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The Cubs made a movie that nobody asked for
The documentary on the renovations is long, pointless and perfectly Ricketts
Last week, the Garbage Family That Owns The Cubs™ held a little party to celebrate the completion of renovations at Wrigley Field and they gave themselves a plaque. No, seriously, they did. Here it is:
Let’s all take a minute to queue up Michael Keaton from Multiplicity.
They also threw some other plaques on a wall under the bleachers and acted like they’d given their “new” Hall of Fame a lot of thought. Mike D. and I ran down all 56 members of that hall on last week’s Remember This Crap podcast.
But that wasn’t all. They also debuted a movie on the remodeling of Wrigley and made people watch it on the big screens inside the park. And the thing’s an HOUR long. Who’s gonna watch that?
Well, at the suggestion of my friend Jon Greenberg, I guess I am.
Well, if I have to watch it, you’re going to “watch” it along with me.
So here we go:
That’s Lieutenant Dan! Gary Sinise. I guess Bill Petersen was too busy to narrate it. Hey, can we watch Manhunter instead? No? Fine.
“While baseball has changed, the friendly confines endured.” That doesn’t sound good. “Endured” sounds like the old ballpark was passing a kidney stone.
“Many felt Wrigley Field had reached its demise. Instead, the Cubs launched an improbable decade-long effort to preserve and restore an icon of baseball and a hallmark of American history. This is the story of ‘Saving Wrigley Field.’”
Oh, come on. Did anybody really think Wrigley was beyond repair? Every rich asshole who submitted a bid to buy the Cubs from the Tribune knew that they were going to have to sink a shitload of money into the park. This wasn’t a heroic venture against insurmountable odds. This was buying a house with sewage backing up through the pipes and having to pay to have it fixed so you could actually live in it.
Hey, it’s our pal Tom Ricketts. Did you know he met his wife in the Wrigley bleachers? Somebody should really tell that story incessantly and act like it’s true.
“I like to think that we have three kinds of fans,” Oh boy. This is going to be awful. “We have the kind of fan who was born to be a Cubs fan. Their parents were Cubs fans, like you inherited the team.” Don’t blame this on our moms and dads, Tommy. “Then we have millions of fans all over the country, largely because of ‘GN.” You guys remember WGN, right? That was back when the games were on free TV before we “fixed” things with our ever popular Marquee Sports Network. “But, there’s a third fan. They walk into Wrigley Field and they take that first breath inside of Wrigley and say… “Holy crap, are we standing IN the urinal trough right now?”…I’m a fan of this team.”
Wait, what? What was the third type of fan? They walk in and breathe and that’s it? Are they huffing the Cubs?
And then Tom states the obvious and says that when they bought (by that I’m sure he means when daddy bought) the Cubs that part of the deal was that they’d have to fix the park. He says they didn’t know what to expect about the condition of Wrigley. Really? They didn’t look around? Maybe spend a couple hundred bucks on a home inspector.
Oh, good, look who’s up.
I would sit through a doc three times this long if at some point they would explain how it is that this creep has kept his job.
Crane says he joined the team in 1994 and then he says some stuff about how they’d heard that the building was in bad shape, but how was he to know? He’d only worked for the company that owned the team and the building for FIFTEEN years.
Crane talks about the times in 2003 when Wrigley would have brown outs during games. I always assumed those were due to Chip Caray using his hairdryer between innings. Then in 2004 hunks of concrete started falling off the place. If Crane’s job in this part was to explain how unaware GarFam was that the park was in shitty shape when they bought it, he probably shouldn’t be giving very public examples from several years before the purchase.
Then, and I’m not making this up, Crane explains that during a Jimmy Buffett concert at Wrigley in 2005 the park started swaying when thousands of drunk, Hawaiian shirt wearing investment bankers and their third wives started doing the “fins to the left, fins to the right” thing.
Only Crane would try to give himself street cred by bragging he went to a Buffett concert. Look, Wrigley nearly fell down when Sammy homered off Ugueth Urbina in game one of the 2003 NLCS and even more so when Kerry Wood homered in game seven, there’s no need to go all Margaritaville on us.
Crane very dramatically says that “Effectively as we reached the 100th anniversary, time had run out on Wrigley Field.” Perhaps by the 200th anniversary time will run out on Crane’s inexplicable Cubs’s career.
Lt. Dan reminds us that since 1914 Wrigley Field has been a big part of the Lakeview neighborhood, and he’s not wrong. You know, that’s a long time. So long that everybody who has lived there for generations did so knowing there was a baseball stadium in the neighborhood. Many, if not most of them, moved there BECAUSE there’s a baseball stadium in the neighborhood. If you think I’m about to get irritated when the neighbors bitch about night games or people pissing in their yards, well, I am.
