There's been some unusual disturbances in the Force in the Cubs universe recently. Nothing on the scope of millions of voices suddenly crying out and being suddenly silenced, but more like when Luke went into that weird tree on Dagobah and you didn't know what the hell was going on.
Movin' On Up
The Cubs announced plans for the 2013 version of the annual Cubs Convention! So we'll see the usual gathering of snarky Cubs fans drinking alongside ex-players and media at Kitty O'Sheas and… wait… what? It's not at the Hilton this year?
After 27 years at the Chicago Hilton and Towers, the Cubs are moving the convention to a new venue for the first time, giving the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers on the Chicago River a crack at hosting the event a bit more smoothly than the Hilton seemed capable. That's nothing against the people that worked at the Hilton. The crowds just seemed too big for what their facilities could offer. The Sheraton is a nicer facility and judging by its specs, the facilties are generally larger than what the Hilton can offer.
The timing of it seemed odd since the Cubs had a bitch of a time selling the passes to last years' Cubs Con (I don't think they ever did actually sell out), and now they are moving to a bigger facility when enthusiasm about the Cubs has got to be at pre-Sammy Sosa lows? Maybe they're getting a better deal from the Sheraton people. Maybe the Ricketts are Sheraton rewards members and now they never have to pay for a Sheraton hotel room anywhere in the country for the rest of their lives. I don't know. What I do know is that it's a pretty big tradition to break from. John McDonough is probably spinning in his grave. They should make sure they assign a few interns to hang out in the Hilton lobby to redirect wayward fans who accidentally end up at the wrong hotel out of sheer habit.
Cubs Say They Don't Want a Revolution
NBC has been hyping one of their new shows for awhile now and part of the preview involved the characters hiking past a grown-over Wrigley Field (I guess all of the world loses power in 2012 and it's now 15 years later or something). In the previews, beneath the marquee, a sign has been added declaring the Cubs as the 2012 World Champions. However when the show aired last night, the additional sign was blanked out.
Apparently someone with the Cubs didn't like the reference:
How’d they lose the championship in the final cut? “I can’t comment too much on it, only to say that the administration of the Cubs felt strongly that that shouldn’t be there,” [writer, Eric] Kripke tells TVLine. “I’m from the Midwest, and it was not meant as a dig. It was meant as a ‘Wouldn’t that be tragic irony, that I’m rooting for the Cubs and they finally won the year the world ended?’ It was about rooting for a team I have great affection for, but they didn’t see it that way. It’s their team, and I get it.”
Again, it's strange that the Cubs weren't interested in free publicity, even if it wasn't in the best light. Like Kripke said, it wasn't intended as a bash, but the Cubs do seem to be taking some strides to not be viewed as a national joke anymore. I mean, not on the field yet, what with Joe Mather still batting lead-off and such, but you catch my drift.
Late Night Drinkin'
According to Red Eye reporter, Matt Lindner, it seems the Cubs sold alcohol far later into the night than usual:
In addition to setting a record for latest start in Wrigley Field history, Monday night also likely marked the longest amount of time beer sales were allowed. While the team generally cuts sales off in the seventh inning, on Monday night it was in the fourth inning. To be fair, the fourth inning took place around 11:30, meaning fans had a full six-and-a-half hours to get their drink on, so it's not like the Cubs were being unreasonable by shutting things down when they did.
Wrigley's alcohol policy for as long as I can remember it has been consistent:
Alcoholic beverages will not be sold after the last out of the 8th inning during day games and the last out of the 7th inning or 9:20 p.m. for night games.
What I wasn't sure about is whether this policy is in accordance with some MLB alcohol policies (since every stadium I've ever been to has had similar policies), if it is something that is based on a written or informal agreement with the neighborhood, or if the Cubs are free to enforce or not enforce this policy based on individual circumstances. I've never seen alcohol sales get extended beyond that 9:20 limit, and I've been to a number of games where the game has been delayed far enough into the night where the 9:20 cut-off happens well before the 7th inning.
I sent an e-mail to Kevin Saghy, the Cubs PR and social media guru (I don't think that's his exact title, but it should be). He confirmed they sold beer until the 3rd inning and he referred me to Julian Green, Vice President, Communications and Community Affairs (his actual title) about the alcohol policy itself.
I asked Mr. Green about the seeming discrepancy between their published alcohol policy and the sales getting extended last night and he was kind enough to respond (bolding is mine):
There was no discrepancy last night since the policy refers only to on-time starts for day and night games. Our policy is consistent with the majority of baseball stadiums and ballparks which cut off alcohol sales at the end of the 7th or 8th inning but could also be discontinued earlier at the discretion of the team. Obviously, due to the 3 hour plus rain delay last night, the game started late. As Kevin shared with you, beer was sold for the first three innings then concluded at our discretion.
So no MLB rules or local ordinances were broken. It was just a pretty unique situation and they decided the few hundred folks who stuck it out deserved a few beers.
So, in summation, the Cubs have moved their big fan festival to a venue that might actually be equipped to handle it, someone took some steps to eliminate the Cubs' lack of winning as a punchline on national TV, and they exercised some actual judgement in serving the fans who stuck out the insanely long delay to watch them lose.
I knew I still sensed some good in them.