If I had to sum up the 2017 Cubs Convention in one word the year after winning the World Series for the first time in all of our lives, it would be the word “processing.” From the owner down to the fans, none of us, except Theo and the players and brass know what it’s like to win it all. And nobody until now in the history of sports knows what it feels like to end a century long championship drought. We were all processing that together at the Cubs Convention.
The Opening Ceremonies were packed beyond capacity, a likely preview of Wrigley Field on a summer Saturday in 2017. I have no idea what the wait in line was to actually get a seat to the kick off of Cubs Con on Friday, because when I arrived two hours before the scheduled start time of 6 p.m., there was already a mob of people scrambling to even find the line to get up to the main ballroom level. The escalators were working overtime ferrying fans between levels, exceeding the capacity of the steel stairs.
As far as I could tell, there were two intertwining lines that overlapped with people attempting to make their way downstairs to the retail and autograph area or people like me who were just walking around and taking it all in. Hot-headed fans screamed “back of the line!” at each other as line jumpers attempted to infiltrate the confusing jumble of blue-clad bodies hoping for a seat in the Main Ballroom. It was a complete clustershow, which is a word I just invented for a family website.
I squeezed through the mass to a down going elevator and took refuge on a more chill floor. Level 2 is Cubs alley. Cubs social media, minor league affiliates, a couple of stores, and the Phoenix Board of tourism resided there for the weekend. I saw people walking out of the Phoenix tourism store with neon sunglasses which I assumed were free, so I went in to check it out. Not only did they have free sunglasses, but free cactus candy, chocolate in the shape of Arizona, and lip balm.
I helped myself to the candy and lip balm and saw what looked to be a massage chair. What it was however was a virtual reality Oculus setup where you can simulate skydiving over the Grand Canyon. What the heck? It’s early in CubsCon and thousands of peoples germ ridden faces haven’t been on this thing yet, might as well skydive!
You have to sign a waiver to try this thing out because the chair wiggles around as you tandem jump with some virtual lady. I felt it would have been better simulated if they blew a bunch of cold air in your face as well, but that’s probably not practical for a hotel conference room. It was kinda lame and since getting my information they’ve sent me three promotional emails in the last 24 hours.
I then headed on over to the Minor League affiliate section where there was someone dressed as a pelican and you could also take your photo as Sasquatch!
I made my rounds and went down another level to the Exhibition Hall, where vendors vend, autographs are autographed, and I also had to register and pick up my pass. Luckily the Will Call line was shorter than this Season Ticket Holder line.
You do a a lot of waiting in lines at Cubs Convention. Autograph lines, lines to get into rooms, lines for food, not to mention the aforementioned line you saw in the video above to the Main Ballroom, the one where I couldn’t find the beginning nor end. I picked up my pass and prepared to brave to crush of Cubs fans picking through merchandise in the cramped vendor alley.
I pushed through swarms of Cubs fan consumers with no particular destination in mind. I just wanted to see if they were selling any new Series swag. I had seen it all before, but the prices were much better!
Vendors alley proved a tight space, with the crush of fans finding bargains like two for $25 World Series hats and piles of marked down T-shirts, coats, pins, hoodies, license plate holders, tumblers, bottle openers, and commemorative desk plaques that simply weren’t for sale last year. Anything and everything that could have “Cubs World Series Champions” slapped on it was for sale and being hungrily gobbled by fans for the first time since 1908 when I hear you could have bought a Worlds Champion tuxedo coat such as this gentlemen wore to the convention.
I crammed on through the alley, buying nothing, and found myself in front of something that wasn’t at last years convention either, “The Trophy Tour.”
The trophy seemed held in a tented covering of a parking garage, as I felt a bit of an outside breeze coming through.
This was confirmed...
Question. Was the World Series trophy held in a tent in a parking garage during Cubs Con?— Danny Rockett (@SonRanto) January 16, 2017
@SonRanto most definitely. That last row made you think a car might clip a knee— Jamie Baker (@rljmb23) January 16, 2017
Fans could wait in a line to get their photo taken with the trophy, but the line was closed at this point so close to Opening Ceremonies. A guard said the wait had been about an hour.
