Updated: October 30, 2013 6:40AM
Once in a while something breaks up the dreariness of an elevated train ride. Almost everyone aboard the L sure looks like they need it.
Some wear tired expressions from putting in a long workday, or maybe they are dreading one.
Those lost in the music chiming through their earbuds or buried in their newspapers or Kindles sometimes seem annoyed by the comings and goings of other passengers.
Riding the L is a noisy experience, and the platforms from which we board or exit are narrow, grimy and sometimes smelly (I’m thinking of the stairwells at the Clark and Lake transfer station).
Occasionally a street musician on a platform who can carry a tune breaks up the monotony, or running into someone you know lifts your mood.
Passengers who use the Fullerton platform for the Brown and Red Lines (and Purple during rush hour) can snag the best view of a DePaul University soccer game this time of year.
It’s a fleeting but welcome respite. Games grab the attention of riders who end up walking to the platform’s south end, where they stand practically even with midfield.
“You don’t even have to pay,” said a female CTA worker.
On a sunny day in the spring and fall, it’s picturesque even for those who aren’t sports fans. Healthy, mature trees stand behind the field’s south end. Willis Tower, Trump Tower and the John Hancock are in the not-so-far distance.
Wednesday, when the DePaul men’s team played Eastern Illinois, Eugene Crowley, 69, gazed from the platform as DePaul players sprang from the bench to celebrate a goal.
“I haven’t played since college 40 or 50 years ago in P.E. class,” Crowley, of the Near North Side, said. “I remember like it was yesterday.”
Matt Kwiatkowski, 27, got off the train, walked to the platform’s edge and shouted to an Eastern Illinois player. “That’s my cousin out there,” he said proudly.
Some watch the game momentarily before getting drawn back to their cellphones, though it’s wise to be alert. DePaul’s Wish Field doubles as a home to the softball team; now and then foul balls ding trains or the platform.
DePaul coach Craig Blazer said the athletic department sometimes hears from commuters who say they skipped a train to watch a little longer.
“Come on inside and buy a ticket,” Blazer said the school’s athletic director, Jean Lenti Ponsetto, tells them.
College sports, especially anything outside of football and basketball, are tough to sell in a pro town. Drawing a few hundred fans inside the stadium is a pretty good turnout.
“Our players have been doing this a long time,” Blazer said. “They understand where they stand in the sports hierarchy in the U.S.”
Soccer might be low on the viewing totem pole, but almost everyone appreciates a great play.
For several seconds against Eastern Illinois, it sounded like joyous noise from a packed stadium when DePaul’s Art Garza scored the first goal in a 4-1 win, when in reality most of the bleachers reserved for students inside the stadium were empty. The play was met by a few approving nods on the platform.
Blazer recalled a conference playoff game five years ago when a win brought heavy applause from the platform.
“The whole platform was cheering for us,” he said. “To feel the embrace of people of Chicago, it was outstanding.”
You take such moments happily whenever and wherever you can get them.