Annually, about this time of year, I make my trip to the Sheraton on the Chicago River for an event that my non-baseball fan friends of mine have called cult-like, ridiculous and over-the-top.
You’re damn right. And I love every minute of it. I don’t enjoy Cubs Convention for the PR spin sessions led by Crane Kenney or any of the other gimmicks. It’s about coming together with the sea of fellow passionate Cubs fans, staying up late into the night having a drink with Bob Dernier in the lobby and just immersing myself in a love of the game.
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This year, there is no Cubs Convention. And instead of leveraging the Marquee Network and creating a digital experience for the fans, the organization pretty much sat on its hands and did nothing. Tom Ricketts probably sat at home thanking his lucky stars he didn’t have to take the stage on Friday night to a chorus of boos and jeers.
And, let me tell you, you will be booing next year.
The 2020 season saw the Cubs capture a National League Central crown for the third time in five years, only to make a prompt exit in the Wild Card Round of the postseason at the hands of the Miami Marlins. Marquee Network was a bungled mess, even before COVID-19 wrapped its hands around the sport – and, with a month till camp opens, we still have no idea what the hell is going on with the network in 2021.
That alone would be enough to set Cubs fans on edge at this year’s Convention, especially after Ricketts swore up and down we would be enamored with Marquee by this point. Granted, rolling it out in the midst of a pandemic-shortened 60-game season marked far-from-ideal circumstances. But it’s not like this is the only issue facing the team.
The long-dreaded teardown is underway. If the non-tendering of Kyle Schwarber and Albert Almora didn’t tip you off, the trade of Yu Darvish for a package of far-off prospects made it perfectly clear. Throw in incessant trade rumors surrounding Kris Bryant and Willson Contreras and one thing is obvious: it’s all about the future.
While that’s not necessarily a bad thing, there sometimes blunt and brutal honesty and transparency that dominated the Theo Epstein-led rebuild a decade ago has been lacking. Part of that can be attributed to our new Zoom-driven meeting culture. But talking about threading the needle and remaining competitive while re-tooling is one thing: focusing solely on the long-term and making no substantive moves geared toward 2021 is another thing altogether.
Last year, fans got pretty angsty when Ricketts took the stage for the Opening Ceremony. The team was pretty clearly not going to be bringing back fan favorite Nicholas Castellanos, there was a lot of bad blood over Marquee – the list goes on and on.
I hate to break it to you, Tom. But next year won’t be any better. Sooner or later, you’ll have to face the music – or rather, the ballroom filled with thousands of Cubs fans who no longer accept throwing in the towel when promised sustained success in years prior.