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I'm a Cards fan going to my first game at Wrigley. Anything I should know?
March 5, 2009

Dear Cecil:

My wife and I will be traveling to Chicago to attend our first game at Wrigley Field. We will be going to the Saturday, April 18 game against the Cardinals. We're just going for the day, but are looking to get the full Chicago baseball experience. Any tips for enjoying ourselves before, during, and after the game?

— RetroVertigo, via the Straight Dope Chicago Message Board

PS: I don't know if it matters, but we're Cardinals fans.

Cecil Adams replies:

Cardinals fans, eh? Retro, you're talking to the right guy. Confession: Even though I live on the north side of Chicago and go to Cubs games from time to time, I'm a White Sox fan. I'm not a bitter, brooding White Sox fan, however. Why should I be? My team wins the World Series once in a while. This gives me perspective. I know from experience that patience, smarts, and hard work will eventually lead to success. Cards fans know this too. Cubs fans, on the other hand … let's just say history has taught them life is cruel, and that the law of averages is willing to make an exception in their case.

Keep this in mind when visiting Wrigley. All around you will be people aware that based on what has happened over the past century, there's nothing to look forward to in the next one. It will be tempting to rub this in. You'll be sitting there in your red shirt next to a glum-looking individual in blue, and after a beer or two you'll want to lean over and say, "So, what's it like knowing your team is always going to suck?"

Don't do this. Be nice. When the Cubs are at bat, for example, speak appreciatively of their T-ball-level achievements: "Oh, my. That was a well-hit ball. Too bad it was foul." This will endear you to Cubs fans. Setting aside those who get arrested for disorderly conduct, and when you're as drunk as they are it's hard to land a proper punch, you have nothing to fear from these people. Watching the Cubs has given them a Hindu-like attitude of resignation. Also, let's face it, this is the midwest, where everyone is kind, well-adjusted, and good-looking. We're not like those misshapen savages on the east coast
— I'm thinking of Yankees fans in particular — who will piss on you in the johns.

So that gives you the background. Now for some specifics. Lest my comments appear prejudiced, I sought a range of views on the dos and don'ts of baseball on the north side of Chicago. I started with Ted Cox, longtime sports columnist for the Reader and the Daily Herald, whom I consider one of the baseball sachems. I concluded with Andrew, the 14-year-old son of my assistant Little Ed. Andrew is one of those hardcore fans for whom a perfect day is when the Cubs win and the Sox lose. Remember the 2005 playoffs? I tell you, it was the worst three weeks of his life.

Getting there. Do not, God help you, drive to the game.  Despite the fact that Wrigley seats roughly 40,000, there's enough parking for maybe 48. There are of course many local entrepreneurs who will let you park in their driveway/garage/neighbor's flower bed, and all you've got to do is pay the next month's mortgage for them. If you can spare that kind of change, you don't need advice from me. Otherwise take the bus or "L." That brings us to our next subject.

Be prepared for the urban experience. Delicate subject here, Retro. Don't get me wrong. Saint Louis is a nice little town. You've got the Arch, you've got a trolley, you've got … let me think … some bars. They're beautiful. But you're heading up to Chicago now. Chicago is — OK, it's not as crowded as, say, Mumbai, where you've got people falling off the trains and getting run over at a rate of approximately 12 per day. The CTA isn't that bad, but things can get snug, especially on the Brown Line southbound at Armitage in the AM rush, where they might as well just inject gelatin into the cars and paint "Hormel" on the side. Not to worry, though. On the Red Line to Wrigley, the worst that happens (usually) is someone throws up in your lap.  

Dress for the weather. The rule of thumb is, pretend the game is in Antarctica. Might as well be, depending on the day. See, one thing about Saint Louis, you do get a spring. We've got Lake Michigan — cool in the summer, fricking cold in April and May. If the wind is blowing out of the southwest, you'll get homers galore and 60-plus temps. With an east (lake) breeze, batten down the hatches. At one game in April a  few years ago there was hail. They cancelled, the wimps.

