Cubs Fail

Cubs Fail

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A realistic Wrigley Field survey

The Cubs are polling fans on possible changes in store for Wrigley Field, as I wrote about in today’s story in the Tribune.

Naturally, they neglected to ask the questions that need to be answered about the real issues at the ballpark, the ones we deal with on an everyday basis. So here’s my own Quality Assessment Survey on Wrigley Field:

1. Should Ronnie Woo be confined to one section of the ballpark when shouting “Cubs Woo,” creating a Woo-Free Zone for the rest of the fans?

2. Do you believe fans should be ejected for starting The Wave?

3. Would you be in favor of Alfonso Soriano paying attention to the game all the time, or should he be allowed to continue to turn around between pitches to watch the goings-on in the bleachers?

4. Given the choice of which owner should be the spokesman on Cubs-related issues, do you prefer  “Undercover Todd” Ricketts or Tom Ricketts?

5. Should the team psychiatrist be allowed to participate in the high-five line with players after Cub wins?

6. Is caviar an acceptable pre-game option in the Cubs clubhouse?

7. Do you approve of the use of a giant noodle or any other member of the food pyramid as an advertisement outside of Wrigley?

8. Should the Harry Caray statue be moved on an annual basis?

9. Would you be in favor of a new “Supersized” pricing tier to go along with Marquee, Platinum, Gold, Silver and Bronze tiers?

10. Should the Cubs build a lounge for Carlos Zambrano’s entourage?

Thanks for taking the survey. My friend Owen made this handy survey dealio to help me out, since I am blogospherically challenged.

Unlike the Cubs, I’ll publish the results later.

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National Pastime: Rest In Peace

Looks like the end of the world as we knew it has officially arrived:

A regular season football game between Pittsburgh and New Orleans drew more viewers last night than Game 4 of the World Series between Texas and San Francisco. 

The reasons for this are varied, but the biggest problems, in my view, are:

1. The players. There are no players on either team that anyone cares about. Despite all the hype surrounding Josh Hamilton, most fans still see view him as a former junkie with a bit of talent, which he is. The Giants have no stars at all, except for starter Tim Lincecum, and won Game 4 with what may have been the worst lineup of any team in World Series history. As much as everyone hates the Yankees, at least they have A-Rod, Jeter, C.C., Rivera and some other household names. 

2.  is so overexposed he may one day be looked upon as the “Snookie” of professional play-by-play men. (Memo to Joe Buck: Stick to one sport, please, preferably football.) Another negative is that Buck’s partner, Tim McCarver, just wont shut up. Bob Costas and Tony Kubek, we miss you.

3. The games have been dreadfully dull, as evidenced by the giant, Texas-sized yawn Laura Bush let out during the ninth inning of Sunday night’s game.  

4. The Pittsburgh Steelers are the most popular NFL team, and New Orleans is the defending champion. Even though it was a relatively dull game, at least it was close. 

5. It was Halloween night. Everyone believes the baseball season should be over by the time trick-or-treating begins. But the MLB powers-that-be have no clue, so we’ll continue to see baseball being played on Halloween and into November. In fact, Bud Selig said they’ll probably add another tier of wild card games in 2012. Maybe by then the World Series can outdraw the Lions game on Thanksgiving Day.

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Can’t we all just get along?

Back in March at HoHoKam Park in Mesa, Ariz., I was sitting in the stands having a discussion about the Cubs chances of going to the World Series with presidential advisor David Axelrod, an old colleague at the Trib, when out of nowhere appeared George Will, the conservative columnist and TV talking head. Here they are sitting in the row in front of me. 

Axelrod introduced me. Will politely said hello and then he proceeded to ignore me, talking about the ongoing health care debate with Axelrod. I listened to this for awhile, got bored and headed back to the press box to write something about the Cubs’ game. 

Axelrod later sent me an email apologizing for the interruption, and seemed embarrassed by the episode. I’m quite sure he didn’t come to Arizona to talk about health care, and was much more interested in relaxing with his family and watching the Cubs. 

