A common Wrigley Field misconception - revealed
Before I enter into today's contemplation, and feel free to hate me for having sat through "For the Love of the Game", but hey, Kevin Costner did OK in his other two baseball movies, as well as "Tin Cup", so I figured it would be good. One good part is, I believe the last pitch of the game, which I figure kind of mirrors Kerry Wood's last pitch last night. For those of you unaware - Costner is playing a Greg Maddux-esque figure, except older and in more pain. He's out there because he has not allowed a baserunner, but in the end, he has shot all his bullets. His pain-blocking mechanism is no longer functioning, his fastball has completely lost its zip. His catcher is putting down the fingers for the deuce, because that's his only chance to get past this last batter, but Costner's shaking him off, "No, Gus, the curve would hurt me too bad." Finally he accepts the inevitable, and throws the deuce, but not before telling himself, "This is gonna hurt a little bit".
I was thinking about that last night as Woody kept pumping Fielder fastball after fastball. I was wishing it was 1998 again, and Kid K would unleash his monster 12-to-6 breaker. But I knew it was pointless to ask, because it was probably the Uncle Charlie that introduced Woody to Tommy John in the first place. So even though Kurt and Bob Brenly and Dan Plesac and I and everyone else was wanting the curve, I was absolutely, positively shocked when he whipped it out there. So was Fielder. Grab some bench, Tofu Dog.
Anyway, as shocking as Woody's "slurvy slurve" (as he put it) was last night, I was even more shocked to hit today's Trib to read your heroes' thoughts about new ballparks. Somewhat lost in Sunday's hoo-hah after the No-Hitter, Senor Holy Shit gushed about Miller Park, and how much he would love a new park like this. Hey, OK, if he hadn't just tossed a historic gem (and pretty much saved the season), he'd be getting grilled like a Klement's Beer Brat right about then by the Kool-Aid Klub.
Well, the cynic in me was a-twitchin when I read today's linked story in the Trib, because, let's be honest. The best thing that is going to happen if-and-when Sam Zell climbs off his Money Mountain and sells the Cubs is that there will be no more Conflict of Interest when the Trib writes about them. I do appreciate it when they are able to pass along insider information at times. But when they broke bad on Hundley in 2002, Stoney AND Sosa in 2004 - and again with Baker in 2006 - the Tribune is just the PR arm of the Cubs themselves. When I see a story like today's, I wonder if the agenda is as clear as it seems to be; namely, the Tribune is trying to introduce a groundswell of interest amongst the fans to somehow WANT a new stadium built to replace Beautiful Wrigley Field (the three words MUST be included whenever it is referenced, and will be referred to from here as BWF) as a nice housewarming present for the new owners. And what better way to plant the kernel is through our conquering heroes, when we are at our most loving and accepting?
Here's where the disappointment lies, at least with me, and maybe with you, too: as you know, if you've even been to GROTA at ALL, there are different levels of "Cubs Fans":
- There are those "Cubs Fans" who are really Wrigley fans, who sit in the bleachers, get drunk and try to hook up, who don't even watch the game in most cases. These twenty-something latter-day-yuppies would simply DIE if Wrigley was gone, and I cordially invite them to insert a Bud Light bottle up their ass, wide end first;
- Then there are those "Kool-Aid Cubbie Fans" for whom the team and the park are pretty much interchangeable to their experience. My opinion of these retired bank tellers from Keokuk is pretty low, but at least they can tell you who won or lost on a given day. They would certainly miss Wrigley if it were gone;
- Then there's us, for whom winning isn't everything - it's the only thing. I have gone on record on here as saying that I wouldn't care less if we played at the Lions ballfield #2 in Lisle, IL, as long as we won the World Series that year.
But even the most cynical, jaded amongst us has to admit how gorgeous and historically significant BWF is. Sure, there has never been a World Series winner there, but I don't have time today to list out ALL the history made in the block surrounded by Clark, Addison, Waveland and Sheffield. Fact is, there is a certain part of me who feels that every last man who puts on the same Cubs uniform that Hack Wilson wore; dresses in the same clubhouse that Ernie Banks dressed in, and performs in front of the same ivy that Ryne Sandberg played in front of - should completely and utterly understand how much of an honor and privilege it is, and therefore should put out an almost superhuman amount of effort to do justice to the name and the team in that park. You are a Chicago Cub - you play in a veritable museum of not only baseball history, but American history - and you owe it to yourself, all Cubs fans, and all Americans to do everything in your power to bring the ultimate glory and honor to your task.
This is simply not been the case. I would say "Today's ballplayer", but it obviously has been "all ballplayers" have not felt the same urgency as I outlined above, based on historical results. Maybe Ernie Banks talked the talk, maybe Ron Santo walked the walk, and certainly there have been others who have given entirely everything while playing for us. Who, exactly? Who knows, unless you can look inside a man's heart. But suffice it to say, when the current occupants were asked, many gave good, reasoned answers as to why the Cubs need a new park. They used to refer to the crown and the bad-hop infield, and the lack of lights and the summer heat. Now they refer to weight rooms, Jumbotrons, and creature comforts, and some go as far as mentioning revenue streams in order to attract and retain top talent.
I'm not saying their opinions are invalid - they are the chosen ones; they are the stars; the laundry is on their backs, not ours. They have earned the right to have their opinions. They throw, hit, and catch balls far better than we do. But I share this revelation about myself to you: I honestly thought the Cubs themselves had a bit more respect and passion for their home than they seem to have, and it appears that The Zell's last official act is to exploit this fact to grease the skids to what I am going to call "a new ballpark experience". Whether this means that Wrigley is going away, or whether it is going to be a detour labyrinth hellhole for five years while it undergoes a parallel rebuild, just get ready, BWF fans.