I Want To Be A Sports Fan But Doink!

I Want To Be A Sports Fan But Doink!

I want to be a woman who knows sports. I want to go to football games and know all the players, where they live, their salaries, their stats. I want to insert myself in men-talk, the world of facts and figures, history and strategy.

My hometown brags about her sports. We have the Cubs, the Bears, the White Sox, the Blackhawks and the Bulls. At Midwest Orthopedics in 2015, a year the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup, the doctor said, “We do the Blackhawks, you know.” 

I returned in 2016, the year the Cubs won the World Series and someone said, “They do the Cubs, you know.” 

A friend who had her hip replaced said, “My doctor is the Bulls ortho.” 

Another who had shoulder replacement, “My doctor fixed the White Sox pitcher.”

When I was a young professional, my office mate, Patrick, told me I’d never get another man if I didn’t know sports. Every Monday morning he’d grill me. 

“Dodgers?”

“Los Angeles.”

“Packers?”

“Green Bay.” 

Patrick’s weekly quiz schooled me in teams, players, uniforms, stadiums and basic terminology. Osmosis had been my teacher until then. I played team sports as a kid and absorbed recurring words like touchdown, foul ball and goalie. My son, who learned to read looking at baseball scores in the back of the newspaper, played baseball, hockey and basketball. I wasn’t as fully engaged as other Little League mothers but I picked up tufts of jargon in the stands while rooting for his little body to get around the bases.

On a Sunday afternoon in early January 2019, I was on the #36 bus headed north to theth-1.jpeg movie theater to see “Vice” for the second time. Handsome, jovial cool cats at the Clark and Division bus stop grappled with grocery bags full of beer and pretzels. They were in mid conversation as they boarded: 

“…a company game between Bears and Packers, then a guy bought the Bears for $50.” 

“Cubs came after the fire. Always played Wrigley; Bears used to play Wrigley.”

After the fire? Was he referring to the 1871 Chicago fire?

One of the fans shouted out the words on the billboard as we passed the Weiner’s Circle: “It’s The End Of The World As You Know It. So Eat Hot Dogs!”

“Hope that’s not an omen!” shouted a passenger in the back and I realized the NFL wild-card round between the Bears and the underdog Eagles was about to kickoff.

After the movie I boarded the bus with a pack of  jostling men who kept shouting Doink! and fuck Cody! I looked in my iPhone. The Bears lost due to an errant field goal by Cody Parkey. Doink! The boozy herd bobbed and weaved, nearly falling on those of us sitting in the front seats. th

I fear I’ve forgotten most of what I learned from Patrick, since I’ve had no occasion to use the information. I want to be a woman who knows sports but life on the #36 bus confirms what I’ve always known—I don’t want a sports fan for a man.

IN MY MIND AT THE VIAGRA TRIANGLE BY REGAN BURKE

IN MY MIND AT THE VIAGRA TRIANGLE BY REGAN BURKE

They call it Viagra Triangle because old men gather on benches lining the sidewalks to ogle young women. It’s Mariano Park, at the confluence of State and Rush Streets in Chicago. The shaded, pie-shape park is surrounded by a hotel, a 57-story condominium and successful late-night restaurants.

I sit near the 100-year-old fountain with my Scottish Terrier, Ozzy. A young couple at a table next to me punch away on their cell phones. He’s dread-locked wearing jeans and a factory-faded t-shirt. She’s sandaled in a dated, longer-in-the-back orange dress; over-dyed black hair, sunglasses.

“Look! stock market’s up,” she says. “Dude, I should’ve bought that when you told me. 1237041_439591126154325_771983775_nWhat’s this? We never ordered a CT scan.”

She opens her laptop. “Look at this. It’s right there. How did they miss that in radiology?” Returning to her phone, she reads, “Dan says, ‘I remember now. I saw that on the X-ray and asked for a CT.’ That radiologist is a dumbass. He’s gonna be in big trouble.”

He nods. “Remember? We asked the patient about this?”

I wonder if they work at nearby Northwestern Hospital and if I know the poor patient.

An oversized white truck turns the corner at Rush and Bellevue. Big black letters on the side say, “We Buy Houses. Cash. Call 847… “. Do they mean they buy the contents of the houses and haul them away in that truck?

