By Dave Wischnowsky–
Wrigley Field football is dead.
Or is it long live football at Wrigley Field?
Last Friday morning, when it was announced that both offenses in the Allstate Wrigleyville Classic would head only west due to the Unfriendly Confines of the ballpark’s east end zone, it was widely assumed that such news was the death knell for any future pigskin play at the corner of Clark & Addison.
But, perhaps, it wasn’t.
Despite watching his Wildcats get trounced by Illinois like they were the Cubs, NU coach Pat Fitzgerald said after the 48-27 ballgame that he loves the idea of playing football at Wrigley Field (not surprising) and that he hopes that Saturday’s game wasn’t the last time for the sport there (somewhat surprising).
Fitzgerald also said, however, that for a Northwestern football sequel to happen at Wrigley, his athletic director, Jim Phillips, would also have to give his thumb’s up.
“I’d ask him what he wanted to do because he’s the boss. I just do what I’m told,” Fitzgerald said. “I thought everything leading up to it was great and obviously they had GameDay here and the atmosphere was pretty spectacular.”
That it was. (Cold, too – especially from Section 503 along Waveland Avenue, where I sat shivering during the game.)
Now, considering the safety concerns that led to Saturday’s one-way wackiness, if there is to ever be football again at Wrigley, no doubt the NCAA – and not just Jim Phillips – would have something to say about it.
But if it is possible to better fit a 120-yard football configuration (including the end zones) inside the cozy ballpark – could diagonally from home to center field possibly work? – I’d like to see it tried. Saturday’s electric late-autumn atmosphere at Wrigley needs an encore performance, whether it’s Northwestern, Illinois, Notre Dame or some other team playing football there.
Say, like, the Bears.
From 1921 to 1970, the Bears called Wrigley Field home, and in one of my favorite bits of Chicago sports trivia, have still played more games at the Friendly Confines than they have at Soldier Field.
Considering that history, I can think of few things cooler than seeing the Monsters of the Midway take the field once again at Wrigley for an NFL tilt against Green Bay or Minnesota.
Besides the funky field-safety issues, the biggest hang-up to a Bears game likely would be revenue with Wrigley Field fitting in 41,058 fans for Saturday’s college game compared to the 61,500 that fill Soldier Field seats on Sundays.
But, hey, if the Bears could find sponsors or other creative revenue streams to sweeten the pot for what would be a truly amazing affair at Wrigley, they should make it happen.
The game could even be scheduled for a weekend with weather that’s a little warmer than the kind we had on Saturday.
Such as one in October.
After all, we already know the Cubs won’t be using Wrigley then.
If nothing else, Dave Wischnowsky is an Illinois boy. Raised in Bourbonnais, educated at the University of Illinois and bred on sports in the Land of Lincoln, he now resides on Chicago’s North Side, just blocks from Wrigley Field. Formerly a reporter and blogger for the Chicago Tribune, Dave currently writes a syndicated column, The Wisch List, which you can check out via his blog at http://www.wischlist.com.