Wrigley Field is 100 years old today (Shakespeare is also 450 today - guess the older brother got all the success genes). Don't worry though, the Cubs have only been losing in it for 98 years. You can actually make a pretty good argument that the Cubs ineptitude is the reason Wrigley exists. They were so bad for the two decades after World War II that there was no pressure for the team to move to a more modern park. So the Cubs sort of stumbled into the cash cow the field is today. I mean, let's face it, we all know that for the past two decades Wrigley has been a bigger draw than the team. How else can you justify the third highest ticket prices in the majors to see a AAAA team? It's a co-dependent relationship. The Cubs sucked so Wrigley stayed; now the Cubs suck...so Wrigley stayed?
Wrigley is where I saw my first major league game. The park is a nostalgia paradise. Every Cubs fan remembers being a little kid with his (or her) dad, or being a dad bringing his kid to witness the bright green grass against the gleaming blue sky (we'll ignore the giant crown on the field that made it difficult to play on for years). Even this kid loves Wrigley. Do I love Wrigley? Absolutely. Will I take my kids? Yup. But I'll say this: Wrigley Field is a dump and it's keeping the Cubs from winning.
Again, I love Wrigley. It is beautiful. But you're kidding yourself if you think it is anywhere near as nice as say, any park in the majors...even "The Cell" or whatever they call that piece of shit on the south side. I went to a Cubs-Cardinals game at Busch stadium a few years ago and I was astonished that every seat in the house could see the field of play. "But where are all the poles and posts? Is that what right field looks like?" More shocking was that I could go to the bathroom without walking two miles and standing between forty drunk men at a trough (and without fear of concrete falling on my head). The fans also seemed to understand baseball. They knew the rules, the strategy - they knew when their team made a good play. Is it charming that Wrigley is in a neighborhood? Yup. Is the field beautiful? The ivy enchanting? The old scoreboard purity incarnate? Absolutely.
And that leads us to the bigger problem with Wrigley: it's the draw. There is no pressure to put out a good team because people still go to see Wrigley (I know attendance is down, but they still draw MILLIONS of people). How can anyone call themselves a baseball fan or purist and not go to Wrigley? It represents a bygone era. They still play day baseball you guys. There are very few of the fan gimmicks that populate other parks. People play hookey from work. People go to get drunk in the sunshine. There are literally thousands of people in the stands every day who don't know the basic rules of baseball...and they couldn't care less. They paid $40 to get drunk (which costs another $40) at Chicago's biggest outdoor beer garden. There is literally no reason to go and see the White Sox other than the fact that you might actually like the White Sox. The park is bland and the Dan Ryan lacks the charm of Clark and Addison. The only way to get people to buy tickets is to try and field a winning team (which, let's face it, hasn't gone that well for them either). Maybe the A's are a better example. They play in a dump, so they put out a good team...and people still don't come. But at least they have a good team.
I know that Theo is building up the farm system (hey, remember that thirty year stretch where the Cubs didn't believe in the minor leagues and actually sold their players to other teams? And then the other thirty years where they thought a good prospect was somebody who could hit 20 home runs but do nothing else? Or the twenty years they thought a good prospect was a good athlete with no baseball skills? Wait, remind me again why the Cubs haven't won a World Series?).
I love Wrigley. It will be magical if the Cubs ever win the World Series there. I pray that someone in my family, born or unborn, will one day see them when. But let's stop kidding ourselves that it is the most magical place on earth. It's a run down beer garden with a shitty band playing.
Matt Fotis is an Assistant Professor of Theatre at Albright College. He is the author of Long Form Improvisation and American Comedy - The Harold, The Comedy Improv Handbook, and "My Fragile Family Tree: Stories of Fathers & Sons."