Before I get into the game, I want to briefly share a couple cool things I did today.
Now the good stuff! It’s really fun to watch a game when you don’t care who wins. Here’s my take on U.S. Cellular field:
Everyone I talked to before I came, and every review of US Cellular said the area around the field isn’t great. I took public transportation to the field tonight and getting off the train, I didn’t feel unsafe at all. Everyone seemed to be on their best behavior, it was like any other park: fans and families with children heading to the game. There were no shady characters or “hoodlums” and I was feeling pretty good, until I saw all the Chicago police officers lined up along the street. Then approaching the stadium, there were two security guards at every stair. And finally, there was a security guard at every turnstile, wielding a handheld metal detector. It really seemed like overkill. I walked back to the train after the game, too. I think if you stay close to the stadium, it’s pretty well lit, and there are crossing guards at every intersection. It’s not that much different than any other park; I wouldn’t recommend that anyone walk through the fens at night alone after a Red Sox game, either. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s not safe here, it’s fine.
Everything is pained battleship grey; kind of depressing. Even the font type they use is very industrial and impersonal. Their division championship and AL East championship flags are screen printed on a dull grey background. It’s sad. Overall, with a coat of paint and some marketing help this could be a pretty cool looking field. It’s clearly new and was definitely designed by a baseball fan (as evidence by the lack of columns and the unobstructed views) but between all the grey and all the security, it gives the impression of a prison. And for this reason, from here out I will refer to it as “the Cell”.
The split was about 75% White Sox fans to 25% Cubs fans. I definitely expected it to be closer to 50-50, but the woman sitting next to me on the left (who had an incredulous amount of makeup on and a giant pink flower in her hair and has earned the nickname “Dolly”) informed me that the two teams play two 3 game series every year: 3 games at Wrigley, 3 games at the Cell. After being there tonight, I’d bet that the games at Wrigley are 75-25 too, majority being Cubs fans. It was funny to see groups and couples split between the teams. The girl to my left was a Cubs fan and her boyfriend and his friends were White Sox fans. Two sisters behind me were also supporting different teams. I thought the energy between the fans was competitive but respectful. Dolly expressed her sympathy for the Cubs fans in their 100+ year drought. She told me there was a story on the news (before the season started) about 5 guys who walked from Arizona to Chicago with a goat, thinking this would break the Cubs’ curse. I replied, “the Cubs are 22-44.” She said, “I feel bad for the goat”.
The wall along the first row of seats beyond the dugouts is super low, lower than I’ve ever seen. This could be good or bad. There are quite a few screaming foul balls that get deflected off that wall at any other park. I think you’d be risking your life to sit in the front row of these OF grandstands. Pay the extra and sit along the baselines.
The ivy (maple leaf?) wall in center might be cool if there weren’t dumpsters right below it. (I don’t actually believe they are dumpsters; they’re probably storage containers of some sort. But they sure look like dumpsters and I don’t have a better word to use to describe them.) Who thought that was going to look good? They put standing seam roofs on them, as if that makes it better. Frankly, the ivy is pretty stupid, too. Any ball that gets lost in it is already a home run. That takes the fun away from it.
There’s a restaurant in the right field corner, which could be cool expect there’s a glass wall that closes it off from the field. The Red Sox had glass in front of the .406 club (behind home plate, below the press box) a few years back and when they finally removed it, it made a big difference. Now Fenway reads as it should, as if everyone is actually watching the game (even though we know those high falutin’ big wigs are the fair weather fans who come late and leave early and NEVER participate in the wave or sing Sweet Caroline.) Anyway, the White ones should take a lesson from the Red ones: remove the glass.
It took me an inning to figure this out, but you can’t comfortably sit up straight in the bleachers. They’re ergonomically formed so you have to lean back. Definite plus to be in the front row: you can put your feet up. It was comfortable for about 6 innings, then it started to bother me a little. It was cool that they are actual bleachers (benches, instead of seats) and they’re roomy. I didn’t feel squished in between the people next to me; plenty of legroom. All in all, VERY good seats to watch a game.
The music was just terrible. They play top 40 pop songs between innings. It’s like perpetually listening to KISS 108. (Amendment to this: In the 7th inning, after “Take Me Out To The Ballgame”, they played “Brick House” and TOTALLY redeemed themselves.) There were NO cheering prompts at any time and the fans actually did pretty well. On a couple different occasions, they got a “Let’s Go White Sox” cheer going. Surprisingly, very cool.
I couldn’t see the jumbotron from my seat, but it doesn’t appear to be anything special: typical big screen like everyone else has. However, extra points to the Cell for putting classic baseball phrases on the infield marquee, like “Ducks on the Pond!” with a graphic of rubber duckies.
The Cell sets off fireworks every time a White Sox player hits a homerun. It would be a cold day in hell when they do that at Fenway. If a homerun is the best thing you have to celebrate, your team has big problems. Chicago fans: your team is losing 12-3, why don’t you save the fireworks for the 4th of July.
When trash and debris blows onto the field, they don’t stop the game to pick it up. They just allow the stuff to blow around on the field. I noticed this at Wrigley, too, so maybe it’s just a windy city thing. Although, in the middle of the game after the White Sox scored a run or two, a Cubs fan behind me says, “Look at all the crap on the field! How can they play in these conditions? It’s like watching Mario and Luigi try to dodge turtles and fireballs!”
This was very reminiscent of Fenway, especially when a few White Sox fans started up a “Let’s Go White Sox” chant.
I give US Cellular an A++ for the Patio and Bullpen Sports Bar. Dolly said the seats in the patio go for like $15! The best part was: at the end of the game when I was leaving with the crowd, 9 out of 10 people turned right at the end of the ramp to leave the stadium and every 10th person took a left and went into the Bullpen Bar, which stays open after the game! I ran in quickly just to take a couple pictures, but if I were here with a bunch of people I would definitely hang out here after the game. In all 10 major league parks across the country that I have been to, I’ve never seen a place that allows fans to stay IN the stadium after the game, with a view onto the field! Now, maybe the Bleacher Bar at Fenway stays open late, I haven’t been there after a game, but anyone can go there. This is inside the field, so only people who were at the game can get in. Genius.
It was yet another great night for baseball. In general summary of the trip: Wrigley was as good as I hoped it would be and the Cell was better than I expected. All I know is: if the Cubs win the World Series I’m calling those five guys to walk their goat up to Boston and buy me a lottery ticket.