My wife and I were in Chicago last weekend and our itinerary included taking in a Cubs game. The ballpark, historic Wrigley Field, is among the most expensive in the major leagues but because I hadn’t been there in over twenty years and likely would never get there again, I was glad to invest in some good seats. This made me anxious though. Our plane was scheduled to touch down a few hours before the first pitch and a flight delay would be problematic. Our tickets weren’t printable and were only on an app on my phone so I was concerned about battery life and technological glitches. And it always could have rained. There’s no way I would make it back for a make-up game.
But it all worked out. Sort of.
Later that day, the local news declared it was quite possibly the hottest weather for a Cubs home game in their long history. Over ten thousand games. With the humidity, it was forty-seven degrees Celsius. And my worries about rain could not have been more unfounded. There was blue sky for hundreds of miles.
I found the tickets on a seating chart online and I didn’t have the forethought to seek shade. So for three and a half hours, my poor wife and I baked in the sun in what I thought were the best seats we could find.
Every couple of innings, we had to replenish our paper napkin stock to absorb some of the sweat. Valerie took to placing them on her head, stating that she didn’t care anymore what it might look like.
I saw people being evacuated from the seating area to medical stations, transported in wheelchairs and packed with bags of ice, like fresh fish being flown in from the coast.
I saw a middle-aged woman putting a cold water bottle down the front of her tank top, moving it back and forth between her breasts, the expression on her face portraying sweet relief.
When I returned from the concessions one time, I heard a woman who I had passed say of me, “Oh my Gaaad, he’s wearing an undershirt”.
At one point when there was a lull in the action and all that could be heard was the low murmur of the crowd, a woman stood up and declared loudly and incredulously, “Shit, is it ever hot!” She was heard by a thousand people. And no one could disagree.
One of the loudest cheers from the crowd that day came when a small cloud in an otherwise cloudless sky crossed paths with the sun. Those of us who were enduring the sun began to applaud and sigh gratefully for the respite. It happened another two or three times over the next hour or so and you could tell some of us in the crowd began to pay less attention to the play on the field than we did to the sky and any stray cloud that might offer us a few seconds of alleviation.
And the organ player had a sense of humour. The second time a cloud appeared and the crowd voiced appreciation, he played Jingle Bells. When does a ballpark organist ever play Jingle Bells?
By the bottom of the eighth, in a 10-6 ballgame, the sun finally tucked behind the grandstand and the worst of it was over. I don’t remember very much about the game itself but the hometown fans went home happy. There were cheers and songs and high-fives but I can’t help but think part of the joy the forty thousand fans were expressing had to do with the realization that we’d survived. We weren’t sure that we would but we did. And whether we were cheering for the Cubbies or the Twins, for the duration of the game, we were really all on the same side.