As you know, the 31st annual Cubs Convention will be taking place this weekend in Chicago. This year’s even promises to be pretty big for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the team’s expected success in 2016. There will also be quite a bit of residual celebration of this past season, and rightly so. But a big driving force of the gathering’s energy is the ability for fans to get up close and personal with their favorite players from both the past and present. You can just feel the excitement radiating off of the blue-clad attendees as they mill around or stand in line for the next session.
But for me, the very things that make CubsCon great for some make it a bit difficult to handle at times. I’ve said before that I’m not a big fan of crowds. While I don’t really have what I’d consider social anxiety issues, I can be a bit misanthropic at times. As such, large crowds packed tightly into enclosed spaces aren’t necessarily the milieu in which I do my best work. And while I am very bullish on the Cubs, my optimism generally pales in comparison to the rose-colored-glasses masses at the Sheraton.
That kind of positive energy can be really great in small doses, but it’s kind of like a microwave in that you can definitely overdo it. Over the last couple years of writing about the Cubs and trying to maintain some level of arm’s-length objectivity, I’ve lost what was once more of a Pollyanna attitude. Never a huge fan of big crowds, I’ve also become even more of a homebody than I was in my youth. Give me beers in a quiet sports bar with a few buddies over gaggles of anonymous humanity any day.
I don’t want to be a total Debbie Downer here though, as the Convention is a veritable treasure trove of information and interaction. The various panels on Saturday and Sunday are great for journalists, bloggers, and fans alike, so long as you can actually find a space in what are sure to be packed session rooms. And if you’re an autograph collector, there’s no better place to pick up a signature or 20. The memorabilia stands are great and the ability to bask in Cubbishness is something in which thousands will revel.
Speaking of revelry, the opening ceremonies are actually pretty cool, even to this jaded curmudgeon. The attendees are all announced and the crowd gets whipped into a froth at seeing all those stars on stage together. It’s a great way to kick off the weekend, as it builds a ton of momentum right off the jump. Think of it like opening a game with a 6-run first inning. My favorite part of the Convention, however, comes right after that.
That’s because a lot of Cubs bloggers, beat writers, and fans find their way across the street to a small corner pub called Lizzie McNeill’s. While the place goes from clandestine to cacophonous, it’s like a real-life version of Cubs Twitter. I met literally dozens of people with whom I’d previously only interacted online, which was both really weird and really great at the same time. I hope to do more of the same this weekend, particularly now that there are even more people I’d like to meet in real life.
If you plan on being there, be sure to come up and introduce yourself. If you come bearing gifts of beer, I might even have a free shirt for you (though I only have one shirt, so it’s really just a super-limited first-come, first served basis). I’m a really garrulous person by nature, but generally only after I’ve gotten to know you a bit. I’m not necessarily the one out front shaking hands and kissing babies, so you’re more likely to find me sitting quietly in observation for a while as I get the lay of the land.
Another plus for me when it comes to this year’s Convention is that my wife will actually be in Chicago with me (sorry, ladies). She’ll actually be in town to visit the American Girl store with our daughter, who has been saving for the trip for the last year. But after they’re done, Mrs. Cubs Insider will be joining me while my daughter heads home with my mom. I think we’re planning on finding a spot to grab beers and take in the late NFC playoff game Saturday, which should be not terrible.
When you get down to it, the Cubs Convention can be either tremendous or tedious. It all depends on your preferences and personality, not to mention how you approach the situation. It’s something I think every fan should experience at least once, as describing it just doesn’t do justice to the rounds of high-test Cubs cocktails you’re served. Some find it intoxicating, some just get a little green around the gills. Me? I’m somewhere in the middle.
It’s the people that really make the event though, and while Prepared Statement Guy (I was standing right behind him last year and captured a full video of his speech, which I’ve since made private) and Lady with A Million Pins in Her Hat make me both weary and wary, there’s no question that their hearts are in the right place. You’ve got families, couples, and individuals of all ages just soaking up the what has got to be the best fan event in baseball. Despite my aforementioned stand-offishness, I’m really looking forward to meeting and making a few friends. Then again, maybe I should be more realistic about my chances of that…
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) January 11, 2016
Love you too, @Cubs. And I mean that; the folks in the team’s communications department were nice enough to come through with a full-fledged media credential for me. I’m getting a little swoony just thinking about the opportunity to rub elbows with Brett¹ and Sahadev and Carrie and Bruce and Bruce and (gasp!) Ryan Davis, not to mention using those same elbows to move bystanders aside as I big-league my way to the media area. I’m not sure how many posts I’ll be able to bang out, but I do plan to be really active on Twitter and Periscope though, so follow me on those platforms if you don’t already for some live comments and video.
¹I’m not being self-deprecating when I say that I’m decidedly small-time when it comes to the world of Cubs bloggers. Many of you already know that, but it’s funny to see just how popular some of these folks are, particularly Brett Taylor of Bleacher Nation. I’ve gained a bit more notoriety and respect over the past year, but I’m willing to bet I could make it through the evening at Lizzie’s without being approached by a fan I’ve not already met. That’s not the case for folks like Sahadev Sharma or John Arguello (who has moved to AZ and thus will not be terrorizing the bar’s supply of scotch on Friday), both of whom have their own significant followings. But seeing gaggles of fans effectively sequester Brett last season in order to gain an audience with him was something else. People actually asked him to autograph a baseball. At the same time, Bruce Miles went largely unmolested as he stood in the middle of the bar, though I did fall over myself to buy him a beer.
While it’s largely manufactured by those of us who live in this world, seedy underbelly of “real” journalism that it is, the unsanctioned after-hours even on Friday is a real testament to just how powerful alternative media has become. I would also point to the fact that several of us are being credentialed as media, something that was not true even a year ago. More and more, people are choosing to get their Cubs news and opinions from from independent, online outlets. And while some remain untrusting of blogs/bloggers — and for good reason in some cases, though I’d argue that more traditional media is at least as susceptible to the sirens’ song of clickbait — the fact remains that we’re a real force, and one that’s growing every day. So thanks for reading and for supporting this and other sites.
this is no joke. There will be a queue. https://t.co/4WUNO8VzLS
— Harry Pavlidis, one dog and no parodies. (@harrypav) January 13, 2016