In his new article for Grantland.com, Dave Eggers says most Cubs fans don't care about baseball. In doing so, he exercises the old, tired stereotypes most Cubs fans have been fighting for years.
Aright, before we get this started, there is a lot of stuff I want to get out of the way. 1) Most of what I've seen of Grantland.com, I've really enjoyed. This isn't some snarky blogger calling out a mainstream site just to do it, 2) I love Bill Simmons, he's my favorite sportswriter, 3) And as far as Dave Eggers, the author of this post we're about to discuss, goes, I've never heard or read anything from him besides this. I have nothing against him, outside of this article. Blindly written, pro-Wrigley propaganda is business. It ain't personal.
Deep breath. We'll start with the lead paragraph of a story that could only be called "Wrigley Is Wrigley, and Nothing Else Is"...
It was pretty cold for a Saturday in late May. It was about 50 degrees out, and everyone was wearing three layers. People had on their Cubs jackets, their Illinois jackets, their Northwestern jackets...Rain was likely any minute, and the Cubs were down 5-nothing in the fifth inning. We were having a blast, though, watching the game from deep left. Deep left. We weren't even in the ballpark.
So it's unseasonably cold, your team is losing, you're not even in the stadium but you're having a "blast." Even diehard Cubs fans have to be cringing at where this is going.
This was my first time in one of the establishments that ring Wrigley now, former residential buildings that have been converted to extensions of the stadium, with their own rooftop seats, concession stands, and quasi skyboxes...Even when the stadium isn't full, the rooftops are. This says a lot about baseball in Wrigleyville.
Yes, it sure does.
We were at a place called Brixen Ivy, and yes, it pains me to type that pun as much as it pains you to read it.
Haha, I actually like that.
It's just across Waveland, down the left-field line. From its location, you can get a vague sense of the action on the field, and every now and then you can even see the ball. If you squint, and lean forward just so, you can read the scoreboard. In this case, the Cubs were now down, 6-0.
So you can barely even see what's going on? Why, in any way, would this be considered good?
Not that the score mattered much.
Why would it?
I grew up with the Cubs, and I don't remember the possibility of winning ever being high among the reasons we went to Wrigley.
Ah, so it's one of those articles.
We went because the park was ragged and crumbling and lived-in, beautiful in an almost accidental way.
"Went because the park was decrepit."
The low brick wall behind home plate implied a game being played at the local elementary school.
"The low brick wall barely fit elementary school standards."
The ivy in the outfield hinted that the building was so old that nature was reclaiming it.
...and we went because the weather at Wrigley was always better there than anywhere else in Chicago.
Oh come on! You have got to be shitting me.
We went because you could pay $10 to park in someone's driveway and $1 to use their bathroom after the game. Speaking of too much beer being drunk from cheap plastic cups, there was Harry Caray, too.
You went to the game to hear a television broadcaster?
Winning, which the Cubs did do occasionally, was a superfluous kind of treat. It didn't feel too much different than losing — just like when you're at the beach, getting one flavor of ice cream doesn't feel so different than any other. They all taste fine when you're at the beach, right? Winning was great if it happened. Just like having good players was a nice but unexpected bonus. Ryne Sandberg? Greg Maddux? Mark Grace? Shawon Dunston? Thanks!
How can you be a Cubs fan, read this, and not ram your head against a wall? This is the perpetuation of every Cubs cliche I've ever heard. "We didn't care about winning. Winning was a bonus! Good players?! Who? Oh, we have some? Cool!!!"
In general, though, we were used to the good things coming amid a general mood of "so what."
"The general mood of the stadium was 'so what,' which made Wrigley an amazing fan experience!"
Last week we went because a friend of ours got married the day before, in Lincoln Park, and instead of a typical brunch the next day, he rented out Brixen Ivy (god, it actually hurts more the second time), where about 75 wedding guests could eat, drink, and wander around, glancing occasionally at the baseball game being played across the street by a few dozen men being paid, between them, a few hundred million dollars. The other team was the Pirates. Did I mention that? Again, I don't see how it matters.
This just reeks of people putting together a Cubs-based event just in the name of being "Cubs fans." I'm sure many Facebook pictures were taken.
Pretty soon the score was 7-0. Upstairs on the roof deck, no one's mood was in any way diminished by the distant massacre.
We get it, you don't care about the score or the teams or the game, but as a sports fan, aren't you supposed to care about all of these things? If you're a non-fan or casual fan, it's one thing not to get wrapped up in the game and just enjoy a rooftop experience, but if you consider yourself an actual fan of the Chicago Cubs, how could a 7-0 beat-down not affect you in some way. He goes out of his way to say the mood of the entire group was not altered, like it's a point of pride -- that's just damn embarrassing.
Back in the day, people used to set up lawn chairs on these roofs, but now there are actual rows of stadium seats. It limits mobility, but it reminds you which direction the stadium is, and where, ostensibly, the action is happening.
People needed to be reminded of the direction of the stadium!? Have you all gone insane?!!?!?
...We watched a half-inning of the game on the high-definition screen on the wall, and there the action looked very sharp, very clear, but very wrong. Close-up like that, with the names and numbers so readable, it didn't look like a Cubs game anymore. The stats even! No, that's not the Cubs way. Making a big deal out of the numbers, the pitch count, all that? No. Precisely who was pitching for the Cubs didn't and doesn't matter. Precisely who was hitting the next home run off the Cubs didn't and doesn't matter. I still don't know who it was. But it put the score at 8-0. The food was delicious.
