It’s not easy being a Chicago Cubs fan in San Francisco. Or in St. Louis, Los Angeles or Cincinnati, for that matter. But after nearly 40 years of rooting for the away team, MontaraManDan has become something of an Emily Post for ballpark road warriors.Why the Cubs? He was an 11-year-old in Chicago’s northwest suburbs in 1969 when the Cubbies made their first bonafide playoff run in 24 years. That season, like so many, ended disastrously. The Cubs collapsed and the upstart “Miracle Mets” went on to win the World Series.
But M-Man was hooked, spending many an afternoon in his teen years slacking in the Wrigley Field bleachers for $1. Even after leaving Chicagoland to attend college at University of Missouri and residing for lengthy stretches in four competing National League markets, M-Man continues to root in a road jersey and to make periodic pilgrimages to the home ballpark on the North Side and bleed Cubbie blue.
Here’s what he’s learned:
MontaraManDan’s Previously Unwritten Rules of “Road Fan” Etiquette:
Make new friends: Go the extra mile. Start a conversation with your neighbor while waiting for the game to start. Offer to take a photo of the group of home fans behind you. If it’s Willie Mays bobblehead night, give your spring-loaded statuette to a Giants fan who showed up late. Don’t push it if the response is muted, but make the effort. You just might go home with a new Facebook friend. Bonus tip: Catch a foul ball? Give it to a hometown kid. Always.
Dress conservatively: Fly your team’s colors, but don’t overdo it. I typically wear a simple Cubs hat to mark my allegiance on the road, though in an era when just about everyone owns a jersey, that’s OK to wear, too. But I draw the line at the full “uni.” I once saw a Cardinals fan flying solo at a Dodger Stadium playoff game wear a full uniform – hat, jersey, pants, red stirrups and soft spikes. I think he had a batting glove in his pocket. More than disrespectful, it was a little weird. It was not received well. Bonus tip: If you’re visiting AT&T Park and your team isn’t on the field, leave the jersey at home.
Dine boldly and local: There’s more to ballpark dining than hot dogs. Go local. Flat breads by Giuseppe Bazurro, sushi by Edsel Ford Fong, and the Stinking Rose Forty Clove Garlic Chicken Sandwich by A Taste of North Beach are just a handful of the San Francisco delicacies available at kiosks, carts and concession stands throughout AT&T Park. My favorite is the Crazy Crab Sandwich, which pays homage to the much-reviled Giants mascot of the same name, who lasted a single season. Wash it all down with California wine or a craft beer. Bonus tip: At AT&T, get in line for your Ghirardelli sundae before the fourth inning.
Cheer modestly: If your favorite visiting team makes a big play on the field, hits a home run or gets that crucial out, by all means jump to your feet, cheer and clap. Then sit down. An occasional spontaneous one-line outburst is OK, too — “Hit a dinger, KB,” or “One more strike, Jake.” But no victory dances, finger waggling or smug smiles when the visiting team performs well on the field. And no angry demonstrations if the game is not going your way. Suck it up. You’re a guest. Act like it. Bonus tip: It’s OK to “root, root, root for the CUBBIES!” at AT&T while singing the seventh inning stretch. The Giant fans will drown you out anyway.
Take the tour: Comparing Wrigley with AT&T Park is an exercise in debating apples and oranges. Wrigley is a 100-year-old Shrine to the game. AT&T is a state-of-the-art beauty by the Bay, arguably one of the best stadium views in any sport. Both teams have incredible histories punctuated by lengthy and only recently ended championship droughts. Arrive early and explore the monuments and architecture both inside and out of the ballpark. Geek out on local trivia. Bonus tip: If visiting AT&T, be sure to stop by China Basin Park to see the monuments to Giants seasons past played at Candlestick Park. Magnificent.
Don’t harsh the mellow of the hometown fans: M-man was working in St. Louis during the magical 1984 campaign, when the Cubs made the postseason for the first time in 39 years. He was insufferable. When the Cubs blew a two games to none National League Championship Series lead to the San Diego Padres, it was payback time. Perhaps the “magic number” countdown on the side of his file cabinet was a bit over the top. Bonus tip: Especially don’t do this if you’re visiting your arch rival’s ballpark.
Respect family tradition: M-Man once turned a 3-year-old’s baseball loyalty from the Dodgers to the Cubs in a single early morning campfire conversation at a church outing. It took the kid’s extended family an entire season to reprogram him. Oops. The child was forgiven. M-Man was not. Bonus tip: Your unaffiliated grandchildren are fair game.
Cut the locals some slack: Understandably, Cincinnati Reds fans resent Great American Ballpark’s reputation as Wrigley South when the Cubs are in town. The typical Cubs contingent in Cincinnati is so big and loud, even the players forget where they’re playing. M-Man once saw Cubs manager Lou Piniella restrain outfielder Alfonso Soriano from taking a curtain call after hitting his third homer of an away game. Ouch. Bonus tip: If your team wins, don’t sing the victory song on the way out of the losing team’s ballpark.
It’s OK to laugh at yourself (especially if you’re a Cubs fan): Once during a rain delay in Cincinnati, M-Man and his Cubbie buddies decided to check out the Reds Hall of Fame at Great American Ballpark. As the introductory film ended, our host asked if any Cubs fans were in attendance. Most of the room cheered. The host smiled. “If you’d like to see what a World Series Trophy looks like,” he invited, “you’ll find three of them on the third floor.” We all burst into laughter. Nicely played. Bonus tip: Major League Baseball is a kids game played by young millionaires and funded by you. Don’t take it too seriously.
M-Man would like to express a heartfelt thanks to his Coastside friends, neighbors and even strangers who were so supportive last year during the Cubs drive to their first World Championship in 108 years. Not to mention his wife and family who have put up with his baseball obsession all these years. Even after the Cubs defeated the Giants to advance to the NLCS, the local Giants fans were kind and supportive. One neighbor recalled how special the first Giants championship in San Francisco had been in 2010, and wished me the same thrill. And someone left some Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer on my doorstep beneath my “W” flag the night the Cubs clinched. Very classy. And at least we all agree on one thing: “Dodgers suck!”