Lou Malnati's. Actually, it also meant I was a bit of a moron because, without realizing it at first, I had already scheduled a trip down to Florida for that same weekend to be with my folks and sister's family for Passover - these trips have become very special to me; I never miss a holiday with them. And here I was, thinking I was a "Day-At-A-Glance" master all these years. Yes, yes, I still use those old-fashioned, dentist office appointment-type scheduling books. And yes, I double-booked the trips.

What to do? Passover with family? Mets at Wrigley?

Call it a by-product of my personal Eldercation - I've come to the conclusion that, when given the choice these days, you know what? I want it all. So, that's the way it was gonna be. A few tweaks of the schedule and I put together a jet-setting kind of weekend. A flight to FL, some kisses, hugs - A nice brisket, matzos, wine, the four questions, (not to make light of this, but some really great time with my family. Another trip will come soon, minus the rush off to Chicago) - then it was off to Midway Airport early Monday morning.

Play Ball - That shot to the left ... sun setting, skyline in the background, the green field ... this is heaven to me. And up until the 8th inning of the Monday night game, the Mets hung tough, the score was 2-1, Cubs and I really thought the Mets would pull it out, just the way I figured it would unfold when I first thought about making the trip. Unfortunately, that's when all hell broke loose and the Mets ended up losing something like, I don't know, 7-1? It's a blur to me now. And let me tell you, those Cubbie's fans were going wild. There was no mercy for Mets' fans. You haven't lived until you sit in the middle of 40,000+ Cubs fans when you're rooting for the other team. The fact is, the poor Mets rolled into town and found themselves running into a buzz-saw of a hot Cubs' team. Enough said.

Already running on fumes - I hadn't really slept all that much in the prior few days - I didn't have much tolerance for how lousy my Mets looked during that first game. Still, I figured they'd regroup for the Tuesday game.

"We're going to see what this team is made of today," I told my brother as we grabbed some Thai food on Chicago Ave. "After last year's collapse, there's a pride thing happening. This group is different."

I was happy, feeling strong.
I was feeling confident.
I was wrong.

"Get Me Outta Here!" - The Mets were annihilated 8-1 on Tuesday and I think it was about the 5th inning when I turned to Stu and broke the news to him that I wanted to leave - and I never, I mean never, ever leave a game early. It sucked. Still, I have to say I'm glad we stayed for the 7th inning of both games so we could hear them sing "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" Chicago-style - the way Harry Caray liked it and led by one of my childhood heroes, Ron Santo. The fact is, it was great to see Wrigley because it really is special, along the lines of Fenway which, because of my BU, Kenmore Square, Myles Standish Hall days, will always have a place in my heart. Like Fenway, Wrigley has that historical, intimate charm and I can see where the label "The Friendly Confines" gets its meaning. The gangways and ramps - the intricate pathways - I'd never seen such a labyrinth-like park. The above shot gives you a hint of the flavor of the traffic-flow. When Stu and I reached our Terrace Level, that's when I caught my initial glimpse of the field, the thin strip of green dotted by the tiny white uniforms darting across the infield. For a split second I remembered my first trip to a major league game. It was Shea Stadium in the mid 60's, of course, with my family as guests of my Aunt Fritzie, who had season's tickets right in back of the Mets' dugout. I think Fritzie was one of the original 1962 season ticket holders. Anyway, as I looked out onto the Wrigley infield and watched the players warming up, I still, to this day, am struck by how easy those guys seem to make those throws across the diamond. It's like the ball floats as it travels from mitt to mitt. It doesn't matter what park I visit these days, that same feeling washes over me. If it's baseball, I love it. And, for me, there is nothing like an urban context - those bleacher seats on top of the surrounding brownstones and buildings - you've gotta love that. Check out the day-night theme in these two pics.

Baseball romanticism aside, my near 18-innings of Wrigleydom was sheer torture from a Mets' fan's perspective. Downright painful. And man, do those people drink. I'm telling you, they really down that beer. I mean, c'mon, I've probably been to hundreds of games, all over; most of them in NY at Shea and Yankee. But I'm telling you, I've never seen so many people getting drunk at a baseball game before. Listen, I'm not passing judgment here and I'm not a Puritan; I like my beer and bratwurst, too. But I love baseball more. And call me crazy but I enjoy actually sitting and watching the game for more than 10 pitches at time before having to run to the urinal.

All in all, most of my complaining here is just to have some fun. The fact is I had a chance to be with my brother and see some friends. And the chance to be with my family for the holiday was priceless, as it always is.

One more funny and poignant memory of this latest adventure: while riding the subway back to Stu's car, we found ourselves in a train filled with what seemed to be about 80% Mets' fans. Apparently we weren't the only ones who needed to run for the hills. We ended up talking with a bunch of folks and commiserated with them about the two debacles we had just witnessed. The ride took about, I don't know, 20 minutes or so. And as Stu and I were about to get off at our stop, I stood, turned, and smiled at the folks in the car, most of them in Mets shirts and hats.

"Thank you," I laughed. "I feel much better. This was like a therapy session for me."

And with that good laugh, I was on my way to the car, to the Orange line, out to Midway and on a plane back to KC.

A good trip. Tiring, but certainly good.

I had had it all.

Still, one win would've been nice, you know?

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