Category Archives: sports

Big City, Big Game

I picked up a book this weekend and only had time to read the first paragraph:

“Paris is a big city, in the sense that London and New York are big cities and that Rome is a village, Los Angeles a collection of villages and Zürich a backwater.” (The Flaneur,  Edmund White, page 1).  

As I was reading this, I was awaiting a valet to bring my car, releasing it from the ridiculously expensive parking facility at the hotel where I had been staying.   I looked up at the buildings overhead as the “L” rattled by and wondered where Chicago fits into that schema — a big city or a collection of villages?  Where does any city fit, really? It’s all a matter of perspective.

Years ago I had a colleague remark that she liked living in Chicago over New York because Chicago was more “livable”.   “It has everything New York has, but it’s on a human scale”, she claimed.  “You can walk the sidewalks and see the sky and smell the lake.”   Having spent lots of time in NYC, I can attest that you can walk the sidewalks there too, see the sky and smell the water as the tides roll in and out.  Sometimes you don’t want to smell that, but you can. I lived in London for a short while a long time ago, and I’ve visited LA and Rome. Indianapolis, where I live, often thought of as a “small town”, is actually ranked as the 13th largest city in the US (Jacksonville, with a mere 1655 more people recently moved ahead of us in this ranking by the Census Bureau).   Each of these cities are different, each big — and parochial — in their own ways.

Chicago, though it self-deprecatingly refers to itself as the Second City (it’s actually ranked 3rd — sorry Windy City), is a big city, one that doesn’t take a backseat to any other, whether in amenities, or attitude.  I’m not sure that it matters how you set the scale; it still is big.


Big City Skyline

Big is the theme for this Ailsa’s Travel Theme this week.  We didn’t think of this weekend as a really big weekend, but we did have a medium-sized adventure planned:  a quick drive to Chicago to see a ballgame and then to see an art exhibit.   We love to mix highbrow and lowbrow!   Or something like that.

It isn’t a difficult drive to Chicago from where I live, at least not until you hit the Dan Ryan.  There are signs that read “xx minutes to Circle” along the Dan Ryan.  I wouldn’t know how to hack a sign board nor am I the kind of risk taker that would if I did, but I am amused thinking that the sign should be amended to read:  “xx minutes until you leave this Circle of Hell.” Sometimes to me it seems that Chicago does stalled highway traffic like nobody else!

Dan Ryan, Chicago, Traffic,

Big Traffic Jam

Eventually, though, we arrived at our destination.  It isn’t the biggest ball park — far from it — but that’s part of Wrigley’s charm:



It was a beautiful afternoon for a ball game.  Several years ago, I was having dinner with a Frenchman.   “I zee these game on the satellite.  Bazeball?  It haz no rules, yes?”   Ah, baseball!  It has rules — and lots of stats, too, but I think its quintessential charm is that its allure cannot be fully explained to one who has not experienced it firsthand.  There is nothing like spending an afternoon on a warm summer day, blue skies above with only a few clouds, watching a ball game languidly wend through nine innings.

Wrigley Field, Chicago

The One and Only Wrigley Field

Of course, sitting there enjoying the game, the sunshine, and perhaps some liquid refreshment, can make one tired.   That is why the 7th inning stretch is so critical.  A few years ago, while on a business trip, I was given two tickets to a Cubs game at the last-minute.   Accompanying me on this trip was one of my employees who had just become an US citizen.   She was excited to go as she had never seen a baseball game; we had no choice but to ditch the office early.  She knew that I was not your typical American Sports Enthusiast and she wasn’t sure that I was correct when I told her that the scores were “runs“, not “points” and that the game divisions were “innings“, not “quarters“.   I tried to explain the game to her as best I could.  But, I had neglected to tell her about the 7th inning stretch.

She was bewildered when the crowd suddenly stood in unison.  “Everybody stands now” I said, waving her to her feet.

For the rest of the game?” she asked skeptically.

No.  Just to sing the song! And to stretch!“.   The band started playing…

Take Me Out to The BallGame ….  

Buy me some peanuts and cracker jacks...

Buy me some peanuts and cracker jacks…

“Is this like the National Anthem of Baseball?” she asked.

It is indeed like that.

As I write this I wonder:  maybe one of the special charms of baseball is that it only seems big but isn’t really at all.  Sure, it’s big business; just look at the price of the tickets and concessions.  Look at the picture of the stadium above.  See those seats high above the outfield?  Those are not inside Wrigley Field.  They are on top of buildings across the street from the field.  Tell me that isn’t about enterprising people making big money off of the game too.  The hot dogs, sodas, cotton candy and beers are all big too.   Fans track their favorite teams and players.   We make a few minutes, more than two-thirds of the way through the game, into a big deal where everyone sings a silly song, waves their arms, and laughs.  And yet, it isn’t about being big and oversized.  It’s about taking time from our big, busy lives to relax and watch a leisurely game.

It was a fun afternoon in an anti-big sort of way.

