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Opening Day

21 April 2010

As anyone who follows baseball knows, it was recently Opening Day here in Chicago, which meant it was only 148 days till college football starts again.

While clearly not an avid fan of the Great American Pastime, I do see the value of baseball to American culture: it’s a midsummer distraction designed to keep one in the sporting mood until the true tests of athletic prowess return in the fall. And in this, it excels.

What makes baseball great?
• It’s a day outside
• There’s plenty of ice cold Budweiser
• You’re among a coterie of like-minded, socially-lubricated observers
• Watching it is not concentration-intensive (which is good, considering Point 2)

Fortunately, Chicago offers two opportunities to participate in summer: the Cubs and Sox (yes, the Sox ARE technically within the city limits, but let’s face it, if there was a fire (haha, get it?) and Chicago had to pick a child to save, it’d be the Cubbies).

Each team offers a unique experience, though the beer is equally cold at both stadiums. A Sox game is a serious endeavor. Attendees are bona fide baseball fans and are genuinely concerned about the happenings on the field. And for good reason: the Sox actually win (at least recently: reference the National Championship title of 2005). A Cubbies game, however, is a debaucherous frat party. If you’re not wet-your-pants drunk before you get there, they won’t let you in. And like a frat party, no one really knows why they’re having the party, but that’s just another reason to drink. Odds are, you could remove the players from the field by the third inning, just play a tape of the announcer on an infinite loop, and the fans would never notice. Why is the actual game so irrelevant? Because: The. Cubbies. Never. Win. At least not in the last 102 years.

The new owners of the Cubs—the Ricketts family (there’s a lot of jokes in there…perhaps another post)—seem intent on making baseball in Chicago more than just a temporary distraction that ultimately ends in debilitating disappointment, however. They’ve adopted a new marketing campaign designating 2010 “Year One” for the Chicago Cubs. Clearly, they’re trying to simply erase the last 102 years of failure.

But why?

Chicago is a city steeped in tradition, and clearly, that tradition is scandal, failure and ultimate redemption. It’s like that for everyone from our politicians on down. Nothing embodies this more than the history of the Sox. The team went from maligned pariah following their throwing of the 1919 World Series to mediocre lollygaggers to an exalted example of Chicago’s return to relevance in sport following Jordan’s exit. Granted, it took nearly a hundred years, but is not redemption sweetest when it’s overdue?

It is.

But what the Ricketts’ campaign is forgetting is the key ingredient of scandal. Aside from that minor event with the goat, the Cubs’ record is fairly spotless. The closest thing to unsavory behavior in recent memory was Zambrano’s unmitigated destruction of that uppity Gatorade cooler. Hardly curse-breaking.

No, what the Cubs need is some good old-fashioned scandal to shake things up. Something big. On the order of Harry Caray’s mother being romantically involved with the aforementioned goat while the starting lineup bet on it. Clearly, the team’s already put in their time with failure, so after the scandal broke, we could move directly to redemption: the Cubbies could finally win and stop breaking drunken, drunken hearts.

Of course, if the Cubs did win out, we’d be in for a lot of fallout. I see it going down like this:
First, there’d first be a 20-minute delay, because that’s how long it would take the inebriated crowd to register that: a) the game was over, and b) the Cubs actually won. Then, there’d be an explosion of beer, barf, and North Sidery erupting in a mushroom cloud over Wrigleyville, raining down a hail of brown flip flops and North Face jackets with effects enough to make that Icelandic volcano look like a practice run.

It truly would take the city back to Year One. Just without Jack Black.

Go Tigers, and remember: 135 days till kickoff.

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