Another Cubs Convention is in the books and the Cubs did their usual nice job of building the embers of hope into an actual flame.
This is a time when Cubs fans get to speak and they did not disappoint. The first THREE questions from fans weren’t even questions, but statements thanking and praising the Ricketts more than they ever have since the the Ricketts’ first Cubs Convention when people were throwing rose petals at their feet and sacrificing first-borns under a gold statue of Tom in a Cubs polo. The first actual question was about how a woman had “heard” the brick walls and ivy were down and worried that they wouldn’t be back for Opening Day.
So while those of us who actually pay attention to what happens around the Cubs aren’t shocked by the renovation stories, this was an actual question so you have to give her points. Plus, the answer revealed something I don’t think many people know. Apparently, the ivy is carefully removed from the wall each year (leaving the base and roots) and laid down on the ground while the bricks are checked and those that need replacing are replaced carefully (because ivy tends to crumble bricks over time). Then the ivy is reattached to the wall with no harm done to the plant. Todd also interjected that they have done this process before and nobody has ever shown any concern about it. So there you go.
Joe Maddon did his part to get the optimism flowing as he handled questions from kids and lunatics alike (Prepared Statement Guy made another appearance in this session) with grace and wit that was impressive coming from someone who probably had no idea how bizarre Cubs fans can be until witnessing this convention for the first time. One kid wanted to know who would be starting at third since there were so many options and Joe asked the kid back which option he thought should be the starter and they had a nice little back and forth about the merits of Kris Bryant and the kid probably went away with a story he’ll eventually be telling his kids and grandkids about.
Another guy was very upset about the scam of PowerBalance bracelets and wanted Joe to lay down the law with the team that they would not be allowed to wear those bracelets because they are a scam and won’t someone please think of the children? Joe again turned things around again by asking the guy if he should ban them even if players were superstitious about them. When the guy insisted he should, he gently talked about how players are creatures of habit and have superstitions and he doesn’t like messing with those.
Now, in both cases, Joe ended up giving answers the asker didn’t necessarily like. He was non-committal about the 3rd base question in the end, talking about how Spring Training sorts things out and he basically refused the premise of the PowerBalance guy’s question, but I think both people probably felt like there had been meaningful dialogue and so might not have walked away from the interaction overly upset. Maybe the PowerBalance guy was still upset, he was pretty worked up about the evils of those bracelets, but at least everyone else saw that Joe thoughtfully considered the question, which is all anyone can really expect from a session like those.
If Joe handles his players half as well as he handled screwballs at the convention, the Cubs players are going to love him and run through walls for him if he asks them to.
The worst thing about the panels I attended was the addition of “talent” from the WBBM broadcasting deal into the mix.
The people that have been to these things before like Len Kasper and Ron Coomer handled their moderating duties professionally and with just the lightest touch of humor to move things along. For instance, Len during the Ricketts session, followed the gushing thank you/non-questions of the fans with, “That’s it, thanks for coming everyone!” It was funny and then he moved on.
Coomer spent some time actually asking good questions to Shiraz Rehman and Randy Bush during the Meet Cubs Baseball Management session since none of the fans would ever ask them a question with Jed and Theo sitting there. So we actually got to hear Randy speak this year. It was historic.
Meanwhile, some dude whose name I didn’t catch from WBBM co-hosted with Coomer and was trying way too hard with the jokes and he was generally uncomfortable to listen to as he interjected repeatedly for no real reason.
But that guy was a damn pro compared to Lin Brehmer who moderated the Meet the Coaches session. This guy acted like everybody had paid their convention fee to see him. He hosted wearing a Cubs jersey unbuttoned over his t-shirt that made him look like any of the other fans that were there. He bragged about games he was at that nobody cared about. He talked far too long about his own baseball philosophies as he tried to prove that he belonged there because he was so knowledgeable. He didn’t know which jobs went with which coach as he introduced them and when they tried to correct him, he didn’t listen and he just bulled forward with his prepared questions. It was awful and hilarious and I wish to God I could have gotten a signal to tweet out the details as they happened because it was unbelievable.
Oh, and when the coaches were answering a question, he was breathing so heavily into his own microphone that it sounded like Darth Vader was in attendance.
So, WBBM folks, the thing to remember at these things is that nobody cares about you. They care about the people on the panel and nothing you do is going to change that, so just stop it. If this is what Cubs games broadcast on WBBM will be like, then I’ll join the group that pines for WGN. Especially if Lin Brehmer is involved. Holy shit he was terrible.
Other highlight/observations included:
- The Opening Ceremony went down pretty much as it always does, except this year it was hosted by Len Kasper instead of Pat Hughes, who apparently just had some minor surgery (and will be just fine for the Spring by all reports). The biggest cheers were for Jon Lester, Joe Maddon, Anthony Rizzo, Kerry Wood, and, of course, Mark DeRosa. Then, as usual, they showed a video that had just about every single positive play the Cubs had last year. They even threw in some Logan Watkins plays for some reason.
- They also unveiled their new slogan for 2015: Let’s Go. It’s… not too bad. Concise, positive, and not too syrupy or cheesy. I actually like it. SEE? I DO SOMETIMES ACKNOWLEDGE WHEN THE CUBS DO GOOD THINGS!
- Watching Bleacher Nation Brett’s ascension to minor celebrity status as he was constantly approached by folks who were very excited to meet him. I’m hoping by next year, he’ll be big enough that people will want to buy ME drinks so that I might introduce them to him.
- How Crane Kenney was really only about half a step ahead of Prepared Statement Guy in his interactions. He blatantly was reading from his notes while everyone else the Cubs gave a microphone to managed to talk intelligently without crib notes. Although, if the statements attributed to Kenney are true from the new law suit against the Cubs, Crane obviously has a problem when he’s allowed to wing it.
- The hotel seemed unprepared for the masses of a sold out convention. This is the first one held at the Sheraton that has actually been sold out, so they probably didn’t realize what they were in for, fully. You can talk about it in meetings all you want, but until you experience that magnitude, it’s all just theory. Lines for food and beverage were unbelievably long. They ran out of water. One hotel cafe was out of food before 10:30am on Saturday. We found it easier to leave the hotel and hit a local establishment within a block or two than to wait in the lines.
- Can we get some damn wireless coverage in there? During most of the sessions, an internet connection through Verizon was almost impossible. AT&T was reportedly better, but there was no unlocked wireless at the hotel that we could even purchase, much less anything for free.
- I got to meet and hang out with Dylan at the drinking fest on Friday at Lizzie McGuire’s, but I forgot to ask him to autograph a print-out of his legendary ACB Starfuckers rant. Maybe next year.
- The cherry on top of the whole weekend was seeing former actual Chicago media member and all-around jagoff, Chet Coppock, reduced to standing in line behind ladies with pins in their hats to ask a question of Theo. I can’t think of something more hilariously embarrassing for his massive ego. (His question was about Javy Baez and whether he could spend some time in AAA this year. On the surface it’s not so terrible, but I just KNOW he was trying to set Theo and Jed up to say positive things about Javy now so he could burn them with the quotes later if/when Javy struggles early in the year.)