By Brad Spencer
I'm sitting here today writing this column while wearing my favorite Levi's. These dungarees I tell you are worn out, holey, snug, uncomfortable, and yet for some ridiculous reason I wear them. They've been good to me, helped me through many a fickle weathered day, but it's time for a new pair. It's time for a change.
There once was a time when taking in a game at Wrigley Field meant you were frequently privy to the warm sun, the lush ivy, the cold refreshing libations, the juicy hotdog, the friendly chatter, the inviting nostalgia of yesteryear, and, of course, the mediocre baseball being played. For the most part, those days are currently on hiatus.
What does this have to do with the pants I'm wearing? Hold on to yours, I'll get there.
Wrigley has lost its nostalgia, its archaic wonder. It went when greedy folks installed enormous bleachers atop apartment buildings around the stadium, when prices for seats in the park fluctuated depending on who the opponent was, when selling corporate suites became the focus, when player salaries skyrocketed to ridiculous numbers, when lights were installed on the stadium roof, when performance-enhancing drugs turned svelte players into Hulk-like creatures, when …
Wrigley Field is no longer sacred ground. It's time to update the Friendly Confines while preserving what little aesthetics remain — the eye-popping marquee, the ubiquitous ivy, the seventh inning stretch, the manual scoreboard.
Bring on the Jumbotron, the wide concourse, the larger restroom, the plaza, the seven-story hotel, and plug every product possible on numerous digital and non-digital signages everywhere in and around the stadium. It's what has become of our society. With DVRs and YouTube and apps on our smart phones we don't have to watch commercials on television anymore, so how else are advertisers going to get our attention if not by cornering us at Clark and Sheffield? How else can a ballclub generate revenue to pay the inflated salaries? How else can they build a winning team?
And if it will eventually equate to winning, then renovate the heck out of Wrigley Field. Adorn it in gold garland, plaster it with glitter, coat it with all the make-up you want, but winning better not be too far behind or the crying will smear everything.
Wrigley isn't even a step back in time anymore. There's already an LED board in right field and Bison dogs on the menu. Photo tarps of current players hide the crumbling outside façade. Not to mention every loss has brought layer upon layer of silt to the stadium, while every blown save opportunity has fractured its foundation. Wrigley is nothing after a loss. The folks who talk about how great the experience of Wrigley is have never experienced a loss at Wrigley.
The place is 99 years old, and Tom Ricketts is willing to spend $500 million of private money to update it and make it more comfortable for us fans and more profitable for his club. There's nothing wrong with that. We should embrace it, like I should embrace going to the local clothing store and finding a fresh new pair of Levi's before that top button pops or, god forbid, a seam splits. Yeah, I better do that sooner than later.
Brad Spencer has lived in Oak Park for more than a decade. He can be reached at Bspencer@oakpark.com