Or, at least, that's the slogan being used to sell bison dogs at Wrigley Field, as reported by my oldest daughter Kathy, who was in Chicago today on a cross-country trip when she decided to stop by the game against the Rockies and see for herself what it is that inspires the remarkable devotion to team and ballpark that makes Cubs fans such a national story.
Although she never actually was tempted to buy a bison dog, she did call me in the top of the fifth to report that a vendor in the upper deck along third kept shouting “Bison dogs, they’re… BETTER THAN HOT DOGS!”, the last phrase spoken with a hint of desperation as he moved slowly through the aisles, sweating bullets from lack of sales and the heavy load he was carrying.
Speaking of someone who carries a heavy load, I’m sure Tom Ricketts will be glad to hear that Ms. Ernaga, a New Yorker born and bred, would happily vote to keep Wrigley Field operating in its pure and unadulterated form. However, he might not agree with her opinion of rooftop developments. “Were there bleachers on top of the buildings the last time we saw a game here?” she asked, thinking back to a glorious afternoon in 1989 when, down 9-0 in the seventh, the Cubs staged their biggest rally since 1930 to defeat the Astros 10-9 on their way to the playoffs and a league-best won-loss record in that first full year of lights at Wrigley.
Twenty-two years is indeed a long time, and I had to think for a moment to remember the way it was back then, with only very modest bleachers on a couple of the Sheffield buildings. “I thought so,” she said. “I’m sure I would have remembered if what I saw today was there in ’89 – that’s exactly the sort of thing you remember as a kid.” She was six years old that first time she saw Wrigley Field, and her comment reminded me of the first game I saw there, also when I was six, looking out at those same buildings, wondering whether they were part of the playing field, and hoping to see Dee Fondy hit one over the Baby Ruth sign.
Kathy’s take on the modern rooftops: “Cute, clever but contrived. In a way, they bastardize the ballpark experience. They’re just another reminder of all the little things going on here to make money.” Hey, what can I say? She’s her father’s daughter. "The Cubs’ team gear has to be the cutest in sports, but the 50/50 raffle – what's that all about," she said. “A raffle’s OK for charitable causes, but since when do the Cubs need to rely on charity?” I didn’t have the heart to tell her about last fall's trial balloon for $200 million in public subsidies to rehab Wrigley.
The best part of Wrigley may be the seasoned citizens who serve as ushers and guides, she added. “I had a bratwurst in one hand, beer in the other, with my ticket on top of the hot dog as I held it up slightly for the usher to read. His immediate response was to ask 'Are you trying to bribe me?'” Both laughed at this gentleman's comment – a remark and a reaction that probably wouldn't be made in jest at either Yankee Stadium or Citi Field.
Admittedly not a real baseball fan, Kathy says her appreciation of Wrigley Field and its’ general ambiance had little to do with what transpired on the field today, although she was happy to see her won-loss record at Wrigley move up to 2-0. “Wasn’t it Pena who had a pretty good day?” she asked. “I don’t know, I’m always sort of surprised when they can’t catch the ball, like a dancer who falls off point, but then I wonder if I’m being unreasonable… Anyway, I could see most of the fans around me really weren't focused on the game,” she continued. “That’s what made it so nice – you really don't need to see every play in order to enjoy yourself here.”
“It’s like that George Carlin routine of baseball versus football: There really is something poetic about baseball, especially in a place like Wrigley Field.”