The old beer game


To follow up on the last post that I wrote, this is an example of what has replaced the old TORCO sign across from Wrigley Field. For all I know, it’s still up there today, and has been there since the season ended in early October. There’s no reason to change it now, since there are no fresh eyes coming to Wrigley Field. But some marketing people are probably already at work, thinking up witticisms to use when next season begins.

“Last call” inside the ballpark seems to begin in about the 5th inning, to the beer vendors who work the stands. But there’s really no such thing, when it comes to alcohol in our society. If you have money, and you want a drink, somebody will find you and make it available to you. That’s the American way.

Whether that’s right or wrong isn’t for me, or anybody else, to say. People make their own decisions in these matters. And now, as marijuana is legal in two states–with more certainly to follow–the same questions will arise. I’ve already seen pictures of people lighting up beneath the Space Needle, and the term “Rocky Mountain High” is about to take on a whole new meaning.

Will the federal government, which bans marijuana, try to force Washington and Colorado to toe the line? Or will other states decide to take the same path in order to force the government’s hand, one way or the other?

If Prohibition taught us anything, it’s that some people are going to use banned substances, while others will make vast amounts of money by providing these substances. For them, the profit will be worth the risk.

Enforcing laws that people aren’t inclined to follow not only drains away resources, but it also breeds contempt for the law in general. And don’t tell me that tourism to Washington and Colorado isn’t picking up, either. This might be the first Spring Break in recorded history where college kids go chasing after snow peaks instead of palm trees.

Besides, I bet there would be some very interesting billboards going up outside of Wrigley Field if legalization ever came to Illinois. Much more interesting than “Last Call,” anyway.


Bill Clinton at the ballpark

I live in Chicago, and by now I’m used to the Secret Service helicopters flying over my house whenever the President or his family are in town. The military helicopters are usually the ones I hear, and they’re always gone in a flash. I’m sure that’s a good thing for keeping the President safe.

So tonight I heard the helicopters and assumed there was an Obama fundraiser of some sort going on. But it turned out that former President Bill Clinton is in town, addressing a conference of Nobel Peace laureates. And it got me to thinking about a previous time that I had seen him, within the confines of Wrigley Field during the final years of his presidency.

1999 was a memorable year in several respects. My oldest daughter was born on Opening Day in April (the Cubs’ first games were played in Japan that year), and life hasn’t been the same since. I was also teaching at the time, and when the end of the school year rolled around in June, we headed out west in our newly-leased Subaru to show off our little one.

We drove to Colorado, where my sister-in-law lived at the time, and one of the things we did there was attend a Rockies-Cubs game in Coors Field. Sammy Sosa was in his monster years back then, and he hit a home run at the game we were at. We then came back to Chicago for a few days, before heading east to introduce relatives in New York to the little one.

That eastern trip led us to ballgames in Tiger Stadium (the final season before they tore it down), and Jacobs Field (on her three month birthday, she went to her fourth big league game), and to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. It was the joy of fatherhood during a summer filled with baseball. If baseball is my drug, I nearly overdosed on it that summer.

But back home in Chicago, between the western and eastern trips, we took in a game at Wrigley Field. I remember chasing after a ball in the stands, baby in hand, and securing the ball. It wasn’t until later that I realized how stupid I had been. But the highlight of the game came in the late innings, when we learned that President Bill Clinton was also in attendance at the game. I didn’t know about this in advance, perhaps because the Secret Service had, well, not exactly made it public knowledge.

I remember that he was in one of the sky boxes, and I didn’t really get to see him very well. But seeing a baseball game in the company of a sitting president, even for just a few innings, is something that not everyone gets to do.

The years have flown past since then, and getting my daughter to a baseball game today would probably require tranquilizers of some sort. Or maybe the promise of lots of concessions during the game. But it’s a story I’ll always have for the telling, whether it’s here on my blog or to anyone who will listen to it.

While the Cubs are in town now, I don’t think that a baseball game is on Bill Clinton’s agenda. But if it is, there will be lots of people–whether they love or hate Bill Clinton personally–who could tell a story similar to mine. And hopefully they’d recall it with the same relish that I have here.

Is there a better place to encounter a President–sitting or otherwise–than at a baseball game? If there is, please tell me what that place might be.