Last week, self appointed President of Cubs Fandom Al Yellon decided to explain once and for all why he has been, and remains, a Chicago Cubs fan. Â I wanted to just ignore it, I really did. Â But then some of you decided I justÂ hadÂ to read it, and once it started, my fate was sealed.
Some of you — at times, most of you — have wondered why I keep going to every home Cubs game, and continue to keep my season tickets.
Let’s just say for a minute you are paid to write about the Cubs, as a fan, and you do it and apparently lots of people ask why you’re doing it, wouldn’t you take that as a sign that they wish somebody other than you was doing it?
You’d have to be somewhat self-aware for that to cross your mind. Â Thankfully, Al is the least self-aware ninny in the universe.
Part of why I do that, of course, is to cover the games for this site.
“Partly, I do it because I’m worried you might enjoy games if I wasn’t here to tell you why you shouldn’t. Â I don’tÂ wantÂ to do it, I just feel I owe it to you.”
But there’s quite a bit more, and I’m not sure I’ve ever told the whole story here, and I thought this might be a good time to tell it.
I like how he’s pretty sure he’s told bits and pieces of this epic tale. Â Like if Homer had published excerpts of the Illiad on his greeceyhomey.blogspot.com site back in the day.
I graduated college in 1978, coming back to Chicago to live full-time.
Property values weren’t quite low enough so Al had to move back to bottom them out for everybody.
Through the 1978 season, I had, by an odd coincidence, attended an exact round number of games at Wrigley Field — 100 of them.
Coincidences aren’t the only thing odd about you.
So, have you always kept track of how many games you’ve attended? Â We breathlessly await your answer.
Yes, I keep count, as you know from my post at the 50th anniversary of my first game, last July.
Most of those were in the bleachers, some not; I generally just sat anywhere I felt like, not choosing any particular location,
Like a normal non-obsessively compulsive person?
in those days I chose mostly right field.
Well, Bobby Murcer did have a great ass.
Don’t remember, really; it just felt like the right place to be.
All of the big names were hanging out in right field in the late ’70s. Â Sinatra, Lennon, Gary Coleman, Greg Evigan…
In the winter of 1978-79 I met and began sitting with a group of fans in the right-field bleachers that was the heir of a group that had been coming to Wrigley literally since it opened.
The winter, of course, is the best time to sit in the bleachers at Wrigley, especially since 1971 when the Bears moved to Soldier(s) field.
Among those men (and in those days, it was virtually all men; women didn’t begin to come to the bleachers in large numbers until the mid-1980s)
Just some manly men sitting in rows on planks of wood in the middle of the winter at Wrigley Field. Â Nothing strange about that. Â Pants were optional, naturally, but one thing wasn’t optional–your feelings. Â You brought them, you shared them, and nobody judged you. Â Ever!
Among those men was a retired working man we called “Papa Carl”; he would tell us tales of seeing Babe Ruth bat there in the 1932 World Series.
“He loved it when we called him Big Papa and we threw our hands in the air like we was real players.”
Also, how perfect that one of Al’s “friends” would tell stories about seeing an opposing player during a Cubs World Series. Â I’ll bet Papa Carl would have rooted for Tom Glavine to win his 300th game at Wrigley just like Al did.
Oddly enough, Carl was born in 1908.
Not sure how odd that is. Â Was he the only human born that year?
By the late 1970s Carl had a glass eye
Well, of course he did…
the scar from being hit by a baseball
but still came early to the ballpark, every day, to save seats for his group.
Carl invented the term, “I’ll keep my eye on these seats for you,” literally.
Carl died in 1985, but we have carried on his legacy in spirit.
“And we honor that legacy by not sitting anywhere near where that creepy one-eyed bastard sat.”
If you’re familiar with what the bleachers looked like before the 2005-06 renovation,
Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Â What? Â Oh, sorry, I fell asleep from all that not giving a shit about Al’s architectural tour of the world’s most overpriced general admission seating.
Our little benches no longer existed after the reconstruction.
Nobody ever said you could take a hint.
That’s when our group decided to move to the left-field corner perch we now occupy. Of that group I met in 1979, about four of us have been there every year since.
Perch is a perfect example of what you old hens do out there, too.
the current group includes a number of people who joined us in the late 1990s, so much of the current “core” of us has been together for at least 15 years.
Fifteen years of doggedly assuring that nobody in the left field bleachers accidentally enjoys themselves. Â That’s a legacy to be proud of.
Those of you who have sat with me in the left-field corner have met most if not all of these people; some come nearly every day, some less often, but they are all part of our Wrigley family.
I have had the pleasure of sitting with Al in the left field bleachers. Â #thingsnobodysays
And that’s really my point; while it’s certainly been about baseball and witnessing baseball history and some winning and a lot of losing, it’s also been about making lifelong friends. Â About having it feel like family — in addition to making close friends in my own group, there is a much larger number of longtime regulars, most of them also season-ticket holders, who I have become friends with over the years. We attend weddings and funerals and share life milestones with each other.
“We’re not invited to the weddings and funerals, we just like free food.”
All of this was captured in a book called “Wrigley Regulars”,
This is why print is dying, publishing houses can’t even proofread titles? Â They spelled “irregulars” wrong.
It was written by Holly Swyers, who is anÂ associate professor of anthropology at Lake Forest College.
I love that Al doesn’t think it’s odd that an anthropologist chose to study his weird little shrewdness of apes in the left field corner. Â Jane Gooddall had David Greybeard…
…Holly Swyers has Al.
Beyond that, Holly is one of us — she has been a personal friend of mine for 15 years.
She prefers the term “subject” but tomato, tomato.
The book was written in part to be used as a college classroom text
For the course Social Mutations Among Sports Fanatics.
Holly often brings her students on field trips to the bleachers
“You can observe from here. Â Don’t go near his bologna sandwich, that one bites.”
it’s also written in a way that is easily accessible to the non-academic reader.
Official reading level classification: Moron -1.
Go buy Holly’s book (Amazon linkÂ — and no, she did not put me up to this). Read it. After you do, you’ll understand much better why I feel the way I do about going to Wrigley Field, and why I go every single day.
Spoiler alert — it’s a conditioned reflex.
Holly and I were both interviewed forÂ this 2007 article inÂ Psychology Today.
It’s worth a read. Â The writer makes a case that fans like Yellon don’t really want the Cubs to win because so much of their identity is wrapped up in martyrdom–of suffering along with the misfortunes of the team. Â I have no doubt this is true for Al. Â If the Cubs ever do win a World Series he’ll be happy for like five minutes and then have no idea what to do with himself. Â Other than go browbeat more readers in the comments section of his blog.
I hope this helps you understand better where I come from as a Cubs fan.
It doesn’t. Â At all, actually.
You all have your own stories; many of you have posted them here before. Feel free to share more of those stories in the comments.
“And, I’ll feel free to tell you how wrong all of you are.”