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Feb. 25, 2005

Two recent moments:



Someone asks whether I'm buying Cubs tickets.

For about five years the Cubs have used a wristband-lottery system to open ticket sales. To receive a numbered wristband, fans spend about an hour in a queue from the former Yum-Yum's all the way to Waveland. After two days of this the team draws a number at random. Sales commence with the corresponding wristband and continue sequentially.

No, I say, I will not be buying tickets this year, and I describe how it used to be, before the lottery, before the Internet, before the scalpers and speculators, before the Cubs' owners sapped almost all the joy and fun out of being a fan.

I was in college right before the Cubs hit their tipping point, when bleachers were still the cheap seats. You could get walk-up tickets to most games, but if you had a popular game in mind -- Opening Day, for instance -- you could camp out at Wrigley Field the night before the first sales. It would be cold and miserable and you would wish you had brought more socks, but people would be friendly and would chat about the pitchers and catchers who had reported that week. And it was good. A fan could earn his tickets, rather than depending on luck (via the lottery) or wealth (via scalpers, may they burn in hell).

In 1997 I waited overnight and didn't even stick around to buy. I had to go take a test. I waited with Stacey until we were finally inside, in a carpeted waiting room where the Cubs had laid out coffee and Ann Sather cinnamon rolls. I stuffed my pockets with rolls, gave Stacey a list of a few games I wanted and high-tailed it back to Evanston for my test.

So, no, I tell this person, I will not be buying tickets this year. And I feel like the old man who, when invited to the movies by his grandson, declines and instead rhapsodizes about the first talkies, when cinema was good.



Why I am not an accountant, or perhaps why I should be one: I don't think of the soda machine as selling Diet Cokes for $1.25. I think of it as selling three laundry quarters for $2. The Diet Coke is free.