Forget crackerjacks and beer.
When I arrive for my much-awaited first Cubs game at Wrigley Field next month, I'm more likely to need Kleenex for a nosebleed and smelling salts to awaken from sticker shock.
I've been a Cubs fan for as long as I can remember, growing up watching games on WGN while sitting on my Illinois-born father's knee.
I don't know a lot about sports. I learned the basics of football the details of which were saved on now defunct brain cells via a napkin sketch drawn by a college date. I grasp the concept, though not the draw, of basketball. And lacrosse is just about guys trying to beat each other to death with sticks (though I think there's a ball in there somewhere, too).
Baseball, however, I get. Unlike the stereotypical male sports fan, I can't tell you anything about the team's statistical history or the players' personal records and demographics. However, I absorbed the patience needed to watch a full game and the fierce team loyalty necessary for a Cubs fan while sitting in an old gray LazyBoy rocking chair with an even older man.
Though raised in Illinois, just a few hours drive from Chicago, my father never made it to Wrigley Field during his 54 years of life. And while I've done some traveling in my days, I've never been to the central states, let alone the Windy City, during a baseball season.
That's why, when the opportunity presented itself this year, I jumped on it logical or not.
I already was scheduled to be in Seattle the first weekend of June, and my family was slated to take a trip celebrating my grandparents' 50th anniversary a week later. Rather than returning to Alaska for the short week in between, I started pondering a chance to travel somewhere of my own choosing. (I love my family and the Pacific Northwest, but together, they have been my sole vacation destination for about four years running.)
As it turned out, I suddenly knew someone I could crash with in Chicago; the Cubs were scheduled to play at home during my free days; and Alaska Airlines had implemented a direct flight between Seattle and Chicago, offering cheap tickets and double airline miles. It was a no-brainer.
I figured I would spend a couple days in Chicago, sightseeing, visiting and catching a Cubs game, then check out the rest of the state as part of my ongoing genealogy quest.
Then, after everything was solidified in my mind, my family's plans changed, bumping up the anniversary trip and shortening my free days. I faced a choice: Give up my personal trip and spend an extra few days in the Pacific Northwest or skip halfway across the country for a two-day jaunt. Obviously, giving up Illinois would have been the reasonable choice but I never claimed to be sane.
So, I revamped my plans, cut out the genealogy quest and bought a plane ticket for the sole purpose of watching a baseball game. Only then did I think to buy the game tickets.
Anyone who knows Murphy's Law will have realized by this point in my story that the game already was sold out. I am not a lucky woman. The games the week before my trip had plenty of seats available, as did those two days after I was scheduled to leave Chicago. But the two days I was going to be in town? Not a one.
At first, I tried to resign myself to the idea of seeing the city without a trip to the ballpark. My Chicago friend went so far as to suggest a White Sox game instead and somehow didn't understand why I accused him of blasphemy. Eventually, however, I realized that I was not OK with this situation. So, being a true child of the techno-age, I headed online, to that magical cyber world where one can buy anything.
Finally, some luck. It turns out there are at least half a dozen Web sites devoted to legally scalping tickets to every musical, cultural or athletic event ever conceived. At least half of the tickets for the June 7 Cubs game happen to be on these sites. Apparently, there are a great many people who, in the current economic downturn, have chosen to make a living by purchasing baseball tickets and hawking them online for a month's salary.
You think I exaggerate. I don't. A quick search of any of these sites results in a list of available tickets, and the list always starts with the most expensive choice. For this particular game, the No. 1 selection was a pair of dugout-side seats offered for a mere $745 apiece.
Sane or not thus far, I did take a slightly more conservative route, searching for the cheapest admission possible. I found myself facing a choice of top row seats directly behind the plate or near-top row seats in the left field corner, both for almost twice market value. In either case, it obviously would have been more prudent financially and visually to buy a six-pack and flip on the TV. But then, I'd already spent about $250 to get to Chicago, so I was already a few steps past prudent.
In the end, after hours searching the Internet and finagling my bank account, I found two general admission bleacher seats (yes, two, I'm a nice girl and will drag along the friend who must be sick of my ever-changing plans by now) for only a 100 percent markup.
I'm broke, but happy. And while it required throwing sanity out the window, two weeks from Monday, I will be sitting in Wrigley Field, drinking a toast to my father's memory.
That, or they'll call the game for rain.
Jenni Dillon is a reporter for the Peninsula Clarion.
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