Now we get Marc Ganis, a self-professed “sports stadium expert.” He’s a consultant who helped steer the Tribune sale of the Cubs. And who did they sell to?
Well, I’m sure he’s going to give us an unbiased, unvarnished look at things.
Ganis got sued by some rooftop owners in 2014 for defamation for saying they were “carpetbaggers” who “steal” views of games. More recently, he’s been the go to for quotes on what a great job Crane and the Cubs are doing with Marquee and how all of the vast amounts of money from that venture will go to “the players, Wrigley Field and [then Cubs president] Theo Epstein.” It’s no coincidence he’s in a Ricketts friendly, team made propaganda flick.
Anyway, now we get the lady from Citizens United for Baseball in the Sunshine talking about how awful it was that the Cubs wanted to put lights on a baseball stadium and there’s this whole thing about day games constipating players or something. I know the current team has the opposite effect on my bowels.
Ganis points out that the lights saga showed that “there was going to be a battle any time the Cubs tried to make improvements to the stadium,” which also means that lawyers and sports stadium consultants would show up with their hands out to “help.” Funny how that seems to work.
Heather Way Kitzes, the former executive director of the Lakeview Chamber of Commerce says that when the Ricketts bought the Cubs that, “I think people were skeptical and mostly afraid.” And they were right to be, Heather.
At the introductory press conference Tom said, “We are Cubs fans with deep Chicago roots.” By way of Omaha.
Hey, look who showed up for the press conference! No, not Rick Morrissey and Bruce Miles.
Ryan Dempster’s Ricketts family ass kissing started from the very beginning, didn’t it?
That’s just a year after he walked seven Dodgers in game one of the NLDS. Have I ever mentioned that before? I have? Yeah, well, I’m never going to stop.
Look at Jim Hendry. He’s knows he’s fired. He’s not sure when it’ll happen, but he knows it’s coming, and the worst part for him isn’t getting fired, it’s having to sit between Crane and Ryan.
“Unlike the battle over lights, the Cubs would tackle doubts from the neighborhood head on as they planned for renovations.” Holy shit. Gary’s a better actor than I thought. How could he say that with a straight face?
Lakeview Heather says the Ricketts did dozens of community meetings to build trust from the neighborhood. Yeah. Tom slummed it by going to a few taverns and Elks Lodges and Lions Clubs to let fans yell at him, fully expecting that the city and state would write him a big check for his trouble. It was never about “building trust” it was about checking boxes, and it nearly worked.
Tom Tunney, the Garbage Family’s favorite alderman, says bluntly (and correctly), “I think we’ve been good to the Cubs, but I don’t think it will ever be enough.”
Ganis says that over the last 40 or 50 years, there have been 40 baseball stadiums built and almost all of them have received some sort of public financing. He gives the example of the state and city ponying up all the money for the White Sox stadium (whatever it’s called now) and their renovations.
Then Crane chimes in to say that Rahm Emanuel was the reason the Cubs had to pay for their own shit. Far from me to side with Rahm on anything, but the city was about to cut a deal that would have funneled $150 million of amusement tax money back to the Cubs for stadium renovations. But then it leaked that daddy, Joe Ricketts’ Super PAC was planning to run racist ads against Barack Obama in his reelection campaign for president. It’s always a good sign when Tom has to issue this statement while he’s trying to negotiate a deal with Obama’s former chief of staff:
“As chairman of the Chicago Cubs, I repudiate any return to racially divisive issues in this year’s presidential campaign or in any setting — like my father has.”
Now we get to the rooftop stuff, and it’s interesting how they use the team’s inability to get public financing as the sole reason they needed to put signs and video boards up which would block the views of the rooftops. Yeah, it’s completely believable that had the city and state kicked in enough money to fix the stadium that they wouldn’t have done any of that. Sure. Whatever.
The rooftop owners threaten to sue to stop the signs and boards from going up and Gary uses his serious voice to claim that it nearly killed the renovation project, and that’s why the Cubs had to pretend they might move to Rosemont.
Crane says they “quietly, behind the scenes explored what it would mean if we left Wrigley.” Yeah, it was so quiet that we heard about all of it in real time. It’s not even worth wasting time pretending they were ever serious. It was a bluff, and a transparent and ineffective one, at that.
“So even with a lawsuit looming from the rooftops, the Cubs pushed on with their plans to preserve their longtime home, brick by crumbling brick…” Oh, come on, who wrote this? Did they hire an angsty teen?
Tom talks about how courageous they were to choose to spend to renovate the park when it could cost as much as building a new one, but without the modern amenities teams use to grow their payrolls. Our heroes! You know, I’m really starting to come around on these guys, they really do have our best interests at heart!
Blah, blah, blah. We meet the “all-star team of architects” one of whom is clearly Sam Smith being paid to pretend (George Costanza style) that he’s an architect.
