By Doug Halberstadt
My annual pilgrimage to Wrigley Field is now complete. Last Saturday (Aug. 17), I made my once-a-year trek to the north side of Chicago to catch a Cubs game in person. I could not have asked for a more perfect day. The sun was shining brightly, there was a gentle breeze and not a cloud in the sky. It truly was a beautiful day for a ball game.
The St. Louis Cardinals were in town for a three-game weekend series. The Cubs clobbered them rather handily in Friday’s game, 8-0. Then, the Redbirds bounced back and shut out the Cubs 4-0 in the game I was at.
One of the more interesting things about a Cubs vs. Cardinals game at Wrigley Field is the number of fans in the stands for both teams. It seemed to the casual observer that there was a pretty equal number of people wearing Cardinal crimson as there were those in Cubby blue. It was also evident during the seventh-inning stretch when former Notre Dame Head Basketball Coach Digger Phelps sang “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” During the “root, root for the ____” line, I couldn’t tell if more people sang Cubbies or if it was actually in favor of the Cardinals.
Even outside the park, the fan base was split fairly evenly. Vendors were selling just as much Cardinals gear as they were Cubs stuff.
I was a bit surprised that Cardinal Nation was such a strong force this far north in the state. I knew this to be the case when you get south of the Bloomington/Peoria area. Starting in that area and continuing all the way down to Cairo, it’s pretty much Cardinal Country. I first experienced this many years ago when I was in college and was shocked to learn that not everyone in Illinois was a loyal Cubs fan. This proved my theory that not everything learned while attending college is taught in the classroom.
Despite the difference in fan loyalties, everyone I witnessed was as polite and pleasant as could be toward each other. It was even commented on by a person I was talking with from the Philadelphia area. He said he couldn’t believe how well the Cubs and Cardinals fans got along. He said you’d never see that kind of civility at a Phillies and Mets game. He added anyone wearing Mets gear inside Citizen’s Bank Park would just be “asking for trouble.”
That brief conversation alone made me proud to be among the Cubs fans and helped ease the sting of yet another loss to the Cardinals.
I happen to enjoy the good-natured two-way razzing that usually accompanies certain sports rivalries, the Bears/Packers, Cubs/Cardinals and Blackhawks/Red Wings, for instance. Rivalries in sports are one of the things that help make things interesting, but when people fail to exercise good judgment and civility toward each other simply because they happen to like an opposing team, that’s when it crosses the line in my mind.
Thankfully, I didn’t see any line-crossers last Saturday during this year’s trip to “The (truly) Friendly Confines.”
Doug Halberstadt can be reached via e-mail at Dougster61@aol.com.
From the Aug. 21-27, 2013, issue