Reporting Dave Wischnowsky
By Dave Wischnowsky –
(CBS) There was no joy in Wrigleyville on Wednesday night.
No game, either.
But there was plenty of drama in the neighborhood. Isn’t there always these days? Unfortunately for Cubs fans, though, none of it seems to happen on the field anymore.
Just after 8 p.m. last night, I went for a jog around Wrigley Field. The Cubs’ series finale against the Brewers had been postponed, reportedly because of the “rain and cold.” Yet, there wasn’t a hint of rain in the neighborhood and it really wasn’t that terribly cold (41 degrees), or even windy.
I’ve probably been to 20 Cubs games myself that were played in far worse conditions. But, nevertheless, the ballpark stood dark –although many of the rooftops along Sheffield Avenue across the street were lit up brightly. The sign outside Murphy’s Bleachers read, “The Game Is Off, But The Party Is Still On.”
This was all because Wednesday was intended to be “Wrigleyville Neighbors Appreciation Night,” an event hosted by the rooftop owners who are caught up in a high-profile turf war with the Chicago Cubs over outfield signage inside the ballpark.
Without a ballgame on Wednesday, however, it was tough for the rooftops to attract many neighbors for them to appreciate. But they were still trying as a handful of people could be seen milling about on the rooftops.
Now, I’m not sayin’ the Cubs called off a game that easily could have played – for at least 4½ innings – just to stick it to the rooftop owners. I’m just sayin’.
Meanwhile, earlier on Wednesday afternoon, a severed goat’s head arrived at the Cubs offices inside a package addressed to owner Tom Ricketts. No note was included, but Chicago Police are reportedly investigating the “intimidating package.”
Now, I’m not sayin’ that someone linked to the rooftops was trying to send a Godfather-style message to the Cubs brass. I’m just sayin’.
Whatever the details about Wednesday’s weird events, this ongoing power play in Wrigleyville continues to swallow Chicago’s attention. And with it, many local observers seem caught up in trying to identify the victims and the valiant in the dispute, as if either really exist.
In last Sunday’s Tribune, for example, columnist David Haugh wrote a paean to Ricketts, essentially painting the multimillionaire businessman as St. Tom of Lakeview who only wants to help “the people” with his $500 million investment (not make a billion more.)
A day later, the Sun-Times’ Mark Potash countered with a column that essentially positioned the rooftop owners as mom-and-pop outfits whose buildings predate Wrigley, and they can’t help it that a ballpark moved in across the street a century ago.
How aren’t they supposed to watch the games?
Never mind the fact that the owners’ decision to erect lucrative seating structures atop their buildings is no different than constructing bleachers behind a drive-in movie theater’s back fence – and then selling your own tickets to watch the double feature.
Fact is with this silly saga, there are no winners. Only losers. Especially Cubs fans, who deserve to have the organization that they’ve long supported with their money, time and passion be focused on building a winner, rather than on whether it can build a jumbotron.
Or how it can cripple the businesses across the street, with whom the team has a contract through 2024 to act as revenue-sharing partners – even if the rooftops inarguably do pilfer their product.
On Wednesday, Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) told the Sun-Times about the ongoing negotiations, “Every constituency group is gonna have to give a little bit. The city is gonna have to give. The neighborhood’s gonna have to compromise. The rooftops are gonna have to compromise.”
Tunney then added, “But the specifics keep changing and the asks keep changing. So, how do you pin down what are we agreeing to when those [requests] change all the time.”
Don’t ask us, Tom. That’s your job. And the mayor’s office’s. And the Cubs’. And the rooftops owners’. So figure it out. It’s baseball season now, not ballpark season.
Everyone involved needs to sit down, focus, be flexible, be realistic, and get the whole a deal wrapped up. No one is going to get everything that they want. But just get the dang thing done.
Because, in Wrigleyville, it’s time for the drama to strike out.
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. Follow him on Twitter @wischlist and read more of his CBS Chicago blog entries here.