Joel Reichenberger: Sorry, I’m not from Chicago |

Joel Reichenberger: Sorry, I’m not from Chicago

— I'm not a Chicago Cubs fan, I swear, but maybe it says something about Steamboat Springs that so many people seem so quick to assume I am.

To be fair, the topic comes up only when I wear a T-shirt I picked up nine or 10 years ago in a shop across the street from Wrigley Field, during my one and only trip to Chicago. It's dark blue, says "Wrigley Field" in old fashioned-looking type across the front and, most important, is long-sleeved.

For what it’s worth, it does not say “Cubs.”

Not many articles of clothing last nine or 10 years in my wardrobe, but a long-sleeved T-shirt always has seemed particularly useful in Steamboat Springs' cool spring and mild summer weather. Plus, it's just a little too big, so it's always comfortable, even when I start — or never stop — trying to put on my winter weight.

So, "Wrigley Field" has hung around for nearly a decade. It's getting more and more difficult to wear, however, and that's not because of any unsightly holes or stains.

I simply cannot wear it without being asked about the Cubs and Chicago.

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Who cares, right? Well, I know almost nothing about Chicago. I'm from windy Kansas, not the Windy City. I spent a total of about 72 hours in Chicago, hitting tourist spots and bars on an impromptu road trip with a college buddy. We went out to Wrigley simply to say we'd seen the venerable old stadium. It was March. Opening day was a month away, and the Cubs were in spring training.

It's not that I hate talking to strangers, it’s just that the trip left me precious little to talk about with regard to the Cubs.

I've always considered wearing gear from a team that's not your team to be breaking some small rule of sports etiquette. For a long time, I didn't think my Wrigley Field shirt violated that rule. I wore the shirt regularly in Kansas City before moving to Steamboat Springs more than four years ago. No one ever said a word.

I wasn't in Steamboat long before I was made aware of the problem. We live in a town where nearly everyone's from somewhere else. And believe me, a heck of a lot of those people are from Chicago.

Every time I'd wear it, they'd ask. I dramatically curtailed how often I wore the shirt. I was behind on laundry a few weeks ago and winced when I grabbed for the shirt before I set out for some quick errands.

Of course, the guy at the auto parts store noticed.

"Hey, you from Chicago? I'm from Chicago!"

"Oh, no, sorry," I said. "Just visited."

"Oh, well are you a Cubs fan?" he probed.

"Nope. Kansas City Royals."

He tried harder: "Oh, well, did you go to a game? What a great place to watch a game, huh?"

What is there to say?

"Sorry. Just bought the T-shirt, and in the offseason."

I don't want to be rude, but the only thing I remember about that day was the brat I bought at a nearby restaurant. As great as the sausage was, that anecdote never seems to satisfy.

Not 30 seconds after our awkward back-and-forth, a customer walked up from an aisle.

"Hey, you from Chicago? I'm from Chicago!"

We had the exact same conversation, nearly verbatim, his face slowly going from excited to bored, as they all do when I answer their questions.

The encounter was funny enough for me to text my girlfriend as soon as I got in the car and tell her the story. Turns out, I acted too soon. I drove to my next stop, a downtown shoe store. I wasn't inside two minutes before the woman who came over to help me lit up with bright eyes and a wide smile.

"Hey!" she practically shouted.

"Are you from Chicago? I'm from Chicago!"

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email

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