Let me begin by saying that I've made my share of pilgrimages to Lambeau Field. For a time, I believed that Lambeau's blend of innovation and tradition made it the best sports venue on Earth.
But then I went to Wrigley Field.
And I realized that innovation can only take you so far.
In an era of state-of-the-art sports facilities, Wrigley is a throwback. In fact, the Wrigley experience would drive some modern fans—those who love seat-serving waiters and HD scoreboards—absolutely nuts.
Which is precisely what makes it perfect.
My introduction to Wrigley got off to a rough start. After battling rush hour en route from Milwaukee, I parked a mile from the stadium and took a bus the rest of the way.
The twelve-block bus ride took 35 minutes—and the last stop was, well, underwhelming.
This slumped façade was what I'd driven four hours to see?
I'd expected to be instantly captured by the aura of the ballpark. Instead, I was greeted by wooden ramps leading me into the bowels of a faded, dingy no-man's land.
And then there was the matter of my seat.
Not only was there a pole taking up a significant portion of my view—I was perfectly positioned under the overhanging deck so that there was no scoreboard, of any form, in sight.
I sat there in silence for awhile, wondering what it was I was missing. There just had to be more to the Wrigley experience.
Next to me was a gentleman wearing a Red Sox cap and keeping score. In front, two business men in shirts and ties. To the rear, three children asking baseball questions galore to their dad.
I could see this at any ballpark, right? What made this place so darn special?
I decided to distract myself by watching some baseball.
The game was a great one—a battle between the Cubs and Brewers, in the heat of a pennant race. And then, with the outcome all but decided in the eighth inning, it came to me:
I realized what the Windy City experience was really all about.
I'm just a baseball fan. I pay money to watch my heroes, as millions have done before me. Wrigley Field has been a place hallowed place for generations of Americans.
It's where the Babe called his shot. It's where Ernie played two. It's where Ferris played hooky.
I was just an ignorant adolescent fortunate enough to share in the experience.
Who cares that Wrigley may not be the coziest place in the world? It's part of history. The traffic and the support beams and the four-dollar hot dogs are irrelevant next to the ivy, the Curse of the Billy Goat, and the ghostly voice of Harry Caray rallying the troops.
So put aside your egos and iPhones for a few hours next summer and take a trip to Wrigley Field.
And please, try to remember that you you're just a guest in the Eighth Wonder of the World.