Lovable losing

… So Kates and I got tickets for the Cubs game last night. Any other time, going to Wrigley on a weeknight would be a long shot for us. But the tickets were free and the Cubs had won five in a row. Both of us were going to have to squeak out of work early, but we were going!

… I hurried out of my office, grabbed some things at the house and then picked up Kates five minutes behind schedule. It would cost us … We also didn’t anticipate road construction along the heart of our route to the train station.

At the station, more problems. A woman in front of us couldn’t seem to get her money in the parking meter, and then, once we got our parking pass, all the spaces were full. With barely a minute to spare, Kates and I opted to park the car illegally and hoped the police wouldn’t check the lot. In the end, none of it mattered, we got out of the car only to watch the 5:58 train leaving the station.

The next one wasn’t for another hour. And so we’d wait. Parking spaces emptied, allowing us to move the car and park it legally. We sat in the car and by the time the 6:58 train arrived, together we’d read this week’s issue of Entertainment Weekly cover to cover. We hopped on the train and caught the purple and red lines with no glitches, but I wasn't exactly in the peppiest of moods as we got closer to the ballpark ...

Then those bright Wrigley lights appeared as the el train got closer. It was the first time I'd experienced that feeling this season. Breathtaking. Like the scene toward the end of "Field of Dreams" when Ray is returning to the farm with Terrence Mann and Archie Graham and they see the field's lights as they approach on the road ...

Kates and I rushed from the platform and we were walking to our seats in Wrigley’s upper deck midway through the second inning. Not bad at all -- even if we weren’t one of the first 10,000 lucky fans to receive a Cubs visor.

It took us a couple more innings to get into the game, though. Last night, the Cubs weren’t exactly playing spectacular ball, and the crowd wasn’t the most fun to be around either.

… Sitting to our left was a very large, cranky older man who spent most of the game balking at almost everything happening on the field. First, it was an inning-long rant about why football is better than baseball (Seriously dude. Time the seconds it takes between plays in football and the time between pitches in baseball, and I bet baseball wins out …) And later when Bob Howry entered the game to pitch for the Cubs, the man yelled out, “Who’s this guy!?” Without a word, Kates and I looked up his No. 62 in our program and told the man it was Howry, to which he replied, “Who the hell’s that!?” I just shook my head and stayed silent, knowing Howry’s been a steady arm in the Cubs bullpen for a couple of years now.

… And to our right was a gang of frat boys who spent more time crossing in front of us for beer runs than they did watching the game …

By the sixth inning, however, the Cubs were showing some life. And I was eating a genuine ballpark hot dog and enjoying a Mountain Dew (my first in a couple weeks … Thanks, Corporate Cup!).

... It was a game of single runs. The Pirates got one in the second, and the Cubs tied it in their half of the third. Then the Pirates went back up with one in the fourth, but the Cubs took the lead with single runs in the fifth and seventh. Then Jim Tracy was ejected from the game for the Pirates and the Cubs were looking good with the bases loaded in the eighth ...

“If the Cubs score here we can go. We need some insurance runs!” I told Kates.

But the Cubs didn’t score. The Pirates escaped the inning with the score stuck at 3-2.

Still, it was a weeknight, and Kates and I needed to get home. We started the walk down the ramps and saw the Cubs catch a flyout for the first out. A couple minutes later we were crossing Sheffield and heading up the staircase to the el platform where the news eventually started circulating through the crowd: The Cubs had given up the tie run and were going into extra innings.

It was 10:22 p.m. and my first text of the night from my buddy Matt -- who the night before had been in the running to come to the game with me -- confirmed it: Free baseball! No more errors!

I returned a text: we left early 2 get a train keep me updated

Finally, the red line train pulled up and we began our race to catch the 10:58 train in Evanston … But we stalled a few minutes later at the Howard stop. There were no trains in sight. And when one did arrive, it was only a two-car. Kates and I didn’t stand a chance of getting on it …

Still Matt kept me updated with the texts.

10:45 p.m.: Still 3 to 3. Top 12. One on third for pirates - jones error - no out.

10:53 p.m.: Great great play to get out of bases jammed one out. Theriot is awesome. bot 12 tied

Re: go cubs!

… At 10:55 p.m., Kates and I were stepping onto the purple line train and praying that we’d make it to the Evanston in time. We also got some good laughs out of the conductor who was encouraging all of us on the train to call the Chicago CTA in the morning and complain about not having enough cars running. You tell them me need more trains for Cubs night games, he said. We need at least four cars. These trains running with two and three cars -- that's ridiculous ...

As the el slowed for the Evanston stop, I glanced at my cell phone clock: 10:57 p.m. The next train was coming and we'd be lucky to catch it. I looked at Kates and said: “You better run for your life.”

The doors opened and we hustled down the stairs. Across the parkway. And up the stairs to the Metra platform. The train was a minute late.

Kates and I breathed a sigh of relief and I had another text from Matt …

10:59 p.m.: One, two, three. going to 13 tied at three.

Re: we just ran 4 r lives n barely caught r train

Kates and I settled in for the train ride and began flipping through the Entertainment Weekly again, looking for things we might have missed the first time …

In the meantime, Matt kept up with the updates …

11:10 p.m.: Pee rates and Cubs go to 14 still three all. You might see the end at home!
 Re: tell me about it!

11:28 p.m.: Soriano Ks. to the 15 - still tied.
 Re: jeeeeeeeez!

11:39 p.m.: Pee rats score one. lee theriot ramirez coming up.
Re: doh!

11:44 p.m.: Bad news. One two three. Cubs lose. I missed a good game.
Re: dang.

At 11:57 p.m., Kates and I were getting into the car and starting our drive home. I turned the Cubs postgame on the radio and said, “Just think we could still be there.”

Kates laughed and rolled her eyes.

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