The 30th annual Cubs Convention has already been dissected like a frog in biology class, so I’ll not dig too deep into the minutiae of the event here. Rather, I want to lay out my thoughts in a series of rapid-fire takes so as not to bog either of us down.
I live-tweeted much of my experience, but much nuance is lost due to the character limit. I’m sure opinions will vary on many of these topics and I welcome further feedback on any and all of them in the comments below. Or, as always, you can find me on Twitter @DEvanAltman.
The Opening Ceremonies
I’ve got to say, this just wasn’t my scene. I don’t know that I’m either misanthropic or agoraphobic by the true definition of either term, but I don’t care to be pressed into a room (even a very large ballroom) with a bunch of strangers (even those with whom I share a common bond).
The excitement was palpable though, the waves of positivity radiating out of the collective see of blue and red and washing over even this curmudgeony blogger. But as intoxicating as it was to some, I was more excited about the Lagunitas IPA at Lizzie McNeill’s next door.
We are such a bunch of nerds, I remember thinking over and over. Mind you, this is a good thing. The crowd of online personalities from various Cubs blogs, and readers of said blogs, was very surreal for me. It’s strange indeed to meet in the flesh so many with whom you’ve only interacted digitally.
I was also able to meet Jon Greenberg from ESPN Chicago and I bought Bruce Miles a beer. Again, very cool to rub elbows with people whose work I have read and admired for quite some time.
I’d like to see them stagger these a bit more, though I understand the inherent logistical issues with doing so. The Ricketts family forum was crowded but not packed, but the later sessions with baseball ops and Joe Maddon’s staff easily exceeded fire code.
I think my favorite part of the weekend was following my Twitter stream to get the myriad reactions to the various questions from fans, along with the attendant answers from the panels. I actually posed a question to the Ricketts family, though the preamble to it was the real story.
I actually captured one gentleman’s “question” on video, uploaded it to YouTube, and even tweeted it out. Jiminy Crickett, however, finally sobered up and got back in my ear about it, so I took it down. This was the “prepared statement” that drew the ire of so many in attendance.
That guy was seated about three chairs to my left and was the second to take the mic at the panel. Immediately following him was a woman with a hatful of pins who kept vehemently shooing the usher who was admonishing her and trying to get her to keep from posing a second and third query.
I then took the mic and blurted out something about balancing the team’s stated goals of a World Series title, maintaining Wrigley, and being a strong force in the community with profitability. You can see and hear Tom’s answer on YouTube if you care to (sorry for the vertical video).
But back to some of the wacky hijinks of those fans whom myself and others saw fit to lampoon ad infinitum on Saturday. I think we sometimes get a tendency to take on airs and to have a sense of superiority when it comes to this team.
I write about the Cubs, study their moves, and at least pretend to have a grasp of the process they’re undergoing on both micro and macro levels. For that reason, it’s easy to look down at those who remain at a point in which their fandom is purely emotional.
But you know what? That’s okay too. Were it not for people like that, this game would be just a science experiment or a math equation. I treated the Convention sort of like an assignment, but this was their recess, their Mecca, if you will.
I will, however, hand out some advice to those of you who may step up to pose questions to panels at events like this in the future.
- Be succinct, there are many others waiting to talk.
- Ask one question and then return to your seat.
- Never, ever, begin anything with “I’d like to read a prepared statement.”
I love it when a flippant little response to a fan’s question gets blown out of proportion, which was exactly what happened when Tom Ricketts replied to something regarding kids having fun at Wrigley.
A woman stated that kids have more fun at places like Citi Field, Miller Park, and U.S. Cellular Field than at Wrigley, about which Ricketts quipped, and I’m paraphrasing, “Well, there aren’t that many kids having fun at The Cell.”
I guess a few folks got all up in arms about this and even Buster Olney picked up on it. I feel like I need to be the eleventy-billionth person to quote Aaron Rodgers here: R-E-L-A-X. It was a joke. About a rival. During a fan convention. To draw some laughs.
I’d expect the same about the Cubs from similar events held by the Sox, Cards, or whomever. I think we’d all do well to not take ourselves so seriously once in a while and not try to turn every comment from an owner or exec into more than what it is on the surface.
Given the number of attendees, I think they did about as good a job as can be expected. However, it still felt pretty cramped. I’d think something like McCormick Place could better house such a large group.
Eh, we all knew this was coming. However, I still wish the Cubs would’ve just announced this months ago when they knew it was going to be the case.
Again, this is something else we all knew was coming (some of us for far longer than has even been rumored in the media). But the purchase of three rooftop buildings is a nice little nugget for the Convention crowd.
I wrote about this not too long ago, and the topic was addressed at the biz ops panel. The Cubs plan to offer syndication of the 45 games being broadcast only locally on WGN 9. If that doesn’t work out, they will ask MLB to lift blackout restrictions for Extra Innings and/or MLB.tv.
Beer prices up to $10
Perhaps the most important announcement of the weekend was the news that beer would be moving up to $10 at Wrigley Field in 2015, a 17.65% increase (or $1.50) over last year’s still-exorbitant $8.50.
For the equivalent of six Shock Tops or 312’s at the ballpark, I was able to stop in Munster at 3 Floyds for one six-pack each of Gumballhead and Yum-Yum, along with two bombers of Permanent Funeral and one each of Cimmerian Sabertooth Berzerker and War Mullet. I win.
I’ll hang out with my kids so that they can get autographs from people, but I’m not big on getting them myself. I did, however, allow myself one indulgence on Saturday morning: George Altman, the man who I jokingly called my uncle in a long-ago post.
It was a really cool experience to introduce myself and discuss our shared surname, then to talk with his family for a bit. I had Big George autograph a baseball and he told me about his book, George Altman: My Journey from the Negro Leagues to the Majors and Beyond. Check it out.
I feel as though I reside in a bit of a no-man’s-land for the Convention, that I’d enjoy it more if I was 10 years younger or perhaps not blogging about the team. It was, however, flattering and a bit odd to actually be recognized by people who were there.
That said, I think I need a shirt next time. I’d have rather enjoyed meeting more of our readers and that will be my goal for next year’s event. Ryan Davis and I were standing there wondering how many people in attendance might have at least happened upon this site at one time or another.
The camaraderie of the fans was easily the best part of the weekend and it’s something I’d like to take more advantage of in the future. The Cubs Convention isn’t something I could see myself doing over and over again, but it was definitely a worthwhile experience and one that I’ll have again.