Archive for the ‘Sport’ Category

Sit in the Bleachers at Wrigley


2013
05.02
Right Field Bleachers

Right Field Bleachers

On a warm spring night there are few better places than finding yourself in the bleachers at Wrigley Field and hanks to @DreFlair, I got some free tickets!  With a cool breeze you’ll find few more entertaining baseball experiences no matter where your baseball allegiances may lie. I’ve been going to the bleachers since the massive heatwave of 1995 when the temperature hit 106 and sweat stains could be seen on the faded bleachers.  Since then, the @cubs have built more seating, added a Toyota sign, a lounge in center field, and made the line for getting a wristband longer than the line to Hot Doug’s.

Despite these things, here’s why I love going to the bleachers:

The view

The view

When you’re watching baseball on TV, the view is always from the center field cameras.  Behind the mound, you get to see where the catcher is setting up, if a runner is out or safe, and catch when the bullpen is warming up.  Watching the outfielders shift every so often lets you know where they think the ball is going to go.  I love taking pictures from the bleachers!

You can try to feed the players

You can try to feed the players

For whatever reason, Cubs fans make no sense.  Half come to the game unprepared to pay any attention, while the vast majority drink until they can’t think, throwing food and sometimes drenching players in a cold cup of beer.  Whether you are a diehard fan of baseball who shudders to think of missing a play or someone more interested in tweeting on the ignorance of the fans all game, you’ll nary find a crowd that reacts with no sense of logic in baseball.

Fans with a deathwish

DO NOT DO THE WAVE AT WRIGLEY

Call me old school, but back in the day Cubs fans prided themselves that the Wave did not and could not happen in Wrigley.  You save that nonsense for the other foo-foo ballparks around the country.  In the past three games I’ve gone to I’ve seen one wave go through the stadium umpteen times, at another game a set of fools attempted the Wave and were shouted down, and last night’s Wave which stopped as soon as it went up. Totally unacceptable fan behavior.

Maximum leg room in the latter innings

Maximum leg room in the latter innings

If the Cubs are losing heavily, you’ll have no trouble finding that extra legroom you’ve always dreamed about. Fans trickle out each inning as the Cubs will likely face another 100-loss season.  As the “L’s” start piling up, you can rest assured that new seats will open up after the seventh inning stretch.

The bleachers are as glorious as they are obnoxious.  Regardless of the circumstance, I would make sure to stop for a bleacher game if I ever had to leave Chicago for good.

October Baseball at Wrigley Field


2012
10.03
Wrigley Field

Wrigley Field

October baseball is a metaphor for playoff baseball but with the Cubs dropping a whopping 101 games this season (and counting), the playoffs are likely a few years away.  Despite the lack of playoff hopes, it’s still a fun experience to go to the ballpark at cut rate prices.  Tickets these days for for $1 on StubHub and $25+ for Club Box seats – not bad, considering some of these Club Box seats go to triple digits in the summertime.

Having forgotten the football schedule, I got myself two 4th row seats behind the bullpen for $30 each. September baseball in Wrigley is usually freezing but this year’s warm weather meant no coat and no complaining except for $7.50 beers.

Cubs Bullpen

Cubs Bullpen

Game highlights were surely absent as the Cubs were 2-hit and shut out by the worst team in the league.  The game still had attendance of 32,167, but there were more empty seats than I could remember.

@lenandbob Sing the Stretch

@lenandbob Sing the Stretch

Tradition still stay alive  in Wrigley as @lenandbob sand the stretch.  What was worse than watching that 100th loss was spotting unruly fans in the center field bleachers successfully start the Wave.

Call me old-fashioned, but I believe the Wave has no place being in Wrigley.  The last game I attended in the summer, 5 fans sitting two rows in front of me attempted to start the Wave.  I immediately began shouting at them to sit down and desist in their buffoonery and others joined in to successfully prevent the Wave from hitting the stands.  Unfortunately for me, this time I was too far away and could only watch in shame as the Wave made its way around Wrigley Field round after round.

Five years from now maybe we’ll see real October baseball in Chicago, until then – Epstein, you’ve got a lot of work to do! Please note, if you ever see the Wave at Wrigley yell at those responsible and refuse to participate!!


#68 – Check out a Cubs Rooftop


2011
07.05
Down the Line Rooftop

Down the Line Rooftop

Thanks to a recent coupon promotion, I was able to snag some cheap rooftop seats and get a chance to see what all the hubbub was all about. I was a bit worried since I got to the gate and there was a line that was stretching too far even though it was an hour before the game. Someone let me know that I was in the line for Skybox on Sheffield and was relieved when I found myself in a much shorter line and quickly up the steps to the rooftop.