He says the Ricketts were so committed to doing it right that they said they’d pay whatever it took even if it went over budget. Hah! Sure. I’ll bet it was great to convince them to sign off on change orders.
They toured the country looking at renovated sports stadiums like Lambeau Field, Madison Square Garden, the Rose Bowl, Augusta National (they just wanted to play golf) and “of course” Fenway Park. Crane says they needed to do all that research so they could determine what parts of Wrigley must be saved. All of that pricey research led them to decide they had to keep the ivy, the marquee and the scoreboard. Well, no shit.
Tom says they had “the worst facilities in baseball.” And Theo makes an appearance to say they were “comically bad.” Guys, Oakland Coliseum is a thing that exists. So, knock it off.
Hey, it’s Carl Rice!
Carl’s haircut is what you get when you can’t decide whether to tell the barber you want the Mo or the Shemp.
Next is a cool part where they show the early renovations to the park when they cut it into sections and horses dragged those sections back so they could expand it, and then they added the upper deck and the bleachers and scoreboard, and Colin Faulkner chimes in (wearing a sweater under his suit coat) to say, “Wrigley is perfectly imperfect.” Shut up, nerd. Nobody asked you.
The architects seemed shocked that when they opened up the building that the structure needed support added. Gee. Ya think? A 100 year old building wasn’t up to current code? You don’t say. They just detailed all of the haphazard remodeling that had happened over all those decades. Were any of them paying attention? Crane says they had planned on replating some steel to reinforce it and were shocked that it needed to be replaced. Come on, even you aren’t that dumb. Well, maybe.
They had to replace all of the big columns that hold up the upper deck and to do it they had to “float” Wrigley while they dug new ones. This part’s pretty cool. My dad and I jacked up our garage and moved it back 20 feet because when he and my uncle built it 30 years before they didn’t ask my mom where to put it and it blocked her view from the kitchen. I’m pretty sure it’s the same thing the Cubs did. Actually, our project was probably harder.
Now they seem shocked that the ivy on the outfield walls was ruining the brick wall. Well, of course it was. The insidious vines literally grow into the mortar. Anybody who’s ever had ivy grow on a brick house knows that ivy sucks more than it looks cool. But if you own a stadium that has an iconic ivy wall, you just plan to fix the wall every 80 fucking years or so and shut up about it.
Now we’re on to the drama of the video boards and how they needed to get them up before the 2015 Sunday night opener against the Cardinals. Ooh, the drama. I hope they hang their big TVs in time.
Crane then says the importance of the video board goes beyond showing replays and stats, it also provides revenues the team needs to keep paying their great players. Great timing on this, buddy. Impeccable.
Here’s Theo to tell us for the 5,000th time that the old clubhouse sucked. Yeah, we know. We heard about it.
The architects explain how they had to dig a big hole behind the stadium to put the new clubhouse underground and make sure Wrigley Field didn’t slide into the hole. Watching this year’s team, I think maybe they have slid into the hole.
They finished the clubhouse the day before the home opener in 2016 and here’s a shot of Theo giving John Lackey a tour and John, holding a Bud Light saying, “I’m not getting in that fucking clam.”
Crane says that there was a plan in 2012 that to save $100 million on the project they would have to play a future season somewhere other than Wrigley and that season would have been…2016.
I don’t believe that was ever seriously considered.
Now we’re on to the final phase of the project which was giving us all more places to pee. Oh, and Gallagher Way, which is, admittedly, really cool. Even if Laura thinks people use it for something called “Wiggleworms.” What the hell is that?
Oh, it’s some kids’ music thing. Whatever.
And it ends with Tom saying that on a sunny day, Wrigley is the best place on earth.
Especially when you see Andrew Romine pitching with the Cubs down by a dozen runs.
So that’s it. An hour long self-aggrandizement. Honestly, there’s probably a really interesting, fairly entertaining 12 minute video in there. One that doesn’t include Crane.
And where was Todd? No quotes from baby brother? We count on him saying really dumb things to entertain us.
Do the Ricketts deserve credit for the renovations to the park? Of course they do. Were many of the roadblocks they want credit for overcoming brought on by their own incompetence? Of course they were.
Their dad bought them a baseball team that played in a really cool, really old ballpark and they knew when they bought it they were going to have to fix it. And yet they somehow want us to believe it all caught them by surprise and it was Herculean effort to get it all done. Every inconvenience is a hardship to people who have never known an actual hardship.
So here they are, a few weeks after they ordered their payroll purged, talking about how fans should love the renovations to the park not because it makes the game experience better, but because of the new revenue streams it opened up. That’s a pretty hard pill to get people to swallow.
The best use of this video would have been to have saved it on a flash drive and put it in a drawer until the team playing in the renovated ballpark isn’t a complete embarrassment. Or for another 100 years. Whatever comes first.