By Dan Bernstein-
CBSChicago.com Senior Columnist
(CBS) There is a giant praying mantis looming over me.
It has to be ten feet long, from the tip of its antennae to the end of the lime-green abdomen. The triangular head is the size of a dinner plate. It’s in classic pose, with branch-like forelegs clasped in supplication to the Insect Gods.
I feel as if the plastic model above the front doors is doing so sarcastically, making fun of my fruitless quest to see the final innings of what could be a perfect game for Phil Humber. It’s mocking my exasperation, my prayers for any kind of television.
We’re in the Notabaert Nature Museum in Lincoln Park, and it’s around 5:15. The public has been ushered out, and the conversion to party venue is mostly complete. The souvenir stand is gone, replaced by a bar where three black-clad women are uncorking Pinot noir and chardonnay with experienced, efficient quiet, and filling trays with half-full, long-stemmed glasses. The ticket desk has become guest check-in, and cocktail-attired volunteers are arranging credit-card forms, bidder-numbers and programs.
The lights in the exhibit halls have been turned off, and the dull booms of the orchestra’s microphone-checks pulse softly from upstairs. There is the occasional, metallic clang from the prep-kitchen.
And I’m standing in the one spot in the whole building that seems to have even semi-consistent cell service, staring at dots.
Green ones are balls on the MLB.com Android app, red for strikes, blue means it’s in play. Every pitch is logged by type and velocity. I’m getting low on battery. Michael Saunders strikes out swinging.
A couple hours ago, I could not have been further from envisioning this. I turned on the start of the game at home, a bit dismayed to hear a broadcasting C-team that radiated baseball insignificance. Half-watching as I went through scripts and timelines for the evening and noodled around on Twitter, I thought nothing of Humber through the first three innings, taking note only of Paul Konerko’s apparent agelessness, and Erik Karros repeatedly saying “Brent Moral.”
Shower, suit and tie, both kids walked to respective neighborhood-friends’ houses for sleepovers, and the car arrived promptly at 4:00 for the short ride to the museum. I considered asking the driver to put the game on, but opted for a brief period of peace before the intensity of the night. I checked my phone, mad at myself for forgetting to charge it fully.
My co-chairperson and I have been leading the preparation of this fundraising gala for eight months, and the reason I headed over so early is that she told me to. She is one of the city’s most respected event-planners, well-known for her rigorous attention to schedule and detail. She wanted me there to meet with other principals to familiarize ourselves with the set-up, finalize presentations and assist as needed.
She is also my wife, so there’s that.
I arrived as the building was emptying of families. Strollers trundled through held doors, tired children begged for stuffed animals, and the PA counted down to closing, thanking patrons. I began my usual checklist at such things: walk through the room, go over the script, confirm arrangements for the sound system, decide on starting bids and increments for the items I’ll be auctioning, find which room has been set aside for us to store things securely, if needed. All good.
Then at 4:40 came this tweet from WSCR web-editor Adam Hoge: “I don’t sound the perfect game alarm until 6 innings are completed. OK, 6 innings are completed. Turn on FOX. #Humber #WhiteSox”
Again cursing my low battery (and myself), I called up the gamecast to keep an eye on things, completely convinced that I’d be free of any further concern soon enough. It’s Phil Humber, after all.
I was in the process of being introduced to the photographer, saying hello to our caterer, florists and chocolatier, and pretending to listen to my wife as I paced around in search of something other than the intermittent signal that was delaying the news of each pitch.
After the home half of the seventh, I went looking for a television.
I found a security guard and tried to describe what was going on. He explained regretfully that all of the TVs he knew in the building were dedicated to closed circuits, and could not be switched over to pick up broadcasts. He mentioned a website that he used in the past to watch soccer games, and tried to call it up on his phone, but that resulted in a warning screen from US Homeland Security. So that wasn’t happening.
I should have bought one of those SlingBox things Matt Spiegel has been selling, I was thinking, as I raced back up the main staircase, over the tidy reflecting pool. The musicians were arriving, unpacking oddly-shaped cases. Lights were being angled, chafing dishes arranged.
With begrudging understanding of what might be happening, my wife handed over her iPad, my intention to download whatever I needed to watch live on MLB.com. I was running out of time, and my phone had to be conserved for five more hours of communication. $2.99 for a one-month subscription. Done.
Except the download and setup required all sorts of passwords for her Apple account that I didn’t know. Checked my phone again. Humber’s through eight. Twitter is going crazy.
At the start of the ninth, I was resigned to my fate. I would stand downstairs and witness baseball history as represented by small, colored circles and terse, after-the-fact reports. I would see it later.
So there is one out in the ninth. Welcome signs go up on easels in front of me, and important people are arriving. I should be greeting them, and I’m not. The fading, late-afternoon sun is at my back, reaching over North Pond and filtering through the glass. I wait for the screen to auto-refresh, trying not to make eye-contact with the contemptuous mantis. John Jaso flies out to Rios in right.
“Are you Dan Bernstein?” says a voice to my left.
“Yes. Hi.” I offer a handshake to the youngish man with close-cropped, black hair. He’s wearing a black suit and tie.
“Big fan of the show,” he says. “I’m the piano player for tonight.”
I show him my phone, tell him what’s up. His name is Pete. Brendan Ryan is pinch-hitting for Munenori Kawasaki.
Pete says “Hold on a sec.” He holds his smartphone close to his face, tapping away. I look back at the patio, where a lone Canada goose pads around in the outside chill.
Pete holds his phone horizontally in front of us.
There’s Humber, taking a deep breath. Ryan steps into the box.
Dan Bernstein has been the co-host of “Boers and Bernstein” since 1999. He joined the station as a reporter/anchor in 1995. The Boers and Bernstein Show airs every weekday from 1PM to 6PM on The Score, 670AM. Read more of Bernstein’s columns here. Follow him on Twitter @dan_bernstein.
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