Aisle 424 wrote last week about the paucity of fans at U.S. Cellular at the conclusion of the White Sox' sweep of the Yankees, and it got me to thinking. It got me to thinking so much I actually used the word paucity in a sentence. But mostly it made me ponder the possibility of the same thing eventually happening to the Cubs. Sure, in this current epoch of unconditional attendance (or at least ticket purchasing) by the Wrigley faithful and word-of-the-day Cubs blogging by yours truly, it doesn't seem like a remote possibility that a good Cubs team would ever have such a difficult time putting blue-bleeding butts in the bleachers.(Sorry, that expression is completely gross, but I'm keeping it.) But over time, it's a real possibility.
If Cubs fans lost interest one by disappointed one, if the market for witnessing baseball melancholy gradually dried out, if you, dear reader, became the first domino in a chain of secession from Cubdom . . . the Cubs could eventually become unpopular. What I want to know is, what would it take?
What would have to happen to make you stop attending Cubs games altogether? I'm not saying you'd abandon all hope and start cheering for the Expos to make a comeback, I'm just asking, what would it take to make you so disinterested in watching Cubs baseball live that you wouldn't even go to a game in which their Cy-Young caliber pitcher had a chance to lead the sweep of the best team in the league? Let's face it, that's pretty much the pinnacle of attendance apathy.
I know some of the OV regulars have no interest in attending as it is. But if you are among the throng of willing participants in the conga line through the Wrigley turnstiles, what would it take to get you to hang up your . . . conga shoes? Here are some possibilities.
Maybe it's the rising ticket prices that could dissuade you from buying tickets. That would make sense. The Cubs are a bad baseball team charging really-good-team prices to watch them play bad baseball. But if cost is going to be the predominant factor in turning Cubs fans away, the Cubs would have to be absolutely obstinate about keeping prices high. For whatever reason, a lot of people are still investing a lot of money in buying tickets to Cubs games, and if that trend is declining, it's doing so slower than a Joe Mather curveball.
I'm laughing loudly at the idea of the Cubs collapsing. What's to collapse? It's not like the Cubs are a house of cards waiting to fall. They're a house of card. But I'm using C-words here, so deal with it. If the Cubs stay really bad for a really long time (and who among the living and reasonably sane doesn't think that could happen?), interest will wane. Judging by the current market, they'd have to continue losing, uninterrupted by success, for the better part of a decade. That can be tough. You never know when even an ineptly run team might accidentally be good for awhile, so the Thoyer Super Friends brain trust would have to thoroughly disappoint to sustain the current tidal wave of suck. I'm not saying it isn't a possibility, but the inertia of Cubs fans' loyalty doesn't seem to allow for a mass exodus due to bad baseball anytime soon.
Let's not forget that the White Sox are less than seven years removed from their last World Series parade. If the same thing happened to the Cubs, is it possible that fans would stop coming to Wrigley? Cubs fans could tune out the way Moonlighting fans did after David slept with Maddie. Once the seemingly endless chase for success finally comes to an end, maybe that could be the ironic last straw for fans just looking for a reason not to come to the ballpark anymore? Maybe Cubs fans only want what they can't have. Maybe . . . heh, shit, come on. This would never happen.
This is has been a really, really boring team to watch. Maybe people for whom the novelty of new prospects playing at the major league level has become tiresome will actually slip into a state of prolonged unconsciousness. That might physically prevent fans from attending games at Wrigley, but it would, ironically, be just the thing to make the endeavor bearable.
This is the one I'd be most interested in feedback on. What if the Ricketts finally approved and implemented serious changes to Wrigley Field? Or maybe they blow up Wrigley altogether and start from scratch. What level of change would it take to kill your interest in coming? Replacing the troughs with civilized urinals? Cutting off beer sales in the top of the third inning? Orange shag carpeting in the mezzanine suites? Or, perish the thought, replacing the Wrigley scoreboard with a gigantic jumbotron that merely simulated the old-fashioned hand-operated scoreboard? Seriously, what change at Wrigley would keep you from ever returning?
Really. They are the Cubs. If there's one thing they can do, you'd think it would be getting people to stop coming. Somehow they're failing even at that.
What the hell is wrong with us?