Some rooftops, if you don’t get there in time, chances are you’ll be stuck standing all game or watching the game on TV from the second floor. Luckily, I got in line early enough to skip losing out on the game of musical chairs. Seating options included bleacher style risers, a few couches, and some metal patio setup but they were all taken save the risers.

Rooftop Seats

Rooftop Seats

The risers weren’t bad considering the heat and the food and drink flowed even before the game started. The lines for food were longer than the line for drinks which didn’t make much sense, but the lines moved along fairly quickly. Food selections included burgers, chicken sandwiches, hot dogs, brats, chicken sandwiches and chips. The burgers were grilled by the dozen without much attention as they were all frozen and there was plenty of food to load up on before the game began. Beverages included Anheuser-Busch products, Miller offerings, Corona, Heinken, and wines. There was apparently dessert on the second floor but I was too busy hanging out on the top where the real fun was.

Rooftop Seats

Rooftop Seats

Sitting in Wrigley, it would always seem that the view from the rooftops would kind of suck given the distance and extra street everything was behind. Surprisingly, I found the view quite acceptable because even though everything was so much farther away, the height of the seats made up for the distance, you could still see almost everything going on in the stadium.

Second Floor Window

Second Floor Window

All in all not a bad value proposition and a way better financial deal than one you’d get from the stadium across the street depending on how much you ate or drank. With rooftop seating offering an acceptable vantage point, it made the unlimited food and drink more of a bonus than the main draw, however I can easily see why other people might have it the other way around.


#11 – Turtle Races at Big Joe’s


2011
01.20
Big Joe's 2 & 6

Big Joe's 2 & 6

Big Joe’s 2 & 6 in Lincoln square hosts one of Chicago’s most unique events: Friday Night Turtle Races! Yes, you’ve heard right – turtle races in the bar! I don’t know who came up with turtle races, but Big Joe’s takes it to a whole other level with some All-American fun. What are the turtle races? How do these turtle races work? Well let me just tell you!

Rule #1: Buy Beer to Receive Tickets

Did someone say $8 pitchers?

Did someone say $8 pitchers?

Big Joe’s features pitchers of Bud, Bud Light, PBR, and MGD for a mere $8. For a few dollars more you can fill up with good old Stella Artois and the like. With every drink, the bartenders will give you a big strip of tickets and tables across the bar have all of their strips lined up ready to go.

Rule #2: Keep Your Tickets!

Tickets, please!

Tickets, please!

Tickets are not to be thrown out since there are six races during the course of the night and then a special race at the end of the night with all of the winners. The winner of the seventh race gets entered into a raffle for a free trip to Las Vegas. Six races with six turtle jockeys means thirty-six people will be chosen. I have yet to go to the turtle races and not had a friend or myself step up to be a turtle jockey.

Step 3: Wait for the Emcee to Call Your Number!

The Man with the Turtle Hat

The Man with the Turtle Hat

With thirty-six turtle jockeys needed, the raffle tickets are called one by one for each race. All raffle tickets are placed into a giant green bucket and numbers are read as they’re drawn. If the number called is not claimed, the crowd erupts in cheer as the holder of the ticket with the number that is closest but still under (Price is Right-style) is now the turtle jockey.

Step 4: Pick your turtle!

Pick Your Turtle

Pick Your Turtle

Everyone’s who’s ever gone to the turtle races knows that Yolanda is the slowest %#@%#!’n’ turtle in the world! Given this knowledge, Big Joe’s will have you randomly select from the tupperware to figure out which turtle you will be jockeying. There’s Lola, Lucky Dan, Swifter, Doozy, and Yolanda. Each turtle has its own personality and you’ll have to watch the races to find your favorite.

Step 5: Let the Races Begin!

Let the Turtle Races Begin!

Let the Turtle Races Begin!

Turtles begin in the center of the ring with a cake lid covering them. The winner of the turtle race is the first turtle to get to the edge of the table. Usually the turtles will quickly move out of the orange ring (except Yolanda, who is stubborn as a mule) and then the waiting game begins! The kicker here is that the first turtle out wins you a t-shirt and gets you into the winner’s bracket for the final race. On the flip side, the last turtle out also wins you a free drink so there is still a reason to go wild for every turtle race.

So there you have it, turtle racing a true piece of Americana right in Lincoln Square on 1818 West Foster Avenue. Big Joe’s Turtle Races are a spectacle to see and every person should stop in once just to get a feel for them. Everybody’s a winner when it’s turtle racing night!


