Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Luxury Box

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My Encounter with William W. Wirtz

This post will sound totally irrelevant for a while, and for that I apologize. But I swear, it's related to the current ownership turnover.

I worked in a toy shop on the North Shore of Chicagoland for all 4 years of my high school life. It was great, but it featured a lot of rich and irritating folk. Let's just say that after 7 hours of being told you had no idea what you were talking about by some little old lady dressed like she walked out a Prohibition-era bar, all manners and ideas of civility would occasionally escape me. It's a freakin toy, lady, not a nuclear weapon, stop freaking out about whether your 2-year old grandson will love it.

I grew up with two main loves in sports. The Cubs, and hockey. I did not love the Blackhawks. The way the whole organization was handled, the fact that they were never on T.V., it all was so irritating. So when this kid (who became my best friend) moved to my town from Toronto and turned me into an obsessive Maple Leafs fan, it suffices to say, I actually began to hate the B'Hawks. I felt bad about this; I mean, it's a Chicago team. But, with the Leafs on NBC all the time, how do you even compare?

As all responsible Hawks fans know, the real problem began at the very top of the organization. William W. Wirtz (now memorialized with a bizarre WWW patch on the sweaters). He believed that T.V. would cause people to not attend the games and thus ruin his franchise...despite mounds of evidence from every sport to the exact contrary.

I hated the man.

One day in 2005, around 4:30 p.m. after an unbelievable day at the toy shop where I worked, an elderly man walked in with two small children. The children ran around the store grabbing at toys, over and over. They picked the most expensive things in every section they went to. Each time their grandfather told them that no, this was a small shopping trip and that they would have to save their money for anything bigger.

After about 20 minutes, he finally came up to pay. He handed me his credit card, and I began to run it through our old-school hand-pressed machine. I realized it was one of those "Fan Club" credit cards from the Blackhawks, so I started talking to him about how much I loved hockey. He asked me if I was a Blackhawks fan.

I said no. I said that I hated the way the owner treated the fans and that I didn't understand why I couldn't watch them on T.V. and instead had to resort to a team that I had no connection to. My money quote was "why would that man be so greedy as to care more about ticket sales than fans?" I finally read the name on the card:

William W Wirtz.

I suppose what matters most isn't the fact that he didn't say anything to me after that, or that I was so scared I didn't say anything, or the fact that my boss almost fired me for saying that to the owner of the Blackhawks.

The look in his eyes was so devastated, so hurt and just honestly confused. I hated him because I thought that he was greedy. Maybe he was. But to him, he was doing the best for the Blackhawks. Maybe that's a thin line, but I have certainly looked at the way people own their teams differently from then on.

Maybe it was just a momentary thing for him, but I honestly believe in that moment I hurt him. I said in person what a million journalists had said in print, but I was the 16 year old kid who didn't know any better and said it right to him and laughed at his name and reputation. I'll never forget that look.

So, Mr. Ricketts, I wish you all the luck, and if you care even a little bit as much about the Cubs as Mr. Wirtz cared about his Blackhawks, at least you'll try your best.

RIP WWW

Cubs Luxury Box doesn't make crappy game any better

I've been to a 'lot' of Cubs games in my life, and I've sat in most every section in the park at one point or another, but I've never had the chance to take in a game from a Wrigley Field Luxury box until today. (Update: I've done a full review of the Cubs Luxury Box amenities at The Cubdom.)

First, for those plebes out there who have never 'done Wrigley' in style, the luxury boxes are a fun experience. When we got there, there was a warmer full of Hot Dogs and popcorn chicken. There was a small fridge stocked with Beer (the usual park selections of Old Style/Light and Budweiser/Bud Light), several bowls of nuts, a vegetable platter, a poor selection of warm sodas (Pepsi & diet Pepsi), and two TVs. One TV was a big-screen flat panel plasma, and the other was probably 17 inches. Interestingly enough, the TV was carrying the WGN-TV signal, but the WGN-AM radio sound.

The luxury boxes apparently come in two sizes, singles and 'double plays'. We were in a single. The suite itself was maybe 12 foot deep by 10 feet wide. There was a bar with three stools inside, but no other seating. Outside, we had twelve padded chairs that were fairly comfortable.

Now for the good part. We were directly behind the catcher. We could see everything, the seats were awesome, and with a little practice I could actually begin to judge whether a flyball is going to be a homerun or not.

Today was also a perfect weather day for baseball. Unfortunately, our box wasn't about to get any sunshine being located directly below the upper deck. On the otherhand it was incredibly pleasant to just sit there and take in the game.

Like my other luxury box experience (White Sox), I found it very difficult to get 'into' the game. There are so many distractions in the luxury box that it is easy to miss half an inning without blinking.

For example, in the fourth inning, I missed a Bucs' home run because I was busy choosing between Snickers Pie, Carrot Cake, or an Ice Cream Sundae from the dessert cart. (I went with the ice cream Sundae because I wanted the plastic Cubs helmet in which it was served.)

Of course there are advantages to being in the luxury boxes too. For instance, our box was *right* next to Jim Hendry's box that he uses as an office. It's not everyday that you can give the Cubs' GM a death glare whenever one of his players makes a fundamental error (as they did on several occasions today.) Honestly, I'm not joking. I was sitting ten feet from Jim Hendry at todays game.

Anyhow, despite the nice perks of a luxury box, it still doesn't feel like you're really attending a baseball game. Of course, if I had the choice again, I'd sit in the luxury box in a snap... I'd just never pay for it.

On the field, well Carlos Zambrano didn't pitch well, and the Cubs decided not to actually show up today. There were several mental errors and a few physical errors. For example, and I don't want to pick on Ronny Cedeno, but these come to mind: In his first game at second, he couldn't turn a double play early in the game. He lost the ball in his glove. This failure to turn two cost the Cubs a run. Later, he didn't stay on the base, instead he went out to shallow center to cut off a weak throw from Juan Pierre. The runner who had singled, played heads up ball and took second.

Of course, there's no point in pointing fingers. As (I think) Kurt said earlier this week, if you're trying to win a game 0-0, you're not going to be successful very often. Indeed, the Cubs allowed the Pirates several runs, but any ONE of those would have been sufficient.

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