Now let’s get this out in the open – my knowledge of baseball was limited until my daughter and I were invited to fly to Chicago to attend a Cubs game. My old friend, Jerry Cohen from Ebbets Field Flannels, Seattle, did his best to advise me on the finer points of the game and warned that the Cubs had a history with a certain farm animal. Jerry even arranged a vintage jersey for our host but with the gentle reminder, not to mention the word, “goat.”
Goat or no goat, I was secretly hoping baseball would not be as boring as cricket! However, I reminded myself I could easily occupy my time by taking photos of this legendary animal if baseball turned out to be just as tedious and uninteresting as the “gentlemen’s game.”
Most Australian men love cricket and spend countless hours watching the game during long, hot summer days when clearly they should be doing something more productive than drinking beer and occupying the sofa. A cricket game can go on for days and is about as interesting as watching paint dry. Even if someone famous invited me to attend a game and watch it from in his private box, I would gracefully decline. Yes, that is how much I adore the game of cricket – NOT!
But here we were in Chicago, sitting in a private box and cheering on the Cubs while eating bison hot dogs and sauerkraut with a ‘dash” of mustard. For the next 3 days, we fronted up to games, at historic Wrigley Field and ate more hot dogs and sampled every variety of cake on the dessert trolley. However, I soon realised how fortunate I was to be witnessing these exciting, nail biting games. Baseball was clearly a “thinking man’s game” and I was having a great time. I did not need to occupy myself by trying to find this elusive goat but instead just watched the game and savoured the moment. The pace was fast, the players used strategy and the outcome was unpredictable. I enjoyed the replays on the big board and also learning the ice-cream preference of star players! More importantly, I noted when singing that famous, unofficial anthem “Take Me Out to the Ball Game”, the people came together as one, – just ordinary mums, dads and kids who were out to watch and enjoy a game no matter which side they hoped would win. Wrigley Field felt intimate, homely and safe in a time when there is an underlying sense of fear for many Americans. The game of baseball was clearly a unifier and a winner. Celebrating all things American on July 4th could not have been better for this Australian farmer.
Last time the Chicago Cubs won the World Series was back in 1908. As I did not see or smell any goats at Wrigley Field I tend to lay claim that two Australians brought some luck to the team who along with resilience and hard work went onto the claim the 2016 series.
So if you are ever visiting Chicago and want a uniquely American experience then head to Wrigley Field and take in a baseball game. Make sure you eat a hot dog, soak up the atmosphere and sing along with the people who have supported their team through thick and thin. And as for that goat – he is long gone!
Congratulations Cubs and thank you Mr C.
November 11, 2016