I arrived on the third-floor main ballroom lobby at 4:16 p.m. for the 6 p.m. Cubs Convention Opening Ceremony, finding myself a few dozen fans back in the line, nearly two hours before showtime. But we Cubs fans passed the time easily in a sweaty mob/line with our usual gossip and ponderings such as, "Who is the Cubs' true future shortstop?" and "Will the bleachers be done by April 5?" It was a relatively fascinating conversation given our forced togetherness, until the doors opened and everyone with a pulse, regardless of his or her own physical capability, bum-rushed the stage to see the 2015 Cubs and the alumni greet the fans with a confused fervor. I only describe the mood as confused because we Cubs fans are rooting for players we've never rooted for before. In fact, the biggest cheers were for Joe Maddon and Jon Lester who none of us have ever seen in pinstripes.
The takeaways from the opening ceremony: The new Cubs marketing slogan is "Let's Go", (which could have been thought up by my 6-year-old niece or any of us) Tom Ricketts announcement of WBBM-780 taking over Cubs radio and Edwin Jackson's entrance were roundly met with boos, and Welington Castillo was not in attendance. Make of that last bit what you will.
After the opening ceremonies, there was to be a "Surprise Signings" (player autograph) session while Ryan Dempster warmed up his talk show in the main ball room. However, the only surprise about the signings was that I couldn't find them. Cubs fans wandered around confused, wondering where the players were. Last year, the Cubs had an autograph scavenger hunt where I easily collected a few signatures of past Cubs greats like Dwight Smith and Tim Stoddard. This year… I got nothing.
When I finally found the "Surprise Signings" (on the lowest level of theand then stood in a line with my Cubs autograph gnome for a Kyle Schwarber signature, I was 167th (approximately) in line when they quit at 8 p.m. There were many disappointed fans who were in the same boat as me. The program says that there will be players all over the place signing autographs in "surprise places" and teases us with "Can you collect 'em all?" Well, It's impossible to collect 'em all in 45 minutes, let alone one. That's a no-brainer. Simply impossible. I'm not an autograph guy, but this autograph session was handled way better last year.
Then what happened?
Well, Ryan Dempster did his impression of Will Ferrell's impression of Harry Caray. He also did Chris Farley's "van down by the river guy" showing his versatility as a starter, reliever and impressionist of two beloved Saturday Night Live cast members. I only kid, Ryan, kind of. Demp did a great job hosting the show, which was set in "Late Night" format. The takeaways from Dempster's interviews are that Joe Maddon is probably the most interesting manager the Cubs have had since Leo the Lip, with quotes like "My favorite wine is the last one I drank." And also that Jon Lester is a balls to the wall competitor with quotes like "I just like to pitch. I just like to play baseball. That's it." Other than that. Anthony Rizzo is a sweet kid but a bad interview and when Glendon Rusch took the stage, everyone pretty much left.
Demp's funniest line of the night: "The Cubs sold 7,000 tickets, and that right there surpasses the White Sox season tickets."
Playing to the crowd.
The rest of the night was all bars and bloggers and podcasters. I hung out with a couple of the Ivy Envy guys and their wives, and the one and only Brett Taylor of Bleacher Nation. It was the best time I've had in a long time. We've only just begun!
Also! Here's a crudely made video!