July 1st, 2004: I’m going to The Friendly Confines for the first time. (NOTE: this may not have been the first time, but it was certainly my first tangible memory of going to a Cubs game. It’s my story, don’t fact check me.) The Cubs are coming off their heartbreaking NLCS loss the year before. I’m sitting right in the Bartman zone: Third base line towards left field. Mark Prior, who we didn’t know yet had already peaked at 23 years old, was taking the mound. My dad introduced me to the marvelous creation that is the Frosty Malt. I watched as my older brother kept a scorebook (nerd), and couldn’t help but feel the special aura this old place had. It was all amplified in the 10th inning, when Sammy Sosa hit a bomb into the left field bleachers to walk it off. I watched a tidal wave of fans rise off the crack of the bat. A visual my brain will never shake. Incredible.
October 19th, 2017: Full circle: My brother (the scorekeeper) had won the fan lottery to purchase tickets to the NLCS. We chose Game 5 and we sat in the bleachers. Thirteen years ago, our dad took us. Now, it was our turn to take him “out to the ballgame.” Thirteen years ago, he taught me about Frosty Malts. Now, I got to teach him about Hot Doug’s. Thirteen years ago he told me about the manually operated scoreboard in center field. Now I got to tell him all about the lawsuit the rooftop owners filed over the video boards in left and right field.
We replaced our sodas for beers, and braved the October chill. I’ll still remember that day fondly, even though the Cubs lost 11-1 and ended their season. I take it as further proof that maybe there really is something special about that old stadium at the corner of Clark and Addison.
I tell you those two stories to show that I don’t take my decision to not visit Wrigley Field lightly. I love it as much as any self-respecting Cubs fan should. I don’t make that decision because I lack affection for those memories. Rather, I think I love them too much.
I made those two visits without the burden that would sit with me today if I sat in the bleachers. Now I know the Cubs compromised their moral integrity to win more baseball games. There’s no other way to look at their handling of Addison Russell.
When approached with fact that Russell was being accused of domestic abuse two years ago, they made a choice. And there really could have been only three facts behind how they handled this:
- They put their head in the sand, and never asked their player whether he had been abusive towards the mother of his child, even though she was claiming that he had been.
- They did ask the question, and they believed him. They ignored their responsibility to investigate further, and were willingly manipulated to keep themselves in blissful ignorance.
- They asked the question, he told them the truth, and they knowingly concealed it.
When Option 2 is best-case-scenario, you screwed up. You let him lie to you and to your fans FOR A YEAR. He made asses out of the entire organization. His coaches and teammates all went to bat for him. He would have lied forever, if the mother of his child hadn’t decided to cooperate with investigators in 2018. Then, when apologies were his ONLY RECOURSE, he offered them. He accepted his suspension from MLB, thinking it made him seem contrite. Reality being, he hit a dead end.
Even after being lied to, even after being made the fool, the Cubs still decide to commit to this player?
He emotionally and physically abused his wife? “He was on the field for the World Series Team.”
He payed $600 dollars in child support in quarters? “He’s a gold glove infielder.”
He lied about all of it for a year to protect himself? “We don’t think he’s reached his potential at the plate.”
The Cubs have paid players who have done morally questionable things before. The difference here is all of those sins happened under the Cubs’ eye. They are as much to blame as anybody as to why this wasn’t dealt with much sooner and more efficiently. That’s what makes this different from Aroldis Chapman and Milton Bradley. They owe their fans a sign that they understand how badly THEY screwed up. They’ve failed to do that.
So they don’t get my ticket revenue anymore. Not while they employ that guy. He can have his second-chance, but he has to get it somewhere else. They won’t miss me, plenty of people will still be there to buy the tickets I pass on. But it’s the only recourse I have. It’s the only way I can watch the Cubs and still sleep.
I’m not encouraging anyone else to do that, but I will encourage everyone to find their line, wherever that line is. Because even if this isn’t your team, it could be some time in the future.
– Jake Logli, SportsFan 1330