COMMENTARY | The Chicago Cubs sent shock waves through Wrigleyville this week by announcing they would soon be unveiling a Jumbotron at Wrigley Field. Such trinkets are commonplace in baseball stadiums around the country, so why such a big deal?
I'll answer with a story.
Last summer, I took a friend for his first visit to Wrigley. He's an Atlanta Braves fan who grew up in the South. His comments after the game were quite perceptive. He loved how distraction-less Wrigley Field is. No slides or pools or dance clubs in the outfield. Minimal between-innings entertainment. Scorecards readily available.
The notables were the seventh-inning stretch and ... well, the game. Wrigley Field has amazingly managed to hold on to baseball as the main event, even as they've been playing the game mostly quite poorly for more than 100 years.
But that isn't to say that there isn't anything wrong with the setup, which is why plenty more change is on the way. I'd hardly say the absence of a Jumbotron was really much of a problem, but here are three of the worst aspects of Wrigley Field (two out of three are probably fixable in the short-term):
1. Poles that obstruct fans' views through the stadium. This might be the most common complaint from fans, at least during sellouts. When there are open seats around, obviously you can adjust to find a better view. But for games when you can't, you really are in trouble. I'm no architect, so I don't know how to fix this, but I do know that when I visit other stadiums -- and I go to a lot of them -- I don't ever seem to have this problem. I imagine it will take some costly work, but worth it for the better view.
2. Getting there. This one would take a lot more work and priority from the city of Chicago -- which probably isn't going to happen. But, seriously, with the position of Lake Michigan, is there anything worse than getting in and out of the city for a game if you're from somewhere other than downtown? Especially if you're coming from the east. Do I drive in and deal with traffic the whole way? Or drive to a train station, hop a train, and then (in the midst of hundreds of people by now) exit the train, only to have to maneuver "the L" (or a taxi) to Wrigley Field. I'm ashamed to admit that I avoided a game last summer for this very reason.
3. Bullpens. This will probably sound like blasphemy to many old-timers, but, seriously, the stands down the line are practically on the field; there's hardly any gap between the foul lines and the brick wall. So here's a bright idea: Let's squeeze in some unprotected bullpens so we can risk relief pitchers' and backup catchers' lives. Oh wait, that's exactly what it's been like for, well, forever. It is an injury waiting to happen, and it's just unnecessary. "Because it's always been that way" isn't a good enough reason to keep it that way. There are better options out there.
Chris Schumerth is a freelance writer who grew up in Northern Indiana following the Cubs. You can follow him on Twitter @schumes22.
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