Worth it: Wrigleyville during Game 5

Worth it: Wrigleyville during Game 5

It’s nice that today is Halloween because the dark circles under my eyes make me look like I belong to the legion of the undead. That’s convenient. It’s not often that looking as over-tired as I helps my desired look.

Man, am I tired. Yesterday was Game 5 of the World Series, and even though there was no way we were going to get tickets, my parents and I wanted to be in the crowd when the Cubs won their first World Series game at Wrigley Field in 71 years. Our original plan was to go to Game 3 on Friday, but after their win at Cleveland in Game 2, we decided it would be better to go on Sunday when they could win it all…except then they lost. Twice. Painfully.

When I woke up Sunday morning, I wondered if my dad would want to go still. Saturday’s was a frustrating and emotional loss. To be honest, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go. Would it be worth the physical aftermath to stand outside or in an excessively loud bar for the evening while the Cubs lost? But not going would be like saying “yeah, they’re not going to win. The series is over. See you guys in the spring.” And that’s just too defeatist for me.

So even though we were still smarting from Games 3 and 4, we decided to hope for Game 5. That hope came so much more easily once we were surrounded by other fans on the shuttle from free parking to Wrigleyville. (People paid crazy amounts to park, but Wrigley has a free shuttle lot for night and weekend games. Don’t be the guy who shells out too much and has to sit in traffic for hours.) Spontaneous outbursts of “Let’s go, Cubbies!” are great for increasing optimism.

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There’s something about standing in line for thirty minutes to use the one-stalled bathroom at a Taco Bell that isn’t so awful when it’s the Taco Bell across the street from Wrigley Field and everyone in line is as excited as you are. Camaraderie.That’s the spirit of Wrigleyville; everyone is there to be excited, to believe, together.

As game time neared, we looked for some place to eat that didn’t have a cover charge. The downside to World Series excitement is that it suddenly costs upwards of $200 just to enter establishments within a block radius of the field. But luck was on my side and Homerun Inn, one of the few pizza places that don’t use garlic or onion in their sauce (which means I can eat it), was free of cover charge and full of giant TVs. We were seated and eating by first pitch, when the chorus of “LET”S GO, CUBBIES” clap clap clapclapclap was more than loud enough to drown out the speaker system.

The difference between watching the game at your local bar and watching the game in Wrigleyville (assuming Wrigleyville isn’t local for you), is that no one is having irrelevant conversations. No one is talking about work or tomorrow’s plans or that thing Brian did at that party one time. Everyone is here for the game. There is only the game. And good plays are worthy of ecstatic outbursts, neutral moments deserve encouraging applause, and tense times are for hushed prayer.

It’s hard to sit at a table and calmly eat pizza when you’re team is in the World Series. I ate way too fast, like if I didn’t finish my food quickly enough the players would lose momentum. When I looked around, almost no one was eating as usual. It’s difficult to hold pizza when you might suddenly have to jump up and high five the person next to you. One of my favorite moments of the night was when a tiny kid, maybe five years old, walking back to his grown ups stopped to high five everyone at our table. The unexpectedness of a kiddo popping up so late in a loud, crowded place coupled with his quiet joy delighted me.

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Watching TVs in store fronts

After the 7th inning, we left the restaurant to get back to the Addison and Clark. But it was nerve wracking to leave the comfort of eight screens (and warmth and seats). We checked every store front we passed for visible TVs and walked/ran towards the next window of light when there wasn’t one. A small group congregated outside of Sportsclips, which was hosting a private party of bros and the pope (thanks, Halloween), to watch the 8th through GO CUBS GO written in giant blue letters. This crowd was less physically enthusiastic than the last but more jokester, and there were plenty of nervous chuckles passed around, especially when the guys from inside opened the door to vape.

“The pope’s rooting for us. We got this.”

“Does the pope vape too?”

At the middle of the 8th, we took off again, joining the hundreds-strong crowd in front of the marquee. If there’s a fault with Wrigley Field, it’s that there is no outside screen visible from the street. If you’ve got eagle vision, you could probably make out the live feed screens levels above, I could see the pitch, but not the ball or the count. But it didn’t really matter. The crowd inside made it easy to distinguish a strike or a ball. And that final pitch!

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The sound was beautiful. The crowd instantly grew several feet as hands went up, W flags whipped through the air, and CUBS WIN lit up the marquee. Confetti flew. Camera crews congratulated themselves on their great timing. My dad jumped into the background of an interview. My mom pretended not to know him. I sang as loud as I could.

And now I’m exhausted, but in a good kind of way. It’s worth a day or two of recovery to feel the electricity of a World Series game played (and WON!!) at Wrigley. Even though I’ve barely moved today, at least I’m flying the W.

