On Wednesday, August 14, I took my older son to Chicago to watch the Tigers play the White Sox at US Cellular Field. Since the Tigers were out of town the entire time he and I were in Michigan this summer, Wednesday's game was the first time (and likely the only time) this season we were able to get to a game. I'd never been to US Cellular before. Last season we went to Chicago when the Tigers were at Wrigley, but that's actually the only time I've been to a game at which the Tigers were the visiting team. Seeing the Tigers on the road is a very different experience from seeing them in Detroit.
I had relatively low expectations for US Cellular. In fact, I wanted it to suck. As far as teams I dislike are concerned, the White Sox top the list, narrowly edging the New York Yankees and the Cleveland Racist Mascots. Therefore, I wanted to come home and tell my wife how terrible Chicago's stupid stadium is, and how much I hated everything about it. It disappoints me to say that US Cellular Field is actually a beautiful ballpark. From what I could tell, there doesn't appear to be a bad seat in the house. We sat down the first base line in the upper deck (more on that later) and our view of the playing field was pretty great -- especially considering we paid $4 apiece for tickets.
We arrived about an hour before game time, and as we made our way to our seats we could clearly see fans down by the wall near the field, getting an up-close look at the players warming up. "Hey man, look," I said to my son. "Since we have so long until the game starts, let's walk down by the field and watch the players get ready and stuff." This was, in his opinion, a great idea. Down we went. Here is where US Cellular lost points for the first time: at the only entrance to the field-level seats were gates and security. Fans must pass through the gates and have their tickets inspected to make sure they actually have tickets for that particular section. Let me remind you: it is an hour before game time, and there is hardly anyone in the ballpark at this point. But, this is Chicago. We don't want any of those common upper-deck folk mingling with the ritzy field-level fans. Now, it's been a while since I've arrived this early for a game, but I definitely have memories of getting down near the field and seeing the ballplayers up close while they stretched before a game. If I'm wrong on this, please let me know. Otherwise, I will continue to keep this in my White Sox Hate Bank.
So, anyway, back up to the upper deck we went, up all the ramps. Have you ever walked up and down those ramps with a seven year old? I'm surprised we got to see any of the game. It takes kids forever to make it up the ramp. Then -- THEN! -- any time you go down the ramp, they have to run. After about the third time of telling my son to stop running down the ramp and just, for God's sake, walk next to me, please, he face-planted. He face-planted, and I said nothing. He stood up, dusted himself off, held back the tears, and walked next to me the rest of the way down. Message received, Dad.
Then we saw that US Cellular has an escalator. Good call. We used that the rest of the day.
Before game time I asked a nice girl sitting behind us if she wouldn't mind taking a picture of my son and me. She summoned all seventeen years worth of bubbliness she had to let me know how happy she would be to do that for us (!~*!~*!~*!). I have no actual information to confirm this, but my gut tells me you can follow her on Twitter @cutebutterfliesrainbowslovemarilynmonroeinspirationalquotes.
Homegirl snapped our photo using my phone, but our faces were "super dark, hehehehe!" Cool. "I'll walk down there with you," she said, motioning to a sunlit area of our section, "and take it so it turns out better!" Wow, that's actually super nice. The last time I got my picture taken by a stranger at a ballgame in Chicago, it was this weird Italian dude who grew more and more obnoxious as the game went on. This girl and her friends remained entirely pleasant for the duration of our stay in section 520. Good for you, Picture Girl. Alright, Chicago, maybe I've been too hard on White Sox fans. Maybe they don't all suck (more on that later).
Anyone who watched the game knows that the first inning was ugly. Porcello's pitch count climbed to a thousand as Omar Infante screwed up two real nice plays by Jose Iglesias, probably because he was stunned to see his shortstop make such plays in the first place. Jhonny can't do the stuff on defense Iglesias can do, you guys. By the end of the inning my son was definitely getting frustrated. My "you know, for as bad as that inning was, the Tigers are lucky they only scored three runs" approach to unfrustrating him didn't work all that well, but he eventually chilled out. Speaking of chilled (and forced segues), section 520 is wicked shady -- and since it wasn't very warm out, we were cold up there. Word of advice: if you go to a day game at US Cellular, just know that the first base side is in the shade. On a hot day, this is good. Yesterday, it was not. Lucky for us, Chicago isn't that good and there weren't many people at the game. "You wanna go over there and sit in the sun?" I asked him.
"Can you do that?" he replied.
"I mean, you're not really supposed to... but, umm... there's nobody over there, so let's go."
And off we went. We landed in the sun on the third base side for the third inning, and we basked in the pleasant warmth. We also basked in the three-run dinger that Cabrera hit that inning, and the hearty dose of boos he received from the White Sox faithful. As Cabby trotted around the bases, we (and the many other Tigers fans in attendance) stood, cheered, and clapped for the best player in the universe. As we did so, we were met with angry shouts: "SIIIDDOWN, DETROIT! YOU SUCK!" Really? Because I'm pretty sure Detroit is in first, and the White Sox aren't, and also my kid is right here, and he's only seven, you stupid idiots, so go back to your caves.
As the game went on and Detroit built a lead, the fans became more restless. I heard several morons yell from the upper deck to Miggy (because he can hear them?) "HEY CABRERA, YOUU SUUUCKKKK!" Cabrera, last I checked, was pretty good. He does not suck. When you yell that a specific player "sucks," and that player does not, in fact "suck," the only thing you do is make yourself look like a big dumb idiot, which these people were already doing by wearing their White Sox gear.
Later in the game, I heard this: "HEY, GUY WITH THE HOT DOG! GUY WITH THE HOT DOG!!! YOU SUCK! HEEEEYYYYY, GUYWIDDAHAWWDAWWGG!! YOUUUUU SSSSSSSSUUUUCK!"
I was the guy with the hot dog.
As a guy who works with kids regularly, I know that lots of teens are very, very confident when they don't actually think anyone of consequence can hear them. Now, I am not actually anyone of consequence to these kids, but at the same time, it seemed to me that they did not actually want the confrontation they were acting like they wanted. The next time I was cordially addressed (GUYYYYYWWWWWIIIIDIIDIDIIDIDIDAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHADDDDDDAAWWWGGGGG!), I turned, made eye contact, nodded, and waved. Shocked, the kids turned away and didn't speak at me again. Later, when those same kids addressed another fan as "GUY WITHA ORANGE TIGERS SHIRT ONNNNN" (whose shirt was blue) it became even clearer what sort of people I was dealing with.
By the time the game was winding down, the Tigers appeared to have it in the bag. On our ventures around the park and in various sections of seating, we chatted with Tigers fans from all over. Some had made the trek all the way from Detroit; others were displaced fans like us. All in all, the ratio of Tigers fans to White Sox fans was pretty favorable for an away game. At times it was hard to find any Sox fans nearby.
But in the ninth, with Benoit on for the save, that trademark South Side originality struck again as an ENTIRE SECTION started to chant "Detroit sucks! Detroit sucks!" and suddenly I remembered I wasn't at an out-of-town gathering for Tigers fans. As the final out was recorded, we held our heads high and proud in victory. You can't fault the White Sox fans too much. It must be tough to be them. Not just because their team isn't very good, but also because there are two professional baseball teams in Chicago, and they consciously chose to root for the Sox instead of the Cubs, and so they are clearly a few collective tacos short of a combination plate.
So, what did we learn on our trip to US Cellular? We learned that the park is nice. We confirmed that White Sox fans are mostly stupid idiots. And we learned that, despite the fact that the Tigers dropped that series, Detroit is still better than Chicago. All in all, I'd say the trip was a great success, and I would definitely go back for another game.