New “Paper Machete” Essay: A Bigger, Brighter Wrigley Field

Hi all. A few weeks ago, I read the following essay at one of my favorite live lit shows here in Chicago, The Paper Machete. If you have not been to this show yet — held every Saturday at the history-sodden Green Mill Lounge at 3 pm, with FREE admission, no less — then you should do yourself a favor and haul your keister over there. Great readers, great comedians, and sometimes great/always interesting musicians. The best thing since indoor plumbing (hey, the Green Mill even has THAT!)

One of the big news stories of the week had been the proposed renovation of Wrigley Field and the surrounding neighborhood. The plans involved, among other things, more than 35000 square feet of advertising signage at the intersection of Clark and Addison Streets. I decided to get a little snarky about it. Quel surprise!


Chicagoans are used to threats. We get em all the time. Threats of random street violence. School closings. Government bankruptcy. A second term for Rahm Emanuel.

Now add to that, the threat that owner Tom Ricketts will take his Chicago Cubs out of the city – lock, stock and Marmol – if he can’t get approval to renovate the area around the park and install scads of gargantuan video screens inside Wrigley Field. As threats come, it’s about as hollow as Sammy Sosa’s bat.

He told a business luncheon crowd this week, “I’m not sure how anyone is going to stop the signs in the outfield, but if it comes to the point that we don’t have the ability to do what we need to do in our outfield, then we’re going to have to consider moving.”

Whoa, harsh! If Denzel Washington heard the word “consider”, how fast would the bad-guy corpses start piling up. That’s the kind of hard-charging, take-no-prisoners attitude that made the Cubs what they are today!

First off, where would Ricketts “consider” moving? Rosemont? How peaceful, to rebuild the Friendly Confines within a few hundred yards of the runways at O’Hare.

Maybe a bigger market, like Las Vegas? It’d be tough to build a brand new stadium in a place only slightly less mobbed-up than Rosemont.

Besides, years of negotiations have already happened, among the team, the mayor, the alderman, and the neighborhood. The only hurdle now is the rooftop owners, who worry that the new signage will block their view of games over the wall. If you can only get off on baseball voyeuristically by peeking over the wall like a guy in loose, dirty sweatpants, there’s no better place to be.

The rooftop owners are painting themselves as the little guy in this contest. Some national reporters have even described them as a “neighborhood tradition”. Now, a real neighborhood tradition would involve a picnic table, cheap folding chairs and a cooler of beer, like it did 20 years ago, and not small corporations cramming Miller 64 and chicken wings into people either too claustrophobic to wedge into a stadium seat or too dumb to use StubHub. However, compared to all other commercial ventures in Wrigleyville — ah, Wrigleyville, that friendly northside village where the leafy country lanes stream with beer and vomit – compared with them, the rooftop owners are like Mr. Hooper on “Sesame Street”.

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