Baseball and Bad Ideas

Baseball and Bad Ideas

The Cubs are in the World Series. This is a time for extraordinary feats, for crying manly tears, for breaking curses. Real life is pretty much an inspirational sports movie right about now.

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Because of this, because emotions are high, because the atmosphere in Illinois is practically sizzling with long over-due satisfaction, I am going to do the unthinkable. I am going to join the crowds outside Wrigley Field this weekend. I am going to walk long distances, stand for hours, be cold, maybe drink something stronger than a Cherry Sprite, and I am going to ride that adrenaline like it’s a mechanical bull and I am a drunk guy trying to prove myself.

About an hour after I called my dad and asked if he’d like to stand with me outside Wrigley while our favorite team in all the world played in the World Series, I started to think maybe that is a stupid idea. It was 7 pm on a day when I hadn’t done much of anything, but I was already in bed, exhausted and having a hard time focusing on an essay that I needed to write. I finally decided to put it away until the morning because I was clearly over-done. I don’t go out, I thought, even on regular nights, because it’s too exhausting and the recovery time isn’t worth it. This will be like 20 times worse.

And then I thought, to get to Chicago on Friday I will have to make the 2 hour drive home from school after my classes–that always wears me out. I’ll have to take medicine for the migraine that will form during the drive, like usual. And then I will have to get in another car to make another drive which will probably take longer, because everyone in the world will be migrating to Clark and Addison.

That thing called “post-extertional malaise“–that thing that makes me disproportionately more tired with everything I do–is real and terrifying. It’s mean. It is an old-school school teacher waiting with a wooden ruler to slap my knuckles every time I mess up. And sometimes when I don’t, just for fun. But it’s worse than that, too, because if I make it really mad, it can mess up my life. Exhaustion can start as a snowball and turn into an avalanche. But so far, I’ve bounced back well enough.

I’ve stayed up all night before. I worked an entire 10 day movie shoot from 4 pm to 6 am this summer. But I did sleep from 6 am to 4 pm…and I cheated and napped a bunch of times. And I slept a solid 48 hours afterwards. I won’t be able to sleep all day before staying up all night this weekend–I’ll have to power through. And I won’t have time to recover afterwards. I have to get right back to school and be able to function in my classes.

What shoes should I wear? This is a serious question because if my feet hurt, or if they’re slightly too heavy, or if I am in anyway noticeably uncomfortable, I’ll feel disproportionately worse and my recovery time will multiply. I need to be warm enough and light enough and comfortable enough that I only have to deal with the physical ramifications of walking too far and standing too long and staying up way too late.

Should I exercise this week? I feel better overall when I move around and stretch out, but it can make me excessively tired if I’m not in the perfect condition to handle it. So I’ll skip that for now. If I do too much or in anyway wear myself out before Friday, the snowball of exhaustion will get too big to stop and cascade down the mountain side until it crushes a sweet Swiss village with it’s icy fury. (Or something less dramatic.)

So I sat in my bed, too tired to motivate myself to change out of my jeans or take out my contacts, and worried that I was having a moment that is best described with a line from a movie–a “you think you can do these things but you just can’t, Nemo” moment. These are moments when I over-reach, when I am fully convinced that I can do something that even a little bit of thought would reveal to be absolutely beyond my capability.

But this year I have done so many things that I shouldn’t have been able to do. Like that movie shoot, for instance. That was not at all a smart decision. If I hadn’t gotten the amount of sleep I did, or if it had lasted one day longer, or if I had pushed myself to stand up more, or if the boxes I carried had been heavier, or if the wind blew a little harder–if anything had been a little more difficult, I could have jeopardized my overall health permanently.

Oddly, thankfully, I was feeling more Nemo than Marlin when I made my summer plans. Because the experience was unforgettable. I’ve never been in a World Series crowd before (for obvious reasons) but I imagine that will be pretty unforgettable, too. So I’m going to plan my clothes, and my nap times, and my activities for the rest of the week, and a hundred thousand tiny decisions around this one night.

Maybe my legs will hurt. Maybe my head will pound. Maybe I will sit down in the middle of the cold street and cry. Maybe my heart will do that thing that it does when I’ve hit my breaking point–it feels like it falls over inside my chest cavity. I don’t know what that’s about. Whatever. The point is: maybe I shouldn’t be able to do this, but maybe anything is possible. Maybe I’ll feel fine.

The Cubs just won the pennant, so I’ve got to try.

(If my dad decides he doesn’t want to go, please disregard all inspirational feelings. Thank you.)