Nine days after moving to Chicago, I attended my first Cubs game at Wrigley Field.
It was a matinee against the Dodgers. My girlfriend—who would later become my wife—and I sat in the lower mezzanine seats on a sunny day. We lived just a mile away from Wrigley, and I remember thinking during the game that I was living the life.
A few weeks later, I got off the No. 80 bus after work and walked south to the ticket window to find standing room tickets were the only ones available. I leaned against the rails and watched the Cubs defeat the Montreal Expos. Not an ideal way to see a game, but there was good energy.
Check "standing room only" off the list.
Over the years that followed, I have seen many games at the "Friendly Confines" in many different ways.
I've sat in the bleachers, which always felt less like being at the ballpark and more like a very cool bar. There, the game is superfluous to the drinking, and the memory of it is a bit foggy.
I've gone to Wrigley with the intention of keeping a meticulous score book. You see the game differently when you keep score. You notice the starting pitcher is consistently throwing a first-ball strike, or the batter is swinging late on the fastball.
I've taken my dad to Wrigley Field. I remember thinking there was nothing more rewarding than taking the man who took me to my first game to a contest within the ivy covered walls.
I had my bachelor party at Wrigley.
We sat front row, upper deck, between home and first, and I nearly caught a foul ball; I still think it's one of the best vantage points to see a game.
I watched across the street from one of the neighboring rooftops. It was a unique experience, but not an ideal viewing perch.
I've seen a playoff game at Wrigley. It was Game One of the 2003 NLCS against the Florida Marlins. The two-run home run by Sammy Sosa in the bottom of the ninth, to tie the game, is still my absolute favorite moment at a live sporting event. The way the stadium shook, and the indescribable roar of the crowd, will never be forgotten.
When I thought I had seen a game in every way possible, I took my son to his first game. At my first game, my wife brought a book. At my most recent game, my wife brought a boy.
Can I say it was the best game I've been to? No. In fact, we left right after the seventh inning stretch, a cardinal sin in my book.
He's not yet 2 years old, so his attention span can't yet handle a full ballgame. He has the unique ability to cheer indiscriminately for both the home team and visitor. He can eat a hot dog. He can high-five a fellow fan.
He can pick peanut shells off the ground and stick them in his mouth before his mom can stop him.
He can smile that smile—the smile we all feel when we are at a baseball game, but do not show outwardly. It's an inner smile that captures both the peace and exuberance we experience when we, "root, root, root" for the home team."
Do you remember your first game? Can you see it? Can you smell it? Can you hear it? Can you taste it?
But it's all there. Right there in his smile.