Friday night, I was wandering around Wrigleyville because I had foolishly forgotten to take a key picture for an upcoming piece on the Cubs Hall of Fame statues around the ballpark, but I didn’t mind. I wasn’t planning on watching the Cubs on Apple TV+ because that isn’t a streaming service I currently have and I find MLB’s presumption that I will add multiple streaming services for a handful of games noxious. So I figured I might as well walk over to the old ballpark and get the picture I needed while listening to Pat Hughes call this particular Cubs game. But as I got to Gallagher Way by the Cubs office building I was shocked to see the bartenders at Lucky Dorr searching for the Cubs game to no avail. Apparently, the tenants of the Cubs office building didn’t get the memo that this Friday night game was on Apple TV+.
I took the pictures I needed and walked over to explain why they were having so much trouble finding the game. They were stunned. They didn’t have Apple TV+ set up at Lucky Dorr, and while they may have gotten it set up after I left, they also told me at least one table had asked for a check early because they “needed to go home to watch the Cubs game on Apple TV.”
This made me curious, so I walked over to Brickhouse Tavern. It was packed. A full house and all of the TVs I could see were showing the NBA playoffs where the Bucks are taking on the Celtics, with a smattering tuned to Stanley Cup hockey. A glance across the street at the businesses below the Hotel Zachary showed the same thing: A lot of NBA playoff basketball and a bit of NHL Stanley Cup hockey. I didn’t see a single TV tuned to Chicago Cubs baseball in either building owned by the family that also owns the Cubs.
I was stunned to see the lack of baseball in a neighborhood literally built around the oldest ballpark in the National League. To be clear, it wasn’t just the new businesses in the neighborhood, as this tweet from Nisei Lounge Friday afternoon demonstrates:
Oh yeah that’s TOTALLY WHAT WE WANT TO FIGURE OUT ON A FRIDAY NIGHT. ♂️ ♂️ ♂️ ♂️ ♂️— Nisei Lounge Chicago (@NiseiLounge) May 13, 2022
THANKS MANFRED! https://t.co/wqdqT4TNTP
Now, I’m sure Nisei Lounge eventually found the game. There is a reason that’s my favorite dive bar near Wrigley Field. They are gritty and get things done. I’m sure they are watching the game and selling shots of Malört when the Cubs score. If there was a way to show Cubs baseball at Nisei Lounge on Friday night, they likely got it done.
Additionally, there were other bars in the neighborhood that clearly got the Apple TV+ memo. I saw the game on at Murphy’s Bleachers as I walked by on my way home. I might have even walked a bit (a lot) slower because I caught a glimpse of Willson Contreras at the plate and I knew that it was likely the only Willson at bat I was going to see with my own eyes tonight. But I have to speak frankly, watching a venue that is literally across a brick sidewalk from Wrigley Field show hockey and basketball over Cubs baseball hurt my soul a bit:
It is not enough to just put baseball on streaming services and hope fans watch. Yes, people are streaming more, but as I wrote earlier this season, streaming is about picking your own content. There is no reason to believe that moving baseball to a streaming platform increases the number of new eyes on it. If someone has Apple TV+ because they really love Ted Lasso, would they necessarily tune in to watch Friday Night Baseball?
What Friday night’s game demonstrated to me is that even some of the people who have the largest incentive to ensure they know where Cubs games are didn’t get the memo that baseball had cherrypicked some games and moved them to other platforms. It also appears that when faced with the choice of figuring out how to add a new platform to their options on the fly or just showing other sports’ playoffs instead, they opted for the latter.
We can have a debate about whose fault it is that the game wasn’t on all over the neighborhood or whether there was enough information about where these games could be found. At the end of the day, those debates don’t turn any of those TVs to Cubs baseball. That’s a shame to see in buildings owned by the family that owns the team.