Wisch: In Defense Of The Cubs Fan

By Dave Wischnowsky–

CHICAGO (CBS) During the summertime, there are two things that I love.

One is the greatest city on Earth. And the other is the worst baseball team on the planet.

Yes, when it comes to Chicago and the Cubs, from June through September (let’s not talk about October), I usually have plenty of passion for both. However, of late, I’ve found myself overly frustrated with the town (enough with the rain) while experiencing increasing disenchantment with the team (enough with the losing).

Last week, though, Chicago’s spell of 90-degree days finally started to warm me up. But it wasn’t until Thursday afternoon when I read an Internet column horribly misrepresenting the current mindset of Cubs fans at Grantland.com – the much-ballyhooed national sportswriting website just launched by ESPN impresario Bill Simmons – that I really got hot.

And I’m still steaming today.

Here’s why: In a rambling piece boasting the trite headline, “Wrigley Is Wrigley, and Nothing Else Is,” atop the truly insulting subhead, “Who needs winning baseball at the ultimate neighborhood park?,” Grantland.com columnist Dave Eggers spends 1,800 oblivious words spinning stale stereotypes about Cubs fans and telling America that the vast majority of them really don’t care a lick about the sport.

And they care even less about winning.

In fact, the only thing that matters to the whole soft-headed bunch, Eggers explains, is that 97-year-old baseball cathedral at the corner of Clark and Addison.


It disappoints me to say that the column penned by Eggers – a talented Pulitzer Prize-nominated author and fellow University of Illinois alum – is the most out-of-touch piece of writing that I’ve ever read about Cubs fans. And I read a lot.

In fact, the column is so woefully tone deaf that on Friday my buddy Phil, a frustrated Cubs fan like myself, flashed me a stern look while we were discussing Eggers’ piece and said, “Someone needs to respond.” He then urged me to do so.

Now, I don’t often take fellow writers to task (and really don’t enjoy doing so), but I agreed with Phil that Eggers’ column – broadcast via Grantland to a vast national audience – was just so far off base.

That someone needed to pick it off.

In the baffling piece, it’s almost as if Eggers somehow tumbled into a time warp when he visited Wrigleyville last month for a ballgame (really, for a rooftop wedding bash) and stumbled out into 1997.

You know, back during a time when it was commonplace to criticize Cubs fans by claiming they all could come to Wrigley and leave happy even after a loss, just so long as Sammy hit a homer, the Budweiser was cold and the girls were hot.

Certainly there were – and are – a sizable number of fans who fit that disinterested bill (just like there are at any ballpark). But, welcome to 2011, Dave.

Things here on Chicago’s North Side have changed since you apparently last checked in, so allow me to get you up to speed. Because, what you clearly didn’t see from atop that Wrigleyville rooftop – which, again, isn’t a ballgame – is that the vast majority of Cubs fans nowadays are caught up in a complex fit of angst, anger and apathy so severe that no mere ballpark can cure it.

Not even Wrigley Field, a place I, too, love.

And as a result, the Friendly Confines, despite its charm, beer and beauty, is now attracting almost as many seagulls as it is fans. To wit, through 31 home dates so far in 2011, the Cubs’ average attendance is 34,818. That’s down from 37,814 last year and a far cry from the 39,610 the team drew per game just two seasons ago.

Beyond Eggers’ slew of sorry stereotypes, the thing that really chaps me about his column is that he’s supposed to be a so-called “Chicago” guy (the 41-year-old San Franciscan originally hails from Lake Forest) and even claims to have a pinstriped pedigree.

“I grew up with the Cubs,” Eggers writes, before frustratingly adding, “I don’t remember the possibility of winning ever being high among the reasons we went to Wrigley.”

Eggers then goes on to explain, “We went because the park was ragged and crumbling and lived-in, beautiful in an almost accidental way. The low brick wall behind home plate implied a game being played at the local elementary school. The ivy in the outfield hinted that the building was so old that nature was reclaiming it.”

And then, quite inexplicably, he adds: “We went for these reasons, and we went because the weather at Wrigley was always better there than anywhere else in Chicago.”

I had to laugh at that. Because, anyone who has ever actually been to Wrigley Field more than, say, once knows that thanks to the hawk winds so cold, as Steve Goodman would sing, it’s the only place in Chicago where it can feel like it’s threatening to snow on the Fourth of July.

Embarrassing himself — and insulting Cubs fans — even further, Eggers proceeds to write, “Winning, which the Cubs did do occasionally, was a superfluous kind of treat. It didn’t feel too much different than losing — just like when you’re at the beach, getting one flavor of ice cream doesn’t feel so different than any other. They all taste fine when you’re at the beach, right? Winning was great if it happened. Just like having good players was a nice but unexpected bonus. Ryne Sandberg? Greg Maddux? Mark Grace? Shawon Dunston? Thanks! In general, though, we were used to the good things coming amid a general mood of “so what.” ”



That picture which Eggers paints was never really true. Not among real fans. But a decade ago, the mindset of Cubs Nation was indeed far different than it is today. Back before Bartman, the folks rooting on Chicago’s Boys in Blue certainly were happy-go-lucky when compared to their far more fatalistic brethren in Boston.

