I have never booed the Cubs.
Booing anyone has never seemed all that productive to me, and frankly, it’s always made me think of my mom. One of the first sporting events I ever attended was a Utah Jazz vs. Phoenix Suns game as a small child and my mom was appalled by the booing. In fact, she took it upon herself to be a Suns fan for the game, because she thought it was abhorrently rude that people would boo them when they came from so far away to play a game.
I did not cheer for the Suns during that game because I can’t pretend to be nearly as amazing as my mom, but the lesson stuck. I have never booed any player or play on the Cubs. I actually find it kind of cringeworthy when boos echo from Wrigley Field for the home team and I am definitely that person that will shoot the boo birds a fierce look, even if it’s the worst inning, or string of innings, ever pitched. After all, baseball is a funny game, the greatest player in the world can make multiple errors on any given day, the greatest pitchers can be reduced to batting practice.
I’ll cut to the chase here, because I’m not trying to be coy with this post. You all know where I stand with Addison Russell. I’ve written thousands of words on this issue and haven’t minced any of them. I briefly considered making this post another compilation of the news cycle and reactions. I listened thoughtfully to Theo Epstein’s interview on 670 the Score and thought this piece from Jon Greenberg at the Athletic was particularly on point.
But honestly, you can read all of that on your own. As I started writing, I kept returning to Wednesday night and why I didn’t boo at Addison Russell’s return to Wrigley Field. I could have, I suppose. I wouldn’t have been alone. In fact, I probably would have been in the majority. From where I sat in the left field grandstand, the boos were much more prominent than the cheers every time Russell came to bat in his 2019 Cubs debut after serving a 40-game suspension for domestic violence.
I’d like to pause here for a moment, to remember why it took six weeks for Russell to rejoin the Cubs. Honestly, I think remembering that is more important than anything Russell could possibly do for the Cubs in 2019.
Addison Russell was suspended from playing for the Chicago Cubs for 40 games last season after his ex-wife Melisa Reidy detailed the abuse she suffered during their marriage. Between September and January she wrote, and gave interviews, that added a number of details to what was initially a very sketchy social media comment in 2017. She described a marriage that was punctuated with violence, including her husband tackling her to a concrete sidewalk and choking her in front of their son.
After her interview with Expanded Roster a number of Cubs fans, including many on this site, doubted that Addison Russell would ever play for the Cubs again. However, it became clear over the offseason that the front office wasn’t going to cut and run with Russell. For better or worse, they were going to attempt a rapprochement.
I have a lot of doubts about this strategy.
And so, on Wednesday, I didn’t boo, but I also didn’t cheer. I was still, silent and watching.
It actually reminded me of a lot of moments in my life where I’ve tried to make things better by being still. Silent. Watching. Moments where I thought if I could just keep myself motionless, everything would be okay.
I was wrong about those moments, because they were never about my movements or reactions or motions. It never mattered how still I was, those moments were about someone else’s demons and those moments were under someone else’s control.
It was strange to sit silent in a crowd as the eighth batter was announced. And while I will admit it was easier to hear the crowd boo Russell than it would have been to hear the crowd cheer for him, neither was particularly gratifying.
It was strangest to take a seat in the bottom of the tenth when it was late and the Cubs needed a run and know that I would take no joy in Russell being the hero of that game.
I imagine there are a lot of Cubs fans who felt similarly, to his credit, Theo Epstein appears to be keenly aware of this:
“I hope Addison continues to grow,” Epstein said. “That’s what this is all about. He doesn’t deserve to be met with an unconditional warm welcome and open arms. I think he will receive the appropriate response. That’s something he needs to take responsibility for and to process, handle the right way and to grow from. He knows it’s a long road back to earn people’s trust, whether it’s in the organization or more importantly, to the people in his life on a daily basis.”
I’m not going to pretend to know how this story ends. I’ll also be the first to admit that it would be best for everyone, but especially Russell’s family and loved ones, if he is fully rehabilitated. I have a lot of reasons to doubt that will happen, but honestly that is a post for another day.
For now, Addison Russell is going to play for the Chicago Cubs. Some people will be cheering for him, some people will be booing him, some people will be silent and some people may just leave and find some team other than the Cubs to love. At least for now I will not be booing Addison Russell when he takes the field for the Cubs, however, I’m still a long way from being able to cheer for him with a clear conscience.