The only stadium anyone bothers comparing Wrigley to, in terms of history and atmosphere, is Fenway. With Irish-Catholic cousins called the McSweeneys, who landed in Roxbury in 1865, sure, I went to a lot of Red Sox games growing up. Fenway is spectacular, but in a very different way than Wrigley. Fenway is electric. Fenway is tense. When you're at a Red Sox game, you're at a professional baseball game, you're standing up, you're paying attention, you're keeping track of things. Because your team has a chance to win.
"The only stadium you could even compare to the great Wrigley Field is Fenway Park, but that's not as good because they actually care about baseball!"
With the Cubs, though, all of that worry is gone. You're there, and there is a game being played, but then again, there's the sun, and what's that guy doing with his stomach over there? And where's the beer guy? And who's playing at the Cubby Bear tonight? Peter Tosh's brother? Should we leave after this inning to get a seat near the stage?
Now that I live in the Bay Area, we have the distinct advantage of having a team, the Giants, who know how to win, and a stadium, AT&T Park, where winning is irrelevant. The park is so well-designed, so insanely well-situated, that even on a game day, if neither team showed up, most fans would find a reason to stay. You could stroll the promenade, get some lunch, look at the waterfront, the marina, the shipyard, the East Bay hills beyond. It'd be two hours before you realized there wasn't a game happening.
I took this at last year's World Series. This was the seventh inning of Game 1, and this guy was drawn to the view. Just standing there, looking at the yachts, the water, the setting sun. There are so many open spaces, so much air and sky and room, that you almost feel cloistered when you're sitting still. I didn't have a seat for Game 1, and I didn't care. I never noticed.
So you live in the Bay Area, the home of the defending World Series champions and that still couldn't make you care about baseball? You were at the World GD Series and couldn't find time to care about the game?! Dude, maybe it's time to face facts: you don't, at all, like the sport of baseball.
Back to Wrigley. Or the place across from Wrigley with the unprintable name. At some point, we found the groom and bride. We talked about their honeymoon, about some impressive choreography that had taken place on the dance floor the night before. The baby of a mutual friend was handed to me, and the baby and I had a long and meaningful conversation. This baby had no idea that the Cubs were playing about 600 feet away, that the Pirates had scored another run. Was it 9-0 or 10-0? No one knew. We couldn't see the scoreboard. And meanwhile, this baby was really trying to get my attention. He was trying to prove, with his dimple and dark eyes and easy disposition, that he was the best baby ever made, and I think he convinced me.
Is this post satire? No, seriously, is it? It has to be.
At some point the game ended. It was 10-0, it had started to pour, and no one cared.
What mass group of people, in the history of the world, hasn't cared about being rained on? To paraphrase "Dumb and Dumber," who are these sick people?
The streets of Wrigleyville filled with people dodging the rain. Vendors tried to sell Kerry Wood memorabilia, and scalpers were selling seats to the next home game. Shirtless men stomped in puddles as if celebrating something. Actually, they were celebrating something. It all felt good. A bunch of people from Chicago had gathered in one place, and that was 98 percent of the point of it all.
Judging from your piece, that was about 100 percent of the point of it all.
I'm sure among the thousands who flowed through the tributaries around the stadium were some who were upset the Cubs hadn't won. I'm sure there are Cubs fans who are interested in the standings, and have been for decades.
"Surely there may be some people who just might care about the team, but I don't know any of them!"
By not relocating it 50 miles outside Chicago, the Cubs have inspired fierce loyalty in its fans and the city.
This dude has to think the White Sox play 50 miles outside Chicago. What a comment.
But to fill a stadium you need more than that. You need to build and nurture a place that's an actual place. A place that celebrates not just a team but a city — and a city's refusal to plow the past under. Wrigley is the ultimate neighborhood stadium, the ultimate urban stadium, the ultimate statement that some semblance of tradition is more important than the money you could make with a hundred new skyboxes in some spectacularly soulless new stadium (sorry, White Sox).
Myth perpetuating? Check. No logic whatsoever? Check. Potshot at the White Sox? Check.
If the place is an actual place, little else matters. Owners should take note of the strange, almost inverted model of capitalism at play here. By not building a new stadium, the Cubs have filled the seats for 100 years.
Who, besides the Cubs and Red Sox, can claim this, though? Owners build new stadiums because old stadiums are primed to fall apart. They're crowded, they're smaller and they are not equipped to handle a lot of 21st century conveniences. Honestly, I'm not even here to say "Wrigley Field is bad." I might think that, but that's a subjective opinion. What I do think is unarguable, though, is this whole "Wrigley is old and it's great and we don't care about baseball and that's how every stadium should be!" Give me a break. Cubs fans care. They've cared for years. While there may be a large contingent that doesn't -- again, a total stereotype -- this is the same stadium made famous for people crying after big games. They drove Steve Bartman into hiding, for god's sake. Those are happy-go-lucky people who don't care about the game? I'm sorry, but they're just like the rest of us -- and that's a good thing.
Cubs fans, I've said and done a lot of things to agitate and upset you in the past, but I really hope we can stand as one against this article. It shines a bad light on your fanbase and does nothing but perpetuate every negative stereotype other teams have against you.
It's time to stand up and say "no" to this overdone fluffy fluff.
Bobby Loesch is the associate editor of the Chicago sports blog Tremendous Upside Potential and a new daily contributor to SB Nation Chicago. He is also a White Sox fan. Follow him on Twitter @bobbystompy.