SPORTS

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April 25, 2008

Nothing beats a game in the bleachers, even with the obstructed view

The confines of Wrigley Field hardly seem friendly these days.

Fans brawl for foul balls off the bat of hot-hitting center fielder Felix Pie like they’re five-ounce nuggets of gold. Arguing with visiting fans can get dangerous when every other person has a beer in his hand and another three in his stomach.

In short, Cubs games can be a pretty hostile environment. Especially when you’ve got hair that rightfully earns you the moniker “Afro Thunder.”

I’ll be honest. I haven’t cut my hair in a year. I know. It’s getting ridiculous. I feel like I have to be one of those guys on campus who, when you meet them for the first time, you think to yourself, “Whoa, I’m finally meeting ‘afro guy.’”

But while my hair might preclude me from being able to wear a baseball cap, it shouldn’t lead to the infringement of my right to enjoy an afternoon at Wrigley.

I was lucky enough to get tickets to Friday’s game against the Pirates, and let me tell you, it was a winner. Oh, the Cubs won 3–2, but even more impressive were the five guys sitting behind me, whose seats had quickly earned the prefix “limited view.”

“That thing looks like a bird’s nest.”

“I think I just saw a pigeon fly in there.”

Fortunately, I’ve gotten pretty adept at playing along. When one guy asked if I had ever hidden anything in my hair, I just told him the truth.

“Only illicit drugs.”

At basketball games, people walk by and whisper “Ben Wallace.” At wrestling events, they call me Carlito, after the wrestler whose hair is of similar stature.

Fans everywhere seem eager and enthusiastic to comment on my hair. Actually, so does everyone else.

I was looking around in the United Center gift shop at a Bulls game earlier this year when one of the shop employees yelled across the room, “Let me braid your hair!”

I didn’t let her.

Really, though, I sort of feel bad for bringing this hair to games. First off, I feel like the guys at the bag check entrance feel sort of awkward sorting through my hair. More importantly, though, I undoubtedly detract from other people’s experiences.

Sure, they get a great view of the best hair on campus, but only in place of the view they otherwise would have had of right field. I hope everybody in my section had been to a game before Friday or else they probably still don’t know what Kosuke Fukudome looks like.

My hair felt pretty bad about blocking other people’s view, but I’m a pretty considerate guy. I’m getting my hair cut soon because I know how important the experience of live games is for every sports fan.

Like any fanatic on a budget, I am no stranger to the ESPN Gamecast. For a couple hours a day, I watch little yellow dots moving around the bases as green and red circles represent balls and strikes in the court. Gamecast even shows a picture of who is on the mound and who is stepping up to the plate.

But baseball didn’t become America’s pastime because of computer graphics or statistics. It was the smack of the ball hitting the catcher’s mitt and the roar of the crowd when it didn’t get there.

Sure, Joe Buck and Tim McCarver are a great announcing team for MLB on Fox if you’re able to watch your team on TV (well, other than Joe Buck and Tim McCarver), but watching games from the couch is nothing compared to making Wrigley Field your living room.

Maybe I’m not the average fan. I cheer for the Cubs and the Bulls, so you know I’m either delusional or masochistic, or both. Maybe I spend too much of my time making the trip up the Red Line to Addison.

What I do know, though, is that sports were meant to be watched in crowds of thousands of other delusional fans who are confident that their team must win and the other must lose, not on TV (even if it has HD) and certainly not on a computer screen.

Get on Craigslist, eBay, StubHub, or wherever, and get tickets to a game. It’ll cost a few bucks, but soon you’ll remember why it’s always best to watch from where the chocolate malt cups flow freely and where you’re allowed to scream at people you hate just because they’re wearing an opposing team’s uniform.

Really, Wrigley Field’s confines are usually friendly enough, so feel free to bring your big hair if you can’t help it.

Just don’t sit in front of me.