Tuesday, April 20, 2010

My Thoughts on NU at Wrigley

Cubs OF Sam Fuld won't play at Wrigley on Nov. 20th, but the 'Cats will...
Wrigley Field. It is very possibly the most well known sports venue in the United States. It might very well be the most well known sports venue in the world. It’s most famous for it’s beautiful ivy covered walls, neighborhood pubs, and the often futile efforts of its resident baseball team. On November 20, 2010, though, it will also be known as the site of a college football game between the Northwestern Wildcats and Illinois Fighting Illini.

Since the idea of such a contest was floated last year, many different opinions on the matter have been expressed. Even in the NU blog community. It seems Spread Far the Fame (despite helping break the story) is very much opposed to the idea, while Lake the Posts has concerns, but will get behind the effort in order to help make the Friendly Confines unfriendly to the Illini. I’m not sure exactly what view the other major NU blog, Sippin’ on Purple, holds, but Rodger certainly didn’t seem to express the same frustration with the idea that Otto at Spread Far the Fame did.

Personally, I think I’ve agreed with every viewpoint on this game at one time or another. When Jim Phillips first mentioned the idea I thought it was terrible. Especially in a season when NU has only six home games. Now, the ‘Cats will only have five. In a possible rebuilding year, it didn’t seem that smart to give up a home field advantage. Then, the rumor started that the game would be against Iowa. I thought about how NU plays Iowa so well on the road and I decided that it would be a fantastic showcase game for the Wildcats to take on the Hawkeyes in Wrigley. Now, it appears the deal is more or less done and, that like originally figured, Illinois will have the honor of visiting Wrigley to play the ‘Cats. Surprisingly, though, I haven’t gone back to hating this idea. I still think Iowa would be a more exciting game, but I’m starting to buy into the idea of playing a game at Wrigley.

I do agree with those who say that only have five home games stinks for those of us who love to get to games early and tailgate in the parking lot at Ryan Field. The truth is, though, their just aren’t that many of us. What Jim Phillips is trying to do is create some more fans. NU has tons more potential fans (alums, employees, etc.) who are in the Chicago area, but don’t show up at Ryan Field. I can’t begin to speculate why, but it just doesn’t happen. What Phillips wants to do is give these people, and hopefully many of their friends, a reason to get interested in Northwestern. The odds are that the best seats for the Wrigley game will be attached to either season ticket packages or partial (say Big Ten games) season ticket plans. As a result, those people interested in the Wrigley game will buy season tickets for the first time and come out to Ryan Field. Once they do, I think they’ll get hooked. NU games are fun and often exciting. Usually, people want to come back after one visit. If Jim Phillips and the ticket office connect the Wrigley tickets to other games, they will help build NU’s fan base and the off-campus game will be worth the effort. It might even connect Chicago to Northwestern in a new way. After all, besides the items I mentioned at the start of this post, the other thing Wrigley Field is best known for is being located at 1060 W. Addison Street in Chicago, Illinois. People who think Chicago think Wrigley Field and those who live in the city are proud the park stands in their town. If NU can take over Wrigley Field, if even for a day, perhaps the large contingent of Chicago sports fans who don’t have a team will adopt NU as one of their own.
At least those are the goals. Yeah, it isn’t ideal to give up a home game, but if doing so adds to greater home attendance early in the season and in 2011; it’ll be worth the effort.