I never really cared for George Will, who seemed like a smug, snooty, Washington insider. That was the way Royko usually portrayed him, and after the brief meeting at HoHoKam Park, I learned the Old Man was right again.

But now that Election Day is nearing and we’re bombarded with negative ads everytime we turn on the TV or radio, it’s comforting to know that two polar opposites like David Axelrod and George Will can at least have in intelligent discussion about important issues without trying to strangle each other.

Maybe the country would run much more smoothly if everyone was a Cubs fan. (Or maybe I just wanted to post a picture of David Axelrod and George Will.)

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Shawon-O-Meter

Always have to pick sides in the World Series to make it worth watching, and this year I’m rooting for the Giants. It has nothing to do with the teams or the players or the cities, though San Francisco vs. Arlington is one of the great mismatches of all-time. Simply put, I’d like to see Giants coach Shawon Dunston get a ring.

Shawon was one of Mike Royko’s favorite Cubs, and we had a lot of long discussions about whether he’d ever make it in the majors. (OK, I listened, and he spoke). When the Cubs threatened to trade the erratic shortstop after the 1990 season, Royko penned a classic tribute to his beloved Shawon: 

“(Of) all the flailing Cubs batsmen I`ve seen, none displayed as much public agony and suffering as did Dunston. I`m sure many of you saw what I saw through the pitiless eye of the centerfield camera. The pitcher whips the ball toward the plate. The pitcher knows it`s going to be outside. The catcher knows it`s going to be outside. All the players on both teams know it. The organist knows it. The hot dog vendors know it. The drunken bleacherites know it. The Yuppie freeloaders on the rooftops know it.  Harry knows it, which could be the most terrible fate of all.

And, of course, Shawon knows it because even the most dim-witted of
million-dollar pitchers has enough sense to throw the ball outside to him.

But Shawon can`t help himself. It`s like a vile, self-destructive addiction. And
as the ball sails away, closer to first base than to home plate, he lunges,
hacks, spins, stumbles. Then he seizes the bat by the fat end, his jaw muscles
ripple, his eyes bulge, his Adam`s apple jiggles, and he stalks back to the dugout with the look of a man wishing he had a window out of which to fling himself.”

The point of the column was that naturally, the Cubs were going to deal Dunston after he finally figured out the strike zone. This annoyed the hell out of Royko, who ended his classic piece with a veiled threat:

“Cub management, don`t tempt our wrath. There are some of us who remember the trading away of Andy Pafko, Lou Brock, Ken Holtzman and, more recently, Joe Carter. All home-grown Cubs.

I work for the same outfit that owns the Cubs, but that doesn`t matter. You ship that lad out, and, so help me, I`ll have you in Family Court.”

I’ve seen Shawon many times over the years, and he still considers himself a Cub at heart. So here’s hoping this old Cub gets his ring. I’m sure Royko would approve.

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Remembering the Dean

 Jerome Holtzman was the Dean of Chicago baseball scribes, and an inspiration to me. I try to remember the lessons I learned from him in my everyday life, whether I’m working a clubhouse or just hacking off.  His ubiquitous cigar smoke is ineliby etched in my nostrils, and I’ll never forget the sight of Jerome in his boxers in a dark hotel room on Arlington, Texas, trying to figure out how to get his laptop to work and asking me for advice. After I got it up and running, I said: “Jerome, do me a favor and don’t smoke when you’re writing because the cigar ashes fall in the cracks of the keyboard and mess it up.” He gave me a puzzled look and responded: “Well then how am I supposed to write?” Good question. He’d spent his entire life writing and smoking at the same time, and who was I to tell him to change as he neared the end of a distinguished career. “OK,” I said. “But just get an ash tray… and use it.” He used an empty glass from the hotel bathroom the rest of the day. I don’t know if he ever took my advice, but I doubt it, and who cares. He was the Dean, and he could do whatever he wanted to.

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