Losing baseball

Some notes from last night’s Cubs-Pirates game, which featured the two worst teams in the league performing a sloppy “After you”/”No, I insist”/”No, no, you first”/”Well, if you insist, I’ll muff this bunt” routine to see who would get the privilege of losing: 1) In my shoulder bag was a grocery sack of sage from Stacey’s garden for my seatmate, Michelle. The bag inspector at the gate looked at it askance. BI: “What’s that?” Me: Sage.” BI:”What?” Me: “Sage. It’s from a garden, for my seatmate.” BI: “What?” Me: “Sage.” BI:”Like you put on food?” Me:”Yeah. You can smell it.” [BI Smells it. Makes a face.] BI: “I’m gonna have to ask about this.” Me: [Astonished] “You’re kidding. Really. You’re not serious.” BI: “I am, too.” She called her manager over, he took one look at it and, presumably deciding that I could neither blow up the stadium with it nor injure anyone by throwing it at them, waved me into the park. 2) During the game, the season ticket holders who sit in my section–those who bothered to attend, that is–had a discussion of whether this is the worst Cubs team we’ve had to watch. I’ve been attending games at Wrigley Field since 1993, and I’ve had season tickets since 1999, and I, like all the rest, weighed in with a resounding “Yes.” You could argue that the 1997 team was worse, but it at least had Sammy Sosa doing his strikeout/homer/strikeout routine. This team didn’t even have Derrek Lee for most of the year, and Ryan Theriot’s remarkable mustache can only go so far towards making up for such bad baseball. 3) The good thing about the Cubs suffering through their third straight disappointing (and second straight flat-out bad) season is that the fair-weather fans are starting to see the storm clouds. The announced attendance for last night’s game was only 32,000 or so, way down from the 40,000+ the Cubs were drawing earlier in the year. But I’d be surprised if the actual attendance was half that. In the center field bleachers the night before, the cameramen had shown a guy stretched out flat, sleeping, and he could have easily reprised his nap in any section of the bleachers last night. Meanwhile, there were only about five beer vendors working the whole of the upper deck, and nary a Super Ropes guy in sight. It’s kinda nice to be able to stretch out a little again. It reminds me of the wonderful days of 1997, pre-Kerry Wood and that first wild card run, when you

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could decide to go to the game day of, with three or four friends, buy upper deck tickets and sit pretty much anywhere. So for all you folks who love Wrigley Field but have given up on attending in recent years–I’m looking at you, Bob and Luke–this is your warning: the glory days may soon be back. Start practicing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” 4) Then, in the 8th of what had been a forgettable ballgame, Matt Capps hung a curve to Derrek Lee, who immediately reminded him of why his pitching coach had advised against such behavior. It was a beautiful night in a beautiful ballpark, and that moment was a good reminder of why we were there.

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