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SportsMonday: Upper Deck Reserved

I took in the Cubs-Cards on Sunday night from my preferred perch in the upper deck reserved. If you drew a line from third to first and on up into the stands and then the balcony, I'm on it once it crosses the aisle and heads into the 500 sections. From my seats I can get to the men's room and back in plenty of time between innings to not miss a batter. There are hot dogs and chips and PBR at the stand across the ramp from the toilet (and behind our seats). I drink better beer when I go to bars these days, but at the game Old Style or Bud will do. Or, every once in a while, I'll decide to go back there and have Pabst Blue Ribbon for old time's sake.

In between innings, we watch the people promenade between our seats and upper-deck boxes, and that show is often better than the ballgame. It gets a little annoying in the bottom of the seventh or at various times in big games when there are big surges to the washroom and folks are still out in the aisle obstructing our view when play resumes. But the area almost always clears quickly.

We have TVs in the rafters up above us and at some point in recent years they were upgraded to hi-def. It's especially cool when the game is televised by ESPN because we get their feed and they always show the controversial replays from plenty of angles.

When it's the in-house feed (usually televised on Comcast or WGN), the Cubs will put advertising filler on the screen when the folks at home are watching most of those sorts of replays. On Sunday, the Cubs tried to put filler over ESPN replays of a controversial play at second late in the game. They finally resumed the feed but they hadn't waited long enough. We were able to see what was probably ESPN's 12th replay. And it indicated the ump's call had been correct.

Along with the guys my wife and I share the tickets with, I have a favorite beer vendor up there and his name is Les, who sold me my first beer Sunday. Les is a pro's pro and I watched him work a bit on Sunday. At one point he headed down the stairs dividing sections of upper deck boxes a little ways over and down from my seats despite the fact that two other vendors were already there. That was because he has some loyal fans down there who buy from him just about every time he comes around. And he knew there were enough beer buys down there for everyone. Sure enough, he sold at least 10 beers on that pass alone, as did one of the other guys who was down there. The other guy wasn't a hustler.

Some nights we watch Les fly past us to the refill station and then fly back out to the customers in sections 432 and 532 and further down from us without even slowing down. That's when Les has found a pocket or four of serious beer drinkers who bill buy suds as quickly as he can get it to them. Those are his best nights.

On Sunday, when I purchased my second beer, I got it from a different guy because it was the sixth inning and it looked like Les was going to sell his entire tray to folks in the boxes. Unfortunately, the other vendor didn't even know to punch the standard triangular hole in the can with a can-opener before popping the top for the pour and his hurried job resulted in a decent portion of the beer foaming up and over the side of the cup. No tip for him.

Oh, and I guess they played a game out there. A few thoughts . . .

Soto vs. Molina: Here's some good news. Our young catcher is much, much better than their young catcher. It was a rough night for Yadier Molina, who watched his batting average dip below .235. And he made three bad throws on attempted Cubs steals (a running game? Where did that come from Lou?). Unfortunately Brendan Ryan grabbed a tough medium hop and made a slick tag for one out but otherwise the Cubs were successfully stealing bases on the catcher who I believe led the National League in percentage of runners caught stealing last season.

Geo Soto couldn't come up with the clutch hit on Sunday but his hitting numbers are much, much better than Molina's. And he gunned down Ryan on the second of two steal attempts during the first half of Sunday's game.

Derrek Lee vs. Jermaine Dye: It's going to be a rude awakening for Derrek Lee when he hits the free agent market in the off-season. He will not make a quarter of what he has made during the last several years of his contract with the Cubs. His lack of speed, decent but far from outstanding offensive numbers (overall - not just this season) and fading defense at first will make him look a whole lot like Jermaine Dye to potential suitors. Dye was the guy who couldn't rustle up much more than veteran's minimum potential pay, was insulted by that and now appears to be involuntarily retired.

Cubs vs. Reality: In the end, I comforted myself by noting "eight games out really isn't any different than 10 games out. Eight games out isn't really different than 10 games out." Okay, so it is a little different and if someone out there still believes the Cubs have a chance and the Cubs end up losing the division to the Cardinals by one game, they can bombard me with "I told ya so's" after the season.


Jim "Coach" Coffman brings you SportsMonday (nearly) every Monday in this space. He welcomes your comments.

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