Ryne Sandberg Statue Celebration Provided Brief Respite from Cubs’ Woes

It’s fitting that Dave Matthews was at Wrigley Field Sunday night since both he and the Cubs have been responsible for dumping crap all over Chicago. But neither he nor the stagnant play on the field in the series finale mattered very much, which I suppose is how many of you believe Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts would prefer it. The celebration of Ryne Sandberg‘s legacy overrode anything else, drawing in a sellout crowd that had the Wrigleyville swarming several hours before first pitch.

Those who weren’t there early enough to get a spot in the crowd at Gallagher Way congregated around the ballpark’s entry gates for a chance at the Ryne Sandberg statue bobblehead. Others pressed together on the second-floor patio of the Budweiser Brickhouse, while Cubs players and Wrigley Field workers lined stairwells and outer concourses to celebrate one of the team’s all-time greats. It wasn’t a surprise to see so many people there for Ryno, but it always amazes me how folks will buy a ticket just to get a cheap piece of plastic.

My son and I were there at Gallagher Way and assumed we’d never have a shot at a bobblehead because of how many people were already queued up. After walking all the way around the ballpark and stopping at Wrigleyville Sports to get a vintage Sandberg jersey — they didn’t have what we wanted — we opted to enter through the left field gate that had no line at all. As we were walking in and being handed our free gifts, others were walking right back out after receiving theirs.

According to a quick eBay search, the baubles were already being listed at $150 well before the game got underway. Seems like a giant pain in the ass and a tremendous waste of both time and effort just to make a few bucks. I mean, you could at least stay for part of the game. I didn’t think we’d be getting them anyway and we don’t need two, so I was happy to give one to my buddy Tommy, who I park and often crash with when I’m in town for games. He’s one of the best dudes ever, so it was the least I could do.

Anyway, back to the bigger picture. As much as I/we complain about the Cubs and how they’re not giving fans a product commensurate with the prices they’re charging, I was more than happy to pay too much for tickets behind home plate. Forking over a princely sum for a Mitchell & Ness home jersey for my son was also no big deal. But here’s the thing: None of that was really about the Cubs. Or, to put it more accurately, it wasn’t about this Cubs team.

My son is named after the man whose statue was unveiled Sunday afternoon and the importance of the event was far bigger than anything Jed Hoyer has or hasn’t done. We sat just a few rows back from Marlins Man and Luke Campbell of 2 Live Crew — who I regret not getting a picture with, but he was on his phone when I thought about it — and were just below Bill Murray and the man of the evening. It was a really cool father-son experience that was well worth the cost, or at least that’s how it feels.

It’s embarrassing and frustrating as a writer to be nearly unable to string together anything more eloquent, but I think I’m still half asleep from the long weekend. We had been up in the southwest suburbs since Thursday for a baseball tournament, then got up early Sunday to play the last game. From there, we hustled up to Wrigley and took in the stated dedication before meandering around to find our seats and get some much-needed food. After everything was said and done, it was around 1:30am by the time we got home.

Notice how I glossed over the game? The Cubs had less life than the collection of bronze figures out on the fake grass adjacent to Wrigley, so the only positive takeaway is that the innings went by quickly until the 9th. Christopher Morel‘s homer was nice too, though it didn’t really matter in the end. So is this proof that the Cubs will continue to draw big crowds no matter what?

Hardly. Consider that this was our first time going to Wrigley all season and it was only made possible by a serendipitous travel ball schedule. If I’m being honest, it might have been more fun to have gotten the cheapest possible ticket to gain entry to Gallagher Way, then made like those resellers and picked up the bobblehead before heading back to Tommy’s to drink beer and watch the game. Then again, I would have missed out on Uncle Luke.

This organization is making it harder for even the most dedicated fans to continue parting with increasingly larger sums of money for tickets and Marquee subscriptions. Over the last few years, I’ve found that my primary attraction to attending games at Wrigley is to catch up with friends or attend other one-off events related to the team. Is there a point at which we collectively just decide that, even though the Cubs are what brought us together in the first place, it’s easier to get together sans game?

Probably not, but you get where I’m going. For now, though, I’m happy to have had the chance to see my all-time favorite athlete immortalized outside of my favorite place. That was more than enough to mute the whistling sound of the Cubs crashing to earth like a dud missile that is falling far from its mark and won’t even detonate when it lands.

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