By Dave Wischnowsky –
(CBS) Sitting 15 games out of first place, the Chicago Cubs couldn’t be much further from a world championship right now if they were, well, living on a different planet.
But some day – if we’re to believe Tom “We will win a World Series for our fans and our city” Ricketts – those Lovable Losers will morph into wonderful winners. And, in turn, Chicago will unleash more than a century of pent-up frustration in a championship celebration so raucous that it will likely make this week’s Blackhawks revelry look like an ice cream social.
If that long-awaited championship ever does happen, here’s to hoping that the mayor’s office and the Chicago Police Department are better prepared for the ensuing rowdiness than it was on Monday night after Hawks won the Stanley Cup. Because, really, property owners in Lakeview and Lincoln Park are going to need them to be.
I’ve said for years that if the Cubs ever do win (or even reach) the World Series, the city is probably going to need to set up a “demilitarized zone” around Wrigley Field that stretches north-south from Montrose to Fullerton and east-west from Damen to the lakeshore.
And even that might not be enough to contain the madness.
A Cubs World Series championship would be as big a sports story as the world has ever seen, and the celebration that follows would be unlike anything that Chicago has.
On Monday after the Blackhawks won, the vast majority of Chicagoans were generally well behaved, but we still saw enough mayhem that it resulted in 23 arrests on misdemeanor charges for breaking store windows and other reckless and disorderly conduct.
Now, it wasn’t as if the city wasn’t prepared at all for the party following the Hawks’ win. It was. On Monday night, when I drove past Wrigley Field about 10 minutes before the puck dropped in Game 6, police were already patrolling the neighborhood on foot, horses were being unloaded nearby and metal barricades had been erected along the sidewalks on Clark Street south of Addison.
Later that night, about 20 minutes after the Blackhawks had captured the Cup, I arrived back at the corner of Clark and Addison as the intersection began to fill up with hordes of revelers. At the time, most people were standing behind the barricades along Clark. But that didn’t last long as fans – or, rather, troublemakers – quickly figured out how to dismantle the barricades, with some even using them to “surf” people above the crowd.
Mounted police were stationed at Addison monitoring the scene, but I was somewhat surprised there wasn’t a larger police presence in the area considering the size of the crowd. Eventually, the police did the partiers south down Clark Street out of Wrigleyville, but that only ended up resulting in a rash of damaged property and disturbances in Lincoln Park, many of which were documented by the blog “Crime in Wrigleyville & Boystown.”
The property damage from the celebration prompted Ald. Michele Smith, whose ward includes Lincoln Park, to tell RedEye on Tuesday, “I don’t call breaking the windows of 21 businesses to be anything related to partying. When people have a party at your house they don’t break your windows. I’m really outraged at the behavior of the fans, and I will support prosecution of the people who participated in this.”
It doesn’t make me happy to say it, but the participation in such mayhem will surely be far greater if the Cubs ever do spark their own celebration on Clark Street. One just has to recall the size of the masses ringing Wrigley Field during the 2003 NLCS to get an inkling of what the city will have on its hands.
Chicago needs to recognize that, learn from the Stanley Cup rowdiness and plan ahead – way ahead – in case of such an occurrence with the Cubs. It also needs to purchase some barricades that don’t come apart like Tinker Toys.
In the meantime, however, the Cubs are 12 games under .500 and nowhere near a championship – or a potentially destructive celebration. That prompted a friend to tell me this week, “in that case, Theo Epstein is doing all he can to protect the city.”
So, you know, at least the Cubs have that going for them.
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.