I find myself waffling on this subject quite a bit, because as all Cubs fans do, I just want the best for the Cubs. I want them to win, and to do that I want them to be able to make truckloads of money. There are many obstacles preventing the Cubs from making as much money as they should given the brand name recognition, the history (most of it crap, but you know, we’re committed) and the media market. Some of it might have to do with organizational stupidity before the Ricketts took over, and some of it is due to the various “traditions” and restrictions placed upon the Cubs by the city of Chicago, particularly in the Wrigleyville neighborhood. Brett from Bleacher Nation has a good run-down of the situation on his wonderful blog.
The Cliffs Notes version is that while the Cubs are getting smarter front office people in place on the baseball operations side to build the product on the field, and (arguably) smarter business side people to help with marketing and advertising, the city is standing in the way. With Chicago politics even more crooked than Fernando Rodney‘s hat, this is going to be a major obstacle to overcome if the Cubs are to rebuild Wrigley Field to suit their long-term needs, and to ensure that the place doesn’t fall down under its own age while the city politicians spin their wheels waiting for bribes…errr, concessions. Yeah.
Some commenters in Brett’s blog suggested that the Cubs forget about the fact that they burned their “Get out of Wrigley free” card and just move out. The Ricketts family, however, has been very adamant about their commitment (there’s that word again) to the fans and neighbors of the Cubs and Wrigley Field. But if we ignore that for a second, what are their alternatives?
The Cubs have never won a World Series in Wrigley Field. They haven’t hosted a World Series game there since 1945. But Wrigley Field is ingrained into the Cubs’ identity. After legends such as Ron Santo, Ernie Banks and Billy Williams, to name a few, the Cubs fanbase will ubiquitously associate the Cubs with Wrigley Field. This seems to be a default association since most people can’t associate the Cubs with winning, but I keed, I keed.
When I visited Chicago over a decade ago, my first thought was to see a Cubs game at Wrigley Field. I associated the Cubs with Wrigley and I’m not even from Chicago. Taking the Cubs away from Wrigley Field seems like a true last resort tactic, and while I would be thrilled to tears if they moved to Wrigley Field of Schaumburg in a couple seasons and won the World Series (purely hypothetical), part of me would still feel empty. I believe many fans would feel similarly, especially those with deeper ties to the city than I do.
Getting back to the alternatives…I was discussing this with other WSD’ers and we agreed that the Cubs would lose a bit of their identity if they were to move out of the city limits or even out of state. The Skokie Cubs or the Evanston Cubs? That doesn’t sound right at all. And if you called them the Chicago Cubs anyway, that’s almost like the football Jets and Giants calling themselves “New York” teams even though they play in New Jersey. As for staying within the city but in a different locale, if the Ricketts can’t figure things out with the city and neighborhood, there’s little chance they can get the permits and other support necessary to break ground elsewhere within the city limits. The Cubs are literally stuck in Wrigley Field now.
Is that such a bad thing? I don’t necessarily think so. If you go back to when you were a child, when your parents got that first house where you grew up through elementary, middle and high school before running off to college, it’s sort of like that. You identify with that first house, because it feels like home. With Wrigley Field, I used to be gung ho about blowing it up and starting over. But now that they’re going to renovate it for the next century, I’ve relaxed my views a bit. I used to associate Wrigley with losing, losing and more losing. But now I know that it’s home for the Cubs and their fans. Sure it needs new windows here or there, a bit of oil for this squeaky door, some spackle to patch up holes and perhaps new wallpaper, but that’s just home improvement. The actual structure resonates with fans as home. We don’t want to leave our home, because there’s something magical about the concept of home. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.