And the Cubs beat the Cards.   Now, that is a big deal!

What’s your idea of BIG?  Join Ailsa’s Travel Theme and let us know.  Be sure to leave a link at Where’s My Backpack?

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Big

Last Sunday, we went to the Colts-Packers game. It was a big surprise to be given suite tickets by a friend, and we were able to take the biggest Packer fans we know: my sister & brother-in-law. I am not a big football fan; in fact, I know little about football. Nevertheless, I had lots of fun at the big game.

This week’s photo challenge is BIG. Everything about a pro football game is supersized, so I thought it was a good fit for this week’s theme:

Clockwise: Lucas Oil Stadium, JumboTron & lots of streamers, A BIG Silver Bucket in the rafters (what is that for?), A BIG Marching Band (IU Marching 100), BIG Plays, BIG Mascots, BIG Intros.  Not pictured:  BIG fans!  

Mind the Gap: Socialympics

My first memory of the Olympics is of the Grenoble Winter Games in 1968.   I don’t know that I had even heard of skiing before, but I was in love with triple-gold medalist skier Jean-Claude Killy.  I watched as much coverage as I could — there weren’t four round-the-clock cable channels then and, being only 8, I had an early bedtime — and even read the sports articles in the paper.   I didn’t have any idea of what an endorsement was, but I read about the controversy with Killy having his picture taken with the trademarks on his skis visible.  (See this article from the SI archives on the 68 games:  Over the scattered bones came Jean-Claude.)

What a different world we live in today!  Early during the London Games, I read a news story about how some athletes were considering protesting the ban prohibiting them from mentioning their sponsors in tweets.  Ah — maybe the Olympics are not so different from Killy’s glory days on the slopes!

This week’s WP Weekly Writing Challenge/Mind the Gap posed the question:   Has social media changed how you view the Olympics?   I have a twitter account, but I don’t use it much.   I’m not much of a sports fan, so until the athletes’ stories air, I don’t know most of their names.  How would I even know who to follow?

For me, Twitter and Facebook and an abundance of real-time options over the internet did not make a difference to my Olympics viewing.  I was content this year to watch the nightly NBC program, carefully edited with lots of hype and false drama — “Gabbie has to do it for the team to win“,  “Will Phelps get his 18th gold?“,   “Will Rafalca advance to the next horse dance?”  (Seriously, I never would have thought I’d know the name of a horse in the Olympics!)  If I were really interested in the outcome of a specific event, I might have wanted real time information and I would have taken advantage of the internet for that.   On the few occasions where I saw a “spoiler”, although disappointing, it didn’t make me turn away from watching a specific competition.

The hype was annoying, but for me, the Olympics is not about who wins a competition or what the total medal count is.  It is about witnessing, albeit in a very structured, edited, and biased manner, the pageantry, the competition, and the sportsmanship of the Games.  That is why I spent a few minutes almost every day watching whatever event was being aired in the middle of the day — archery,  skeet shooting, handball, even horse-dancing.   I don’t know anything about these sports, but I still enjoyed watching them for a few minutes.   If I were a twitter follower, while I might have learned of the results or found some insight or amusement from a favored athlete, I don’t think that I would have found the same enjoyment as I did tuning into the events.  Social media may augment the Games, but it doesn’t replace viewing.

I wish that the prime time show didn’t focus so exclusively on the US athletes or only the premier showcase events like swimming and track and field.   Synchro swimming, with the heavily painted kewpie doll faces of the swimmers, seems a bit creepy to be, but what about the synchro diving competitions, where the beauty of the acrobatic skill of individual diving must be done with precise timing?  If those events were covered in the evening broadcasts, I missed them.  I find the Men’s Still Rings and the Trampoline amazing displays of energy, control, and strength, yet only a few minutes were aired during the main broadcasts.    I disliked that the medal ceremonies were usually broadcast only when  an American or a Brit won a medal.  I don’t care that it isn’t my national anthem; I wanted to see the athletes, proud to represent their country, be awarded their medals while their anthems played.  It seemed like the same stories were told repeatedly — were there not more athletes with interesting stories from other countries?

But, none of that matters much.  I still soaked up the evening programs whenever I was home, regardless of what they were showing.  Had it been synchronized paper clip bending, I might have laughed at the hyped stories, but I still would have watched.  Why? Because it’s the Olympics and every four years individuals, many of whom know that they will never come close to the medal podium or win a big endorsement deal, will gather to show how they have trained to master their particular sport and to compete with others who have done the same.

Be sure to check out how others answered this week’s challenge.

>Olympic Ceremony in Real Time

>Go to and scroll down for the second link to NRK. I think this is in Danish. My info on the language may be wrong, but it doesn’t matter because I can’t understand it. However, there are some things that are universal: “anti-doping”, “conflict Dafur”, “basketball”, “dream team”.

More importantly universal: the smiles on the faces of the atheletes. Very cool!

Why is there someone from the UAE in the parade speaking on his cell phone? (He smiled too when he realized he was on camera!)