Wrigley, Part Two: I Did It For the Glory

Also known as Double your Pleasure, Double your Posts: A two-part examination of Northwestern's Wrigley Field escapades. Part two is me being an unprofessional fool in the presence of professionals. 

And as always, I simply select post titles by dipping into my endless well of random hip-hop songs that I feel fit the occasion for no apparent reason. Why I chose a song where Kanye specifically goes out of his way not to shout out the North Side for a post about Wrigley Field, I couldn't tell you.

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Suit, suit, suit, dress shirt, Pat Fitzgerald, dumbass in a rush shirt, suit, suit...

I'm not a professional journalist. Much like college athletes aren't professional athletes, rather, they're student-athletes, I'm a journalism student. I'd obviously still consider myself to be held to many of the same standards as professional journalists, like ethics and whatnot. 

The Wrigley Field press conference a week and a half ago was an example of an event where I blatantly didn't act the way I should've if I was a real journalist. (take note, future employers!) But I'm a college student. Like I said yesterday, life is about living in the moment. I might have been unprofessional as hell, but I didn't do anything egregious, didn't disturb anybody, and I got like 40 years to be boring and not do things like this.

Last Thursday was hell. I had work until midnight and a paper about the Merchant of Venice that I hadn't started yet due at 3 p.m. the next day. (Remember what I said about living in the moment? That includes not starting papers more than 15 hours before they're due.) (Or writing posts about things you did less than a week and a half after you did them, but that's besides the point.) Needless to say, when somebody asked me at about 6:30, "hey, we need somebody to cover the Wrigley press conference tomorrow, you in?", I probably shoulda been like, "nah, son! Sleep is important!" But quite frankly, it sounded awesome. You mean I get to chill out on a 65 degree day (perfect weather in Evanston in April) down the third-base line at Wrigley Field? So instead of going "nah, son!", I conteplated for a second. 

 

First off, the press conference at 11 AM would definitely prevent me from attending my 11 AM class. Now, I'm not a great student by any means, but I don't skip classes, ever, because every time I do I'm reminded of the fact that I pay enough to buy about four or five Kias per year just to attend Northwestern, and therefore, I just paid about 100 dollars for a lecture that I just skipped, and as a Jew, this pains me immensely. (Note that I had been thinking about the Merchant of Venice all day. I WILL HAVE MY CHRISTIAN FLESH!) So generally, I dutifully show up to every class on my schedule and play bubble spinner paying 48 percent attention, but going to class, because skipping pains me.  But, hey, Wrigley press conference. 

Then there's