Friday, January 16, 2009

Good Times?

The Cubs Convention began today at 5:00 and I'm wondering about the tone this year.

First, for those who don't know, the Cubs Convention was conceived by John McDonough as an interactive off-season fest where fans could have the opportunity to mingle with Cubs players both current and former (for a fee). The idea was wildly successful and the Convention sells out within minutes every year.

I, personally, am not an autograph guy, I have a hard time shoving a ball or other random piece of whatever into someone's face to get them to sign it. But I know that many people like to have something signed by their favorite player. Especially kids. Unfortunately it is getting harder each year for the kids to negotiate through the professional autograph hounds.

The reality of the Convention now is that you don't have much more contact with players than you would if you went to a game. What started as an idea for the fans has become a conglomeration of memorabilia dealers and wanna-be journalists crowding out the kids and the kids-at-heart, with the players protected from the mobs by having designated times and places during which they will sign or have their pictures taken.

The former Cubs players are a bit more accessible. Many is the time I have seen Bobby Dernier sitting in the lounge surrounded by fans as he tells various stories. Otherwise you get in an hour-long line to spend maybe 10 seconds with someone like Fergie Jenkins or possibly Larry Biittner.

There are also sessions where fans sit in a room and have moderated dialogue with the players, coaches, management, or former players. Usually a WGN radio personality will interview a panel of players and then there will be time for the fans to approach a microphone to ask their questions. This is the part of the Convention where you get a good read on the overall sentiments of the fans.

After bad years, they are mad. How are we going to hit better? Why don't we hit and run more? Are we going to get a real lead-off man? Are we going to stop paying tons of money to guys who can't stay healthy?

After the playoff years, the questions are a little different. Shouldn't we give Geovany Soto a ten year contract right now? Is Carlos Marmol the best reliever in the league? Will Carlos Zambrano win the Cy Young this year?

But the Cubs haven't been to the playoffs two years in a row since 1907 & 1908. This fan base has never had its hopes raised after a good year and then had another good year follow. This fan base has always hoped that if the Cubs could ever get to be a repeated contender and playoff team, they could become a legitimate threat in the post-season, but the last two years the Cubs have destroyed that belief by completely disintegrating in the playoffs.

On top of the mixed feelings that people may have about the team's performance, there is the lackluster post-season. They have removed two fan favorites in Kerry Wood and Mark DeRosa, and signed the middling talent of Aaron Miles, Kevin Gregg, and Milton Bradley. Its hard to believe that the Cubs' fortunes last year would have been different if Aaron Miles had been a part of the team.

So I am wondering about the mood of the fans. Are they excited? Are they pissed? Are they an ambivalent mixture that wants to be celebratory, but can't muster any enthusiasm?

If anybody attended, I'd love to know your take.


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