Chicago – Been There
Where the loveable losers give it their all
“Wrigley Field is just a giant excuse to party,” baseball fan Joe Stanley tells me, somehow making it sound as if a party is a bad thing.
We are in a Chicago bar talking about the oft loved, sometimes hated, possibly cursed home of the Chicago Cubs. The team has played baseball in their historic ballpark for a hundred years now, having been in the same stadium longer than nearly any other sports team in America.
Joe grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, where he was a huge fan of the Oakland A’s and the Giants, but when I ask if living in Chicago has inspired a more favorable opinion of the local team, he responds pointedly: “I’ll never be a Cubs fan. I don’t want to live a life of disappointment.”
Everybody loves a winner in America, and the affectionately nicknamed “Loveable Loser” Cubs have not won a World Series championship since 1908. That is the same decade in which the Wright Brothers completed the world’s first heavier than air flight. The USA had yet to initiate New Mexico, Arizona, Alaska and Hawaii into statehood, and the country’s first affordable automobile had just been introduced in the Model T Ford.
Having gone without a national title since, today the Cubs hold the dubious honor of maintaining the longest championship drought in the history of their sport. That some fans concern themselves more with which beer they will have next than with the on-field action is completely understandable.
We head to Wrigley Field, where the Cubs are playing one of their last home games of the year – but, with no hope of making the playoffs, it is mostly an exercise in formality. I put on my well-worn Cubs hat and head outside for the walk to Wrigley Field. The sticky humidity of summer has given way to a slight chill accompanied, as it always is in Chicago, by leaves showing hints of color and overcast skies.
Through the pleasant scent of the coming autumn I detect faint hints of rusted metal from the nearby “El”, the city’s mass transit rail system. The L is suspended above street level in many areas, its aging steel beams safely supporting more than four million riders each week. The rust smell is familiar and comfortable – the aroma of home.