I asked Cubs Twitter how long they had waited to see the trophy and am sharing my favorite reply.
On Sunday, the trophy line stretched back nearly to the entrance of the Exhibition Hall.
Figuring the throng had already scrambled to their seats in the Main Ballroom and the 6 p.m. start time for the Opening Ceremony fast approaching, I headed upstairs to see if I could at least find a place to stand in the back. I barely could. The seemingly over capacity crowd was already packed all the way to the doors, but managed a SRO spot about five people deep.
As you can see, outside the doors there are many more fans who will never get in.
This is pretty typical for Cubs Convention, but definitely worse this year. I made a point last year of trying to get a good seat and lined up two hours early. Judging by the deluge of people streaming up the escalators two hours before this photo was taken, I would imagine I would have had to have waited a lot longer this year.
The OC started a bit late and then it was business as usual. Tom Ricketts spoke, Wayne Messmer sang, the players were introduced by Pat Hughes, they played hype videos, we cheered our champs and then we all left. One thing I noticed immediately was that the sound was a bit better than in years past when I’ve stood in the back. Everything was audible except the CSN broadcast beforehand which carried the event and was softer. Even with two large video screens on the side in addition to one in the middle, those of you who watched it at home had a better view than I did.
My arms were tired from holding my camera over my head trying to get shots of the proceedings in the dark and difficult to photograph room. This is the best somewhat blurry shot of the World Series trophy from my $160 point-and-shoot zoom camera. But there are others that came out well in the gallery at the end of this article.
With Cubs Convention officially kicked off, I jammed myself into the legion out in the hall went back downstairs.
I bumped into a few people I had met through being a public Cubs fan, and got recognized by a few others who knew me through BCB and The Son Ranto Show, including a guy I had photographed in a bear costume at a previous convention. Then I saw someone in a dinosaur costume and followed them all the way downstairs to the Exhibition Hall where I finally could get a good shot of them.
Here is this moment from another angle which was sent to me 3 days later.
Not wanting to squash myself back into vendors alley I headed up three floors to see if Late Night with Ryan Dempster had started yet. It had, but there were no seats. I watched a bit, snapped a few shots, but decided to get out of there when Theo and Jed started to play the Newlywed Game.
Friday night of Cubs Con has become bloggers, podcasters, and social media hangout night at Lizzie McNeil’s, down the steps east from the Sheraton. Basically, we drink, we talk, and we all skip Late Night with Ryan Dempster. It can be summed up in Cubs writer for numerous outlets and BP Wrigleycast podcaster Ryan Davis’s tweet to Bleacher Nation’s Brett Taylor, Cubs Insider’s Evan Altman and @KatieKatCubs.
This is one of my favorite hangs of the year. You finally put faces and names to Twitter handles. You share stories about last season and discuss when you’ll see each other this coming season. This Cubs community of “new media” is in direct competition with each other, yet everyone gets along and is incredibly supportive. I’ve met some wonderfully talented people through my contributions to Cubs fandom and it’s an honor to be invited to the party and hang out for a night of revelry. With all the bloggers drinking at Lizzie’s, I would bet Late Night With Ryan Dempster is the least reported on Cubs story of the year.
I shared and Uber with Harry or @SipBlueKoolAid uptown for a short nights sleep of sleeping it off.
The alarm rang with the grey morning late peeking through the curtained windows. I wasn’t in any mood to rouse, but the Ricketts family forum began at 9. I guess if you want to hang out with billionaires you have to get up pretty early.
You can find my article on thehe main points of Saturday morning’s sessions here. And this article is “To Be Continued” as I will be sharing the story of “The Unconventional” party which we threw at GMan Tavern, raising nearly $700 for Cubs Charities with a live Ivy Envy podcast, and performances by yours truly and Katie Day.
There was my night one! What was yours?
To Be Continued... check out these pics of the proceedings!