Thursday, August 6, 2015

Review: A Nice Little Place on the North Side

A Nice Little Place on the North Side: A History of Triumph, Mostly Defeat, and Incurable Hope at Wrigley Field
by George F. Will

I selected this book to review because I knew I could pass it on to my dad after I read it. He's a sports fanatic and a Cubs fan. Mr. Will's self-deprecating humor suits the subject perfectly.
But one thing led to another, as things have a way of doing, and in 1948, when I was still not as discerning as one should be when making life-shaping decisions, I became a Cubs fan. The Catholic Church thinks seven-year-olds have reached an age of reasoning. The church might want to rethink that.
Extensive notes and bibliography attest to the wide-ranging research of the author, though from the tone of the book, I'm inclined to think he reads widely and recognizes connections between diverse sources. He interweaves quotes from poets, fictional accounts of historical Chicago, and newspaper articles seemingly unrelated to baseball, and reveals how they intersect with Cub history to reveal surprising truths about Chicago and the Cubs.

Of course, Mr. Will doesn't neglect statistics of the Cubs themselves. In one section, he relies heavily on a 2011 book by Tobias Moskowitz and L. John Wertheim in which they show how attendance at Wrigley Field remains steady (or increases) even when the Cubs lose.
And speaking of incentives and, as any baseball person must, of beer, they also say, "Attendance at Wrigley Field is actually more sensitive to beer prices--much more--than it is to the Cubs' winning percentage."
Baseball franchises, like all major sports today, must balance the historical with the modern. A bit of time contemplating Wrigley Field's history, the momentous and the mundane, knowing change might be nearing, helps us honestly assess what places mean to us and how those meanings can continue or grow amidst progress. (Alternatively, it could spur someone to invest in a baseball team to prevent change, if someone had that kind of money, I suppose.)
Which is why we care so much about what happens in places like Wrigley Field. What happens, really? It is just a game. Yes, like any craft, it is worth doing well. And excellence, wherever it occurs, is worth savoring and honoring. But, in spite of the unending attempts of metaphysicians in the bleachers and press boxes to make sport more than it is, the real appeal of it for spectators is that sport enables us, for a few hours, to step out of the river of time and into a pastime.
This book is enjoyable for anyone interested in sports, history, Chicago, the Cubs, or architecture. My dad is going to love it!


I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review. The opinions above are my own.

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