It’s the summer of 2005. My father, brother, and I had taken a sojourn into the city of Chicago to visit legendary Wrigley Field. I’ll never forget the second we found our seats. I was in a rotten mood. The humidity was suffocating, my stomach was empty, and I was beginning to question the wisdom behind our entire trip.
And than I wheeled around, attempting to catch a quick glimpse of the field.
I’d often heard people use the term “religious experience” when discussing an event in their lives which was… beyond description.
I was breathless. My anger instantly alleviated, my hunger died.
I often heard people talk of religious experiences, listening without understanding.
Wrigley taught me that day, a lesson I would never forget.
Sometimes adjectives would never suffice.
Once the initial awe imparted by the green cathedral subsided, the main ingredient of our experience became, inarguably, the fans.
No, it wasn’t the Ivy, the ambience, or even the hot dogs.
It was the fans.
Cub fans are of a different sort. They weren’t taking in the game with frenzied fervor, best reserved in Chicago for the Bears. Pitch by pitch, inning by inning, one didn’t feel the momentum of any moment taking hold of the mass gathering, bowing at the altar of their beloved Cubbies. Instead of tensing up, the crowd peacefully exhaled as each frame ended. My brother and I had noticed the trend by the fourth inning. After Corey Patterson, a maddeningly gifted player who had never quite fulfilled his enormous promise, failed to get a bunt down before proceeding to strike out, we both prepared our eardrums for the venomous rapture sure to spew from the assembled Cub fanatics.
There was booing to be sure. But something was missing.
Where was the anger? The indignity?
The booing had a unique tone, a translation I only recognized later that night.
It was apologetic. Apologetic booing.
I never knew it possible before Wrigley.
" You believe these people?"
My brother Greg pondered the sentiment aloud, genuinely perplexed.
I had no answer.
The Cubs would win that night, in dramatic fashion. Corey Patterson made an incredible, game saving, sliding catch. It was Patterson at his best, for he represented the Cubs, forever tantalizing, never quite delivering.
But their moment will always exist, within a state of grace, when the grand puzzle suddenly snaps into place, when Patterson makes the play, and for one brief breath, you believe as they do, that this is next year.
And than it will pass, a strong gust of wind on a righteous path beyond nowhere.
Wrigley’s a special place.