Cubs fans hoped to win, whereas Red Sox fans expected to lose. For ages, that was a big – and very noticeable – difference.

But after the 2003 NLCS — a series which I attended six of the seven games — all of that changed in Chicago. Thanks to the Cubs’ unimaginable collapse against the Marlins, the mood in Wrigleyville was permanently altered. Fed up with black cats and billy goats, Cubs fans became increasingly more frustrated and less satisfied to settle for mediocre (or far worse) baseball.

They began to demand success – even if they still didn’t really expect to see it.

Apparently, while living out on the West Coast, Eggers missed all of this transpiring here amidst the Plains. And, somehow, he managed to still miss it despite actually being in Wrigleyville on May 28 to (sort of) see the Cubs get pounded by the Pirates.

“At some point the game ended,” Eggers writes in his column. “It was 10-0, it had started to pour, and no one cared. The streets of Wrigleyville filled with people dodging the rain. Vendors tried to sell Kerry Wood memorabilia, and scalpers were selling seats to the next home game. Shirtless men stomped in puddles as if celebrating something. Actually, they were celebrating something. It all felt good.

A bunch of people from Chicago had gathered in one place, and that was 98 percent of the point of it all.”

All of that reads as utter nonsense, but none of it as bad as what Eggers says next.

“I’m sure among the thousands who flowed through the tributaries around the stadium were some who were upset the Cubs hadn’t won,” Eggers writes. “I’m sure there are Cubs fans who are interested in the standings, and have been for decades.”

Yes, Dave, there are. A whole lot of them. And if you’d like to make a return trip to Chicago this summer and join me for an actual ballgame, I’d love to introduce you to some of them, including myself.

We can go to Wrigley Field. And we can have a couple beers. But let’s watch and talk about baseball.

You know, like real Cubs fans.

Tickets are on me.

Do you agree with Dave? Post your comments below.

davewisch Wisch: In Defense Of The Cubs Fan

Dave Wischnowsky

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. Read more of his CBS Chicago blog entries here.

  • Larry Horse's Arse

    Excellent blog Dave.
    I most read and then began to skim the Eggers piece.
    It seemed to me that he was hopelessly trapped in 2003 or so.
    Nothing he wrote rang true for 2011…this was a timewarp piece, more nostalgia than reporting.
    Thanks for your refreshing honesty and accuracy, Dave.

  • Larry Horse's Arse

    Oops, meant “mostly” above.

    I am the frickin’ world’s worst proof-reader.

  • Dave Wischnowsky

    Thanks, Arse. If Eggers’ had actually talked to anyone besides babies or pediatricians named Steve Nash while he was in Chicago that would have been one thing. But to just parachute into Wrigleyville and then cast such ridiculous generalizations and assumptions about Cubs fans was another.

    I really hope that Dave does cone to a game with me this summer. I’d enjoy the opportunity to really talk about baseball and the Cubs. It’s not ’03 any longer. It’s 2011, and fans are fed up.

    (P.S. To everyone, I’m out in Sonoma for a wedding this week, so might be slow/spotty with replies to comments today.)

    • Larry Horse's Arse


      • Dave Wischnowsky

        Yeah, definitely worse places to spend a few days :)

  • bronzo

    Great column Dave…I actually read Eggers column Friday …I liked it, but for all the wrong reasons. ( I’m one of those Cub haters) The Grantland website is excellent a lot of good writers. Now I chuckled at tthe column because I knew it would offend any serious Cub fan which Dave seems to be. It did play on most of the tired sterotypes of Cub fans . But in my humble opinion those rooftop parties are what they are… they are a world away from the game and people are there to have fun…not so much for the game. What Eggers missed was the people in the stands (Like Dave) who are serious Cub fans and actually do pay attention and care whether the Cubs win or lose.

    • Larry Horse's Arse

      I agree with you bronzo about Grantland…excellent writers.
      I was happy to see the by-line of Charlie Pierce, recounting his days with “The National.” Pierce is really a sharp writer….he once began a profile of Ted Kennedy (several years ago) by saying, If Mary Joe Koepechne (spelling?) were alive today she’d be 62 and Senator Kennedy would be fighting for her rights as a Senior……. What a frickin’ POV as the lede.

      • bronzo

        I loved the National! I read that also Larry…

    • Dave Wischnowsky

      Thanks, Bronzo. My thoughts were, if Eggers wanted to write about watching a Cubs game from a rooftop, then do that. But don’t go to a rooftop party, pay no attention to baseball and write as if you were at an actual game while also telling everyone that Cubs fans don’t care because you don’t — and you sort of consider yourself a Cubs fan. Just offensive to real fans.