Fan etiquette. Now to the core question — proper behavior in the heartland of Cubdom. Here I yield the floor to Ted Cox:

Q: Can I even think of going and wearing my Cardinals cap or red warmup jacket to Wrigley Field?
A: Yes, these are Cubs fans you're dealing with. They'll be drunk by the third inning, and their bloodshot eyeballs will make everything appear red. Just steer clear of anyone bearing Visine.
Q: Can I actually root for the Cardinals?
A: There's strength in numbers. Most games, there are enough Cardinals fans to permit a few healthy cheers, and God knows you'll have more chances than Cubs supporters. Again, steer clear of any Cubs fans appearing unusually tough or those in fraternity sweaters or tube tops
— men or women. Or just buy them a beer. They usually pass out by the end of the seventh-inning stretch anyway, and with a little help you can make that the fifth or sixth.

You may get the impression from the above that Cubs fans are all drunken louts. Not so. The majority are charming even when inebriated. Besides: (1) Who do you think sold them the Budweiser, Mr. Spirit of Saint Louis? (2) Drinking for a Cubs fan isn't recreation, it's anesthesia. Back to Ted:

Q: Can I wear my Cardinals gear in the numerous neighborhood bars?
A: Again, strength in numbers. Stick together. Make clever rejoinders; that usually shuts them up. Just never mention you're from the "Show-Me" state; that's an invitation to disaster. Also, never mention that it's been 101 years since the Cubs won a championship, and only three for the Cardinals: That's waving a red Cardinals pennant in front of a bull. And beware wearing red on Halsted Street, where it means something else entirely.

Halsted is the gay nightlife district, which is about two blocks away. I confess I don't get out to the bars as much as I used to and have no idea what wearing red on Halsted Street means these days. The one caution I remember is about yellow. You sure don't want to wear that.

Q: What if I encounter some truly aggressive Cubs fans intent on kicking my ass?
A: Try to mimic a cell-phone ring tone; that usually distracts them long enough to make an escape.

Ted refers here to the common practice among Cubs fans of chatting on the phone, texting, or otherwise socializing, oblivious to the fact that a game is in progress. But come on. Given what historically happens on the field (never mind Steve Bartman, these guys have never gotten past Leon Durham), would you want to watch? 

The best vantage point for watching the game. Some will say the bleachers. For a first visit, I'd personally stay out unless you bring Kevlar and staves. Young Andrew reports that last time he was there, 11 mopes were ejected for pouring beer on Brewers fans. However, being the considerate lad that he is, he did mail back the driver's license found by one of his friends, which a drunken fan had left under a seat.

At this point you're probably thinking: Maybe the little lady and I should just spend the afternoon at the Art Institute. Don't be a wuss.  A game at Wrigley is the classic baseball experience. Dave at the Reader offers the following advice:

Get a beer before the game at Murphy's or the Cubby Bear. Walk around the park — see the kids on Waveland shagging balls, the Ernie Banks and Harry Caray statues. Spend some money in SportsWorld. Missouri people can pay that 10.25% sales tax, too. Buy a sandwich or some peanuts before you go in. As long as security can see what's in the bag and there's no glass or opened containers, you can take it in with you. This will save you money and gastric distress as the food at Wrigley is the worst in sports. Go into the palace early, the Mecca of major league baseball, the world's largest beer garden, Wrigley Field. Watch batting practice, your best chance of getting a ball. Sit in the bleachers so Cub fans can verbally abuse you for your misguided sports loyalty. [Don't say you weren't warned. — CA] If your tickets are upstairs, go to the center of the concession area below the press box, standing so that you can see the field looking east and the city skyline looking south. Not a better view in the city. Quietly leave early and go back to Saint Louis where you belong.

Welcome to Chicago, and enjoy the game.

— Cecil Adams

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