At long last, here's what I enjoy about seeing games at Wrigley Field, followed by a list of things I would give a thumbs-down. To folks who love the Friendly Confines--or to those who find it unfriendly--it may not my totally originally, but consider it just a start...
What I like:
1) The neighborhood: Ok, no fun and pretty expensive to find decent parking, but it's still the best 'hood in all of baseball, the only thing that would make it better is a game-day closing of Clark and Addison around the ballpark, It would create an even better festival environment.
2) The smell: Not to get too goofy, but Wrigley still smells the same way it did when I was a kid, with the exception of cigarette smoke (which to be honest, as a kid, I found kind of intoxicating). I don't know if it's the over-used grills, the peanuts, the cotton candy, the beer or all of the above, but it's a great smell that can't quite be matched on the Southside (Maybe The Cell has better ventilation.)
3) Old Style: I made fun of my brother, the King of Consumption (Have I mentioned his nickname before?) a few years back for waiting to buy from the occasional Old Style vendor rather than the numerous Bud boys. But, it's won me over and now I consider an important part of the whole Wrigley experience, far better than Bud or anything else from Miller.
4) Beef-sausage combo and frosty chocolate malt: These are the two best concession foods sold at Wrigley--you can have the rest of it, none of which I think is as good or as interesting as some of what can be found on the Southside. The combo is for real men (ok-and real hungry women) only, and you won't need anything else. It's out on the veranda (?) on the upper deck directly under the press box, though maybe they have them elsewhere, too. As for the malts, I shared one with my nephew (the Prince of Consumption?) last month at the minor league game after no having one in years. It was fantastic--smooth, rich, and with the little wooden spoon, a quaint old ballpark treat. I think it's called "chocolate malt cup" on the menu, but Steve Goodman would have said it was a "frosty malt."
5) Lack of overwhemling sound effects: When listening to games on the radio, I like when WGN comes back froma commercial break sometimes and Pat Hughes (I presume intentionally) doesn't speak for about 30 seconds. All you can hear are ballpark sounds--real ballpark sounds, like vendors hawking, people chattering, even occasionally a ball popping in a glove. No big audio dynamite experience necessary at Wrigley. Having very little musical interlude and sound effects (and when there are, the volume is far lower than the stereophonic blast you get at The Cell) allows you to really feel where you are, enjoy conversations between batters and innings and just generally hear yourself think.
There's more, but we'll leave the list open for now and revisit it later. And now, five things about Wrigley I don't like so much:
1) The Holy Cow Mafia: I don't hate Harry Caray, and enjoyed him on both sides of town. His antics on the Southside were among the things that sparked my interest in the Sox back in the 1970s, when I'd occasionally catch a game. But, the Wrigley Field experience has become in some ways a daily immersion in the Cult of Harry. The glasses and numerous other symbols are ubiquitous, and I'm sorry, but Harry Caray doesn't encompass the whole of Cubs fandom or Cubs/Wrigley Field history. To believe so is to ignore a rich and wonderful tradition that isn't shoved in our faces everyday via a bunch of marketing and branding tactics that take advantage of a famous old man's death.
2) 7th Inning Stretch Guest Singers: OK, this is maybe an extension of the first one, but let's give it a rest with the celebrity singers. Doing so may end Jeff Garlin's post-"Curb Your Enthusiasm" career output, but it would also spare us the embarrassment of out-of-tune athletes and clueless other celebs leading us in song. If you take it away, people will still sing, and will still think of Harry when they do it. If there has to be a lead singer, make it a random fan picked out of the seats every game.
3) The remodeling, or lack thereof: It's obvious a number of things at Wrigley need updating, and the overall experience would be enhanced if you kid somehow dig a lower level concourse under the main concourse, or perhaps add some kind of outer concourse wrapping around the park. But, so far, the changes made at Wrigley have all been about more money--more seats where you don't need them, a revamped bleacher entrance to honor the Budweiser brand and a covered group box in the bleachers (don't count on getting much sun with that pricey ticket). Meanwhile, you got a lot of seat in "reserved" section with bad sightlines that would at least by helped by deployment of a few more TVs of higher quality. And, what if they destroyed that bleacher luxury suite and turned the centerfield green into a kids area of some kind?
4) The scoreboard: I know, it's a great old school symbol and part of what makes Wrigley a baseball cathedral, but it is woefully uninformative for this day and age. The King of Consumption recently suggested to me that maybe they could add some kind of retractable smaller version of a jumbotron (though that wouldn't even help some of the people in the cheap seats who can't see the scoreboad anyway). It's nice, but it needs more.
5) Fan behavior: Again, a qualification: The average Wrigley fan must pay so much more attention to the game than just five years ago, but I swear, so many people stand up or move down rows in the middle of pitches. A lot of people still yell on the cellphones or text while Woody is trying to close out a tight game in the 9th, trying to figure out which bar is first on the list. People leave after the 7th Inning Stretch, even during close games. A lot of fans sit in others' seats and act put-out when someone shows up with the right ticket. I know, this happens at other parks, though it seems to me, not as much. I will admit to being an old man about this particular thing.
That's all for now. Look for my list on The Cell soon...
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