"God Bless the Dream, the Dreamer and the Result." 

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

An Unconventional Approach to the Cubs

Written by: Bob Rehak
Edited by: Matthew Bradwell
Joboja Staff Writers

There is a difference between Cubs and White Sox fans that can be summed up in one word: passion.

Passion for the game, passion for the team, passion for winning (this one's a desperate passion) and yes, a passion for Wrigley Field.
As a Cubs fan, I have to laugh, roll my eyes and generally turn away in disgust every time a Sox fan says that the only reason Cubs fans go to the games is for the ambiance in and around Wrigley. While it's true that Wrigley is God's favorite place to watch a game, (why else would He have season tickets?), the stadium only adds to the passion; it does not fuel it. And I can prove it, every January, without fail.

While Sox fans sit at home in January, counting down the days to that first important game of the season (this year it's June 20 – the first game at Wrigley), we Cubs fans made the trek to the Chicago Hilton and Towers for our annual Cubs Convention. The Cubs Convention sold out this year in 10 minutes. Soxfest tickets went on sale January 8 and is at the Palmer House January 26 and 27 and still has tickets available. I just checked yesterday. It's $70 for a 2-day pass to Soxfest (the Cubs Convention costs $50 for a 3 day pass – draw your own conclusions).
What does the Cubs Convention prove? That Wrigley is a bonus, not a draw, and that Sox fans will support the team on occasion, if they feel like it. In the middle of January, with record cold outside, we packed the Convention again this year. No Wrigley, no sunshine, no bleachers. There was Ronnie "Woo-Woo" Wickers, however. Hey, even a filet mignon gets a hair in it once in a while.

Cubs fans have a passion that perhaps only Red Sox and Cardinals fans can understand. We think about our team all the time. Our Christmas presents are wrapped in Cub-logoed paper and what's inside usually has the Cubs logo printed on it somewhere.
We recognize each other's scent. Every time I'm out of town and I'm wearing a Cubs shirt (that I got for Christmas), strangers will invariably say, "Go Cubs" as they walk by. It's kind of like when two Harley riders pass each other on the highway and give each other that nod - except when a Cubs fan waves to you he doesn't lose control and hit a guardrail.
Check out any away Cubs game on TV this season, and you'll see a nice sprinkling of Cubbie-blue in the stands, every time, every game. Once again, there is no Wrigley, no bleachers, and hopefully no "Woo-Woo." So what's the draw in, say, Washington, D.C. of a Cubs-Nationals game for our fans? Why, it can only be the team and passion for a win.
I've been taking my kids to the Convention for years. It's a great time for Cubs fans. The hotel is sold out since August. It's wall to wall Cubbie blue. I think even the eggs at the $16.25 breakfast buffet were blue, but I may have been seeing things.

Past and present Cubs players are at the convention, and yes, you can get just about anyone's autograph, if you know the secret.

The secret is Tupperware.

Players are used to grown men bringing bats and jerseys to sign in one hand, and a laptop connected to Ebay in the other, so they generally don't stop to sign for anyone over 18 - especially if you're wearing a t-shirt that says, www.CubsSignedMemorabiliaForSaleAndProfit.com .

Sometimes it's hard for them to distinguish between the profiteers and the passioneers. That's where the Tupperware comes in. Last year I got on the elevator with Rod Beck, former reliever for the Cubs. There were 10 other people in the elevator, and you could tell that The Shooter was holding his breath like a 5th grader in Math class who forgot to study, not wanting to draw too much attention. I was on my way to warm up some mashed potatoes for my son. I looked at Rod. Then I looked at the taters. Seemed like a match made in heaven.

So I said, "Hey, Rod, will you sign my son's mashed potatoes?"

I doubt that there is a celebrity alive who can ignore that request. He broke his elevator-ceiling-stare and looked at me and said, "Are you serious? Sure I'll sign your son's mashed potatoes."

And he did, right on the blue lid of the Tupperware. He knew that this was one item that wasn't going on Ebay, especially since I didn't have a Certificate of Authenticity to go with it, although the mashed potatoes had been certified by the FDA.
This year I employed the same tactic, but I mixed it up a little bit. Oatmeal container, orange lid. As the players and coaches walk through the hotel, they usually have a security detail with them who clears the way and says, "No autographs, no autographs." They like to make you wait in an orderly line at a prescribed time for autographs. But that's for other people. I had to pick my spot and my target.

Who looked like an oatmeal kind of guy? Lou Piniella seemed like a match. I purposely peeked in on the end of one of his seminars and waited patiently as fans bum-rushed him afterwards, holding up baseballs, jerseys, and bats for him to sign.
As he started to walk out of the room, I triangulated in my head where he would be in another 90 seconds, kind of a Cubs-GPS type thing. I went upstairs and found an empty hallway and waited. Sure enough, 89 seconds later there was Lou, walking with some other coaches, players, and a security guard.
"Lou, will you sign my son's oatmeal?"

He slammed on the brakes. I think Larry Rothschild bumped into him.

"Sure, I'll sign your oatmeal." Ahhhhh, the power of plastic.

Sadly, Rod Beck passed away last year. My son thinks I may have jinxed him with the mashed potatoes. So I realized I was taking a chance with Lou Piniella this year, which is one reason why I went with the oatmeal. If the Cubs don't win it all this year, us Cubs fans will still keep that passion. And at next year's sold out convention I'll have someone else sign a new container. Maybe that one will have goat cheese in it.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the Tipperware tip. I'm a Sox fan, so I don't really understand the Cub fascination. I'll have to trust you that waiting 100 years for a championship is somehow worth it.

Anonymous said...

not a chicago native, but my life more or less revolves around baseball. i gotta say i love going cubs games a hell of alot more than going to sox games (both are fun, but nothing beats those wrigley bleachers)

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure that there is anything as true and loyal as a Cub fan. Cardinal fans flock to see their team across the nation, too, but are known to give up on the season in June if things aren't going their way. I don't give up until the Cubs are mathematically eliminated, and even then I am likely to believe they could somehow still do it.