Nobody in our Cubs fan foursome wants to go to this game, me included.
"It's always the same thing," sighs our 14-year-old son, Will, whose once-childlike happy dreams of a Cubs World Series championship have been dragged into a jaded middle-age nightmare by another hapless Cubs season. I've subjected the boy to more than two dozen Cubs games in his short life, and he can count the victories he's witnessed on one hand.
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Watching Cubs second-baseman Darwin Barney record two singles to keep his batting average from dipping below .200 just isn't rewarding enough to make Sunday's 5-2 loss to the Atlanta Braves worth our time. Neither is watching former All-Star Starlin Castro pick up his 20th error or Cubs starting pitcher Edwin Jackson, who has no business sporting the word "win" anywhere in his name, lose for the National League-leading 17th time.
"We're here for Wrigley Field," I say. "This probably is the last time we'll get to enjoy a Wrigley Field without some giant video screen."
The Cubs' home season ends Wednesday against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Saying our goodbyes to Wrigley Field for the year, we know that the iconic ballpark hasn't been home to a Jumbotron or a World Series championship team in its first 99 years. One of those things looks as if it will change for year 100. Plans call for a Wrigley rehab that will include a 4,500-square-foot video board lurking above the left field bleachers.
In a 21st century where everyone seems to have a serious screen addiction, the old 20th-century Wrigley Field offers a respite from the constant distraction of something unfolding on a video screen. Without a Jumbotron (and as soon as the drained iPhone battery forces our son to look up from his lap), we are free to take in the ballgame. And since the ballgame is devoid of any suspense or magical moments, we talk. That's all good.
If not for a screenless Wrigley, I wouldn't have the privilege to hear my good friend Charles Dickinson, the writer and novelist from Arlington Heights, discuss books and authors with my fiction-loving wife. The discussion about Indian writer Jhumpa Lahiri, with her Pulitzer Prize, proves far more entertaining than an inning pitched by Cubs reliever Brooks Raley, who gives up two runs to raise his earned run average to 5.79 and erase any hope of a Cubs comeback. Instead of talking about this train wreck of a season, Dickinson tells us about the more interesting shipwreck that plays a part in the novel "Consolation," by Canadian author Michael Redhill.
We talk about Wayne Messmer, who sings "God Bless America." And then "The Star-Spangled Banner." And then "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." Messmer spends far more time on the field and turns in a vastly more successful performance than Cubs pinch-hitter Donnie Murphy, who grounds into a rally-killing double play in the bottom of the 8th inning.
We debate the musical decisions of Wrigley Field organist Gary Pressy, who welcomes Cubs rookie Junior Lake to each at-bat by playing "Smoke on the Water." Happy to hear a song from a decade of music I recognize, I think the Lake/Water connection works, especially since Lake, with his .299 average, is as smoking hot as any Cubs regular this season. Talking about Lake allows us the added distraction of wondering if he would name a son Junior Lake Jr.
Without well-played, meaningful baseball or a giant video screen demanding that we pay attention to some commercial message accompanying a far-too-loud bloopers reel, we have real conversations. We talk about our mothers, our kids, our jobs. Will even breaks out of teenage-boy mode to share insights about his high school experience. We voice strong opinions about "Homeland," "Breaking Bad," "Mad Men" and other TV shows, which are on screens but lead to interesting conversations about writing and acting.
As the Braves storm the field to celebrate their division-clinching victory, we say goodbye to the Wrigley Field we love and the Cubs team we don't. Will the 2014 season and the 100th anniversary of Wrigley Field change our feelings about either?