Four sportswriters try a different angle
BY RICK TELANDER firstname.lastname@example.org | @ricktelander July 26, 2014 12:12AM
Updated: August 28, 2014 6:34AM
What happens when sportswriters go to a ballgame as . . . da-dum, da-dum (‘‘Jaws’’ music) . . . regular humans?
This doesn’t happen very often.
That is, sportswriters are constantly attending games as journalists, which means they sit in a press box, take nonstop, absurdly detailed, even insane notes, leave early to make it to the locker room in time to do interviews, never cheer, never drink, never really laugh, always keep one eye on the scoreboard, the other on the stat sheet, the other — the one in the middle of their gargoyle heads — on the deadline.
So when Sun-Times writer-guys Mark Potash, Patrick Finley and Adam Jahns announced they were attending a Cubs-Padres game at Wrigley Field last Tuesday night, and invited me to join them, I couldn’t say no. I had to put my Tony Dungy ‘‘distraction’’ column to bed early — before those three parachuted into Bourbonnais to disappear into Bear-ness — and join the fellowship.
I even called Cubs writer Gordon Wittenmyer to see if he could come, but he was in Oakland talking to former Cubs pitchers-turned-A’s Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel. I called fellow columnist Rick Morrissey; he was busy with his dog, Brewster. (OK, with his family.) I knew Daryl Van Schouwen was doing the White Sox. Joe Cowley was on the Bulls/Kevin Love rumors, Mark Lazerus was on Blackhawks signings, Steve Greenberg was out of town, Brian Sandalow was actually writing about the Cubs in the press box, and young Seth Gruen was somewhere, likely a wedding or Northwestern football wingding.
So there we four sat — in the stands, with real, honest-to-God tickets. We were not Sun-Times sportswriters; we were fans! I hadn’t gone to a pro game without some kind of work attached to it for . . . I wasn’t really sure. Five years? Ten years? Twenty?
We wore whatever we wanted. We drank beer. It was hot and humid, and we were parched.
Potsy wore an incredible light blue Wrigley vendor’s shirt from 1974. Fins, a Southern California kid and an actual Padres fan as a youth, wore a baby-poop-yellow and brown Padres cap and a red-and blue Padres T-shirt with ‘‘GWYNN’’ on the back. Me, I felt the need for a cap and bought a ‘‘100 Years Wrigley Field’’ cap from a vendor on Waveland Avenue for a mere $25. (The kid next to me saw the amount, said, ‘‘Day-yam!’’ and walked away.)
Beers were only $8 apiece. Ha! I’m being sarcastic. Only. So a round of three Buds was $30, with tip. (Potsy only drank water, being an ascetic. But they were his tickets, so well done!)
I know why fans go broke. But I know why they have fun, too.
My God, you get to yell!
And yackety-yak. We sat up a little ways on the third-base side, and I noticed how people are always walking somewhere. Constant movement. Vendors screaming at you, selling hot dogs (slobber) and raffle tickets (gag) where you win half. Serious? Who gets the other half, Tom Ricketts?
But you need to pay a little bit of attention. In the second inning, Arismendy Alcantara lost his black bat on a swing, and it sailed into the stands and conked a lady in the head. She was wearing a Cubs shirt and got a nice ovation as ushers led her out and she pressed a white bandage to her forehead.
It’s hard not to blather on with each other, especially as the beer kicks in. Finley told us about his first baby due sometime in December. He didn’t know the sex but was finding out in a day or two.
Who doesn’t want a boy? someone said. But girls love their daddies so much! said another.
‘‘Just move away when they turn 13,’’ I advised from experience.
We were talking about all kinds of things when Anthony Rizzo hit a home run and the crowd went wild. The hot, humid wind was blowing to center like a hurricane, so things were looking good.
‘‘He will hit another,’’ I declared, full of proud responsibility for this first baseman I had previously trashed. ‘‘Watch my man.’’
Jahns got severely carded every time we bought a beer, which was funny. He’s about 30 and has 20 kids — well, two — plus he’s spent time and brain cells with hockey players when he had the Hawks beat.
‘‘Yeah, take your own blanket,’’ Potash said when novice Finley asked him what he might need in the Olivet Nazarene dorms.
‘‘And a pillow.’’
‘‘I bring my own, yeah. But they clean your room every day. And toilet paper. You might want to bring that, too.’’
Just about then, Rizzo hit a monstrous bomb into the tornado, his second homer of the night.
‘‘I told you, [obscenity]!’’ I screamed to my pals. I had this game nailed.
For one night, humanity.