#47 – Experience the Chicago Fire


2010
08.23

The aftermath of the World Cup left me sadly without soccer that I had waited for in two years since EuroCup 2008. Sad and with vuvuzela but no where to play, I turned my attentions to the domestic game. What was I going to do? Was it time to start becoming a fan of the Chicago Fire? I hadn’t really thought about attending since I hadn’t gone before and never got a big pack of friends to go, but that was all about to change.

The opportunity to watch some Major League Soccer presented itself when it was soon announced that one of my favorite players, Thierry Henry signed for the New York Red Bulls and he was coming to Toyota Park to take on the Chicago Fire on August 20th. I really didn’t hesitate to scoop up a ticket on Section 8 Chicago since I had friends who went to the games often and also the ticket was so cheap. After watching so much soccer over the past month, it was just a logical decision. Fortunately for me, I had some friends who knew the ropes.

Spending time now talking about Chicago Fire games with friends, the entire scene seemed frightening but an adventure all the same. Standing room only with chanting and singing all game? It sounded dreadful but the comforts of a $10 round-trip beer bus sounded even better and the price was right! I knew that I was rooting for the Chicago Fire, but I also wanted to see Thierry Henry have a good game! It was a situation that soon resolved itself quickly.

The beer bus at Small Bar Fullerton was waiting and I rushed from yet another Cubs defeat and barely made the bus. On the bus, Pabst Blue Ribbon flowed like chi and we were starting off the evening right. I was joined by @zorandra and two other friends and we all cracked open our beers like kids opening their Halloween candy. Two guys next to me found out it was my first game and pulled out a small flask of Smirnoff and I drank some to celebrate. With everyone drinking on the bus, it made the traffic on the expressway fade away and a short time later we made it to Toyota Park.

Getting off the bus, the first thing I noticed was the army of kids running in the parking lot playing soccer games. The games were well organized and we walked by game after game to the ticket booth. There were cars with their trunks open and people sitting in chairs grilling food and drinking beer. Unlike Cubs games, there was no line at the ticket booth and I quickly snatched up my ticket to the game.

Not too far away, we found the Section 8 Tailgate which featured a big crowd of people gathered around for some serious tailgate action. For a $5 donation, you could have a drink from the keg and there were guys busy grilling up burgers and dogs for all to eat. It really was cool, tons of people standing around talking about soccer and forgetting about the mugginess for awhile. @raulito brought some chairs and we were all able to hang out as @greenmind0428 appeared along with @alabenheim and the mister.

After the tailgate, there was a stream of red shirts beginning to gather to march into the stadium. The overhead clapping and yelling of, “Chicago Fire!” became the only sound that existed. People were marching with their flags, scarves, and all yelling, “Chicago Fire!” It was awesome and I don’t think I’ve ever seen any fans so dedicated to their team, surely not the Bears, Blackhawks, Bulls, Cubs, or White Sox!

We got to our section and everyone was standing on the riser. I heard a snare drum along with a bass drum non-stop beating. Two guys near the bottom of the section were leading on the chanting, cheering, and singing while everyone joined in. I started joining in since it was easy enough to pick up and no one cared if I messed up. The flags and scarves started breaking out as the crowd kept coming in. The Fire picked up Nery Castillo and Freddy Ljungberg so there was heightened anticipation along with Thierry Henry’s showing.

The Red Bulls cranked it up a notch and were going past Chicago’s defenders, I couldn’t believe how many wide open shots they were getting. Thierry Henry got free but lucky young Sean Johnson held down the fort and had a steady game all night with a dizzying nine saves! New York’s attack was relentless and I couldn’t see any way how the Fire would win, let alone tie – but I was also yelling and chanting all game along with everyone else in Section 8. I stopped caring what Thierry Henry did and it didn’t matter after half time since he injured his groin, but Johnson continued stymying the Red Bulls at every opportunity.

Sometime after half time, someone decided to let out flares which sent a cloud of smoke and red light into the crowd. It looked like some kind of crazed cult and I was in the heart of Section 8 singing and yelling like everyone else. The game ended with a 0-0 draw, but I was happy we averted a grand disaster as Sean Johnson’s steady goalkeeping was impressive enough to warrant Man of the Match. My first Chicago Fire game was over, and it was awesome!!! Section 8 is a great organization and make the whole stadium atmosphere one that is festive but also great for the family. When you’re out there with everyone else in Section 8, the noise makes the game that much more intense. If you haven’t grabbed tickets to go see the Chicago Fire left, there are still seats for the rest of the season. Maybe you’ll be lucky and see me amongst the mob yelling, “CHICAGO FIRE!” For $25-$35 you won’t want to miss it!