    • Dave Wischnowsky

      P.S. The lineup of writers on the site is excellent. And Eggers is an excellent writer himself, which is all the more why he should have produced a more thorough and accurate piece fir Grantland.


    Good piece, Dave.

    I, certainly, was a baseball idiot, until 2002-2003.

    There’s a movie, where Lily Tomlin and Bette Middler play separated pairs of twins.
    Sure enough, two of them are raised in some town called Possum Hollow (pronounced “holler.”) One of the first movies I ever fast forwarded through. Then, there’s the Steven Segal movie with Marg Helginberger (mmmm, berger)
    Where’s she runs around “small town middle Iowillinansabraska” in the tied up plaid shirt with the pig tails as the bad guys try to take her land (or something).
    More examples of the coast treating us all like rubes. Need I go on about Son in Law? (yeesh)

  • Jeremy

    Dave – I read that article last week, saw that Eggers was a fellow U of I graduate, and immediately thought that you should reply to his complete misrepresentation of what Cubs fans are going through. Even Cubs fans three hours away, in Peoria, are fed up with the losing and want winning. The happy-go-lucky attitude went out the window when our payroll went through the roof…and have nothing to show for it. Its going to be a long summer now that Basketball is over, Hockey is nearly over, and there’s no training camps in sight for the NFL.

  • Spoon

    You could sub in almost any team name in that story and be just as accurate as he thinks he was being. I’d wager that less than 50% of anyone in attendance at most sporting events are there to pass time and get drunk. People that make fans out to be some sort of sports hardcores are pretty ignorant to the average fan in attendance.

    • Spoon

      “I’’d wager that less than 50% of anyone in attendance”

      Should be ‘more than 50%’

  • cz

    Dave, you are wrong again. Eggers is correct. As long as the fans really don’t care if the Cubs loose or loose, why put money into a team that makes money by loosing.
    The Cubs just are not good ball players.

    • Dave Wischnowsky

      You’re pretty lose, er, loose with your criticism today, cz ;)

      Appreciate you weighing in, though. We’ll have to agree to disagree about the fans these days. Although, we do concur about the players. They aren’t good.

    • Scott T. Holland

      CZ, that’s the biggest copout of all time in this debate. Here’s why:

      A. The team makes infinitely more money when winning, and everyone who stands to make money off the team is well aware of this fact.

      B. Dave has clearly demonstrated there are thousands of fans who do care if the Cubs lose (not loose), and if you don’t believe him, look at the attendance figures for this year or watch 30 minutes of a home game.

      C. How are “real” fans supposed to demonstrate they “really care” if the team wins or not? The Seneca American Legion bought its tickets and bus package in March, they’re going to the game Wednesday come hell or high water. But that doesn’t mean they’re happy with the product.

      • Spoon

        “Dave has clearly demonstrated there are thousands of fans who do care if the Cubs lose (not loose), and if you don’t believe him, look at the attendance figures for this year or watch 30 minutes of a home game.”

        People simply ignore this fact. It doesnt fit with their preconceived notions of Cub fans. Hell, I havent even been watching the games, let alone going to them. I’m sure next year it will be “Dey’re not even real fans, dey only go when da team is good when dey should be supporting dat team!”

  • Larry Horse's Arse

    STH, your point #3 was superb…..groups buy months in advance…but they can be a grumpy lot when they see dreck in the home unis.
    Chart the attendance figures and Cubs fans are voting with their feet.
    I think that Dave’s analysis is solid.
    I also hope that the rumblings that Hendy is a goner (Ken Rosenthal on Fox) are true, though I assume it’d be an off-season move.

  • Tom Wolf

    I’m going to the game tonight. My 12th Cubs game of the year. Thanks for defending the honor of those of us true baseball fans who knew this would be a tough year but hope it gets better before it gets worse.

    Lazy writers like Eggers should be banned. Tell him to do his homework next time!

    • Spoon

      Why in god’s name would you pay to attend 12 of those abortions?

    • Larry Horse's Arse

      For that piece I nominate Eggers for the 2011 “Jay Mariotti Wear-Out-The-Shoe-Leather Reporting Award.”

  • Draglines Beer Belly

    Fantastic! Thank you

  • Murphs Upper-Lip

    Great piece, as usual, Wish. When Wrigley’s attendance was “ballooning” in the 90’s and up until the last year plus, there most certainly were quite a few @ss-clowns making up the attendance; that would be the case at any ballpark getting between 39,000 – 41,000 coming in on a daily basis. There are still just as many “informed” Cubs fans as their are Sox fans in the city. There may seem to be less Cubs fans that are knowledgeable, but that’s because many Chicagoins who are just following the Cubs ’cause that’s the more popular choice… strip away the hotties and the @ssclowns, (preferably the hotties), and there are just as many Cubs fans who love their team as the Sox have. Thanks for such a strong and informative opinion by a Cub’s fan, Dave.

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