Sports are for smiles

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Our first major sporting event in nearly two years was even wackier than I expected.

Some of the weirdness we encountered at Truist Park, where Zac and I took Wyatt to see the Cubs and Braves on his birthday, was COVID-related.

We were issued digital tickets through Ticketmaster that weren’t loading correctly in the MLB Ballpark app when we were ready to enter the gates. 

No bags were allowed in the stadium, which meant I was carrying my camera on my shoulder and an extra lens in my pocket. Zac and Wyatt got through the metal detector without any problem, but I kept having to try again.

After everything had been emptied from my pockets, I feared the only thing left was a strip search, and I had decided the Cubs weren’t worth that. Apparently, carrying two phones (mine and Wyatt’s) was the issue.

Let’s talk COVID protocols. I’m going to give the Braves a D on enforcement. Masks are required unless you’re eating or drinking. Nearly all of the staff but less than half of fans were abiding by that, and at no time did I personally witness anyone being chastised.

Capacity was being monitored at the Clubhouse store, but we were still elbow to elbow in there. Also, because of COVID, cash is no longer being accepted.

When Zac purchased our seats, there were only certain sections he could find three tickets together because of social distancing rules. So imagine our surprise when a couple walked in right behind us and sat down in the seats directly in front of us, and then another couple whom they did not know sat one seat down from them.  

I think there was a mix-up somehow because we had our whole row to ourselves and the row behind us was empty as well.

Social distancing wasn’t really being observed anywhere else in the park, though. The Battery, the eating and shopping area that is around the park, was packed as we made our way to the front gate, and at least 20 guys were standing in line at the restrooms near our seats when the game ended.

The Braves announced while we were there that the stadium will be returning to full capacity this week, making them the first team in the majors to make that move. After what I saw, all I can say to that is “Godspeed.”

Being within chatting distance turned out for the best for Zac, though. For the first time in our marriage, he wore a Braves shirt and hat to the game so that he could match Wyatt, who was wearing a Freddie Freeman shirt. I’m the one who insisted that he wear the shirt because I had spent good money on it, but it looked all wrong on him.

He looked like he was going to pass out every time we passed a Cubs fan. Then the man in front of us, who was wearing an Anthony Rizzo jersey, asked if we (meaning the Braves and their fandom) were going to take it easy on them.

That was the last straw for Zac. We had to tell him that Zac is really a Cubs fan who was only wearing the home team’s colors because we had brought our son for his birthday.

At that point, we learned that the couple, Mike and Lisa, are from Chicago and had been at the previous night’s game, where they apparently sat near some fans who were really awful to them. They didn’t go into detail, but they kept talking about how nice we were.

I’ve been going to games with Zac since our honeymoon, and I’ve always loved to see him interact with other Cubs fans. Usually, the talk revolves around the team, but you also learn a lot about people when you sit with them for three hours.

I don’t know Lisa and Mike’s last name, but I do know that he is a Cubs fan and she is a White Sox fan. They are in the South looking for a place to relocate because the crime situation has gotten so bad in Chicago. They’re thinking about Chattanooga.

Mike loves trains and was going to see the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum before going back home.

Mike and Zac share a dream of seeing a game in every Major League stadium (except the Yankees). (And maybe the Dodgers.)

Mike was in the Air Force, which we learned when he stood up during a part in the pregame ceremony when veterans were recognized.

Before the game got underway, Mike and Lisa left their seats and came back with a bobblehead of the three Braves Silver Sluggers from 2019, which they presented to Wyatt for his birthday. Again, they thanked us for a nice conversation, which they had been denied in their first experience at Truist Park.

For Cubs fans, the game was a nightmare. Mike and Lisa called it quits after the fifth. The final score was 10-0, which included five homeruns, one of which was off the bat of the pitcher, something we have never seen before.

Things got so bad that Cubs manager David Ross called on first baseman Anthony Rizzo to pitch in the eighth inning. One of the three batters he faced was fellow first baseman Freddie Freeman, who was 4-4 on the night.

So when Rizzo, a position player, became the only Cub to send Freeman packing that night, neither of them could stop laughing. When asked about it in the postgame press conference, Freeman said he was okay with striking out to Rizzo. He also said something to the effect that the game is supposed to put a smile on people’s faces.

I think about Mike and Lisa sitting by jerks who have forgotten that the game should bring people together, not make them dread coming back to the stadium.

I also think about how good it felt to be back in a ballpark after everything that our family, the sport and the world has gone through in the past year. We’ve made so many great memories at games, and I’m glad we still can.


Jennifer Cohron is the Daily Mountain Eagle's features editor.