14903_701500873252390_6713285813608226359_nHere comes a German Shepherd tethered to a small athletic woman. Great. I’ll have to hold Ozzy tight. I wish he’d stop trying to defend me from big dogs.

“Is your dog friendly?” she asks with her gentle giant sniffing around.

“Sometimes,” I say. Ozzy growls and tries to wriggle to the ground. “Yours?”

“Oh yes. We got him for protection but he doesn’t even bark.”

“Protection from what?”

“Oh you know, intruders.”

Intruders? I don’t ask. I wonder if it’s experience or paranoia that motivates her. Ozzy springs off my lap and gets a sniff of the German before shifting his attention to an encroaching pigeon. I slacken the leash. Ozzy lunges. The pigeon flutters up and the German Shepherd crouches in fear. Jeez. They must have moved in from the suburbs.

Two young women in high heels and sleeveless, skin-tight dresses approach carrying Starbucks cups. They sit; the blonde crosses her long, bare legs sideways and leans back in the chair. They light up. An old man chomping on a cigar shouts from a nearby bench. “YOU CAN’T SMOKE HERE.”

“Oh yeah?” says the blonde, “What about you?”

“Mine’s not lit,” he says.

“Mind your own business,” she says.

“It is my business. YOU CAN’T SMOKE HERE.”

“Where’s the sign?” she says.

The brunette changes the subject. “When’s the new coffee shop opening?”

“Oh that,” he says. “Who knows? Fourth of July maybe. It’s pathetic. They’re turning the park into a yuppy Gold Coast hang-out.”

“I’m glad they’re cleaning the place up,” she says.

“Don’t leave your butts on the ground,” he says.

IN ANOTHER MIND AT THE VIAGRA TRIANGLE

The news isn’t so bad – just a little emphysema. Not bad for 75 years of hard living. “Okay, okay,” I told the doc. “I’ll stop smoking cigars.” Two hours and I’m finally outta there. It’s still nice out. I think I’ll walk over to the park and rest in the shade for a while.

Oh now look what’s happened. Why didn’t they start fixing up the coffee stand sooner. Now everyone is sitting outside with a mound of old green tarp spoiling the view. They never do anything right around here.

At least the benches are out. It looks like they got new tables and chairs. Humph. Not enough of them. What are those things over by the fountain, Adirondack chairs? In the middle of the city? Man, are they out of place. These people don’t know what the hell they’re doing.

I’m glad Ruth didn’t live to see this. She’d hate her favorite little park getting all gentrified. We used to sit right over there on Friday nights with the Bellevue neighbors. We laughed at everyone’s stories from their week at work and mulled over who was going where over the weekend. Everyone relied on Ruth to bring the newspaper’s list of events. And she was the one who spotted famous people walking by. God, I remember the night she eyed Reggie Jackson strolling around Rush Street with a big white girl on his arm. That must have been the summer of 1980 when the Yankees were here playing the White Sox. Ruth really loved the Sox.

This bench is new. Comfortable though. I’m going to chew on my cigar for a while. No, doc, I’m not going to light it. I just like the feel of it in the corner of my mouth. Yeah, it gets a little soggy and the juice from the tobacco seeps between my teeth back to my throat. But this can’t hurt anything. It’s the smoking, right? The damage to the lungs. Emphysema. I wonder if that’s as bad as lung cancer. Naw. The doc never said I’d die from emphysema. Anyway, I’m not lighting up.

Look at these two babes. What’s with those shoes? How can they walk on this old brick sidewalk in high heels? Ruth used to wear high heels. She gave them to the Salvation Army
when her arthritis got bad. I wonder if anyone ever bought them? She had great legs.

Oh shit, they’re sitting right in front of me and lighting up. I can’t stand it. I’m dying to light my cigar. Their smoke is too much. “Hey, you can’t smoke here!”

1005890_10151648151400606_1631618218_n“Oh yeah?” says the blonde, “What about you?”

“Mine’s not lit.”

“Mind your own business,” she says.

“It is my business. YOU CAN’T SMOKE HERE.”

“Where’s the sign?” she says.

The brunette wants to know when the new coffee shop is opening.

“That yuppie joint? Who knows? Fourth of July maybe. It’s pathetic. They should’ve done it before it got nice out.”

“I’m glad they’re cleaning the place up,” she says.

“Yeah. Hey, can I have a light?”