Saturday, April 25, 2015

Book Review: A Nice Little Place on the North Side by George F. Will

A Nice Little Place on the North Side
What does a female bear taking birth control have in common with the World Series? No cubs. (p. 29)

Spring is in the air. With it comes the sound of a crack of a baseball bat to be closely followed by the gnashing teeth of Chicago Cubs fans as the team tanks another season. George Will, better known for his political commentary (and ubiquitous bowtie), has written an enjoyable history of the team and begs to ask the question, why can’t they win another Series?

“...there is a lot of losing in baseball, even for the best teams. If you can’t bear losing, find another sport. And if you do not much mind losing, or if you actually rather enjoy it, you should feel right at home in Wrigley Field.” (p. 136)

A Nice Little Place on the North Side goes beyond a simple litany of famous and infamous fans, games, and players. Although, I have to admit I was fascinated to find out Jack Ruby once worked at Wrigley Field as a vendor known for “nefarious sales.” Will attempts to explain the mystique of the Cubs; obvious to inhabitants of Chicago, but beyond the understanding of anyone else. The fans devotion to Wrigley Field is legendary. As Will notes, every once in while a person in the front will even sneak in the ashes of a dearly departed and cast them into the wind. Ushers tend to look the other way. Cubs fans, Will wryly points out, are the least sensitive to losing streaks in all of Major League Baseball. Winning to please is obviously not a strategy in the team’s game book.

Will goes on to detail famous owners such as Spalding (of sports equipment fame) and Wrigley (chewing gum, natch), and how baseball became big business. His section on beer is very entertaining. Apparently, attendance at Cubs games is four times more sensitive to beer prices than ticket prices. He also includes a brief discussion of the psychology of sports fans and how even being part of a fandom for a losing team promotes a feeling of community.

How’s about dem Cubbies? Will the team ever win another series? Eh, maybe not, but it won’t be because of the lack of devoted fans. This book is an enjoyable read for baseball lovers. There is plenty of sports trivia and descriptions of games. I recommend it to anyone who follows the Cubs or ardently loves a hapless sports team for inexplicable reasons. It would also be appropriate for anyone who loves such a woeful individual. The book won’t completely explain his or her madness, but may increase one’s sympathy.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

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