This must have been a strange pitch to a publisher: “let me wander around Chicago’s Wrigley Field for an entire season, not report on any games, but instead observe and write about what it feels like to be a Cub’s fan - and more importantly, what it feels like to be a citizen of that amorphous, beer-filled area known as Wrigleyworld.” It is a good thing that a publisher bought Kaduk’s pitch, because what results is an entirely irreverent and often funny look at what it feels like to be a fan of the perennial yet lovable losers otherwise known as the Chicago Cubs baseball club.
At the beginning of the book, Kaduk is a displaced Chicagoan, banished to the baseball netherworld of Kansas City, working as a journalist covering high school games. Finding himself at a career crossroads and longing to return to his native city, Kaduk embarks on a dream journey that is probably the envy of every sports fan. His mission is to spend a year in Chicago’s North Side - more specifically, as close to Wrigley Field as is affordable and see as many Cubs games as possible. His chronicle of the year offers deep insight in what it is to be a fan and how the Cubs’s mystique continues to draw multitudes of fans even as the team’s on-field performance languishes.
Andy (many of Kaduk’s interviewees go by just their first name, probably to protect themselves from unhappy spouses or nosy bosses!) is one typical Cubs fan. Growing up in inner city Chicago, he saw his friends fritter their after-school hours away in gangs and drugs. Andy chose the Cubs instead. The team’s win-loss record matters little to him now; what matters is that the Cubs were there for him in his youth; he is a fan for life. Interestingly, he observes that going to work for the ball club would spoil it for him; instead, he prefers the role of the fan.
Given that this is Wrigley Field, home to what one observer called “the biggest beer garden in the world,” the book makes several stops at local taverns such as Murphy’s Bleachers and includes many a celebration of drinking and baseball. The nexus between beer and the Cubs is something that has been written about in abundance, but Kaduk introduces the fresh perspective of what that means to a young twenty-something fan.
This book is not about a baseball season; it most certainly is not about baseball strategy. It features a cast of characters who are generally young, cynical and often wary of traditions and old people. What it is, though, in its own achingly honest and un-self conscious way, is a paean to a baseball tradition that has withstood years of losing and yet creates tremendous and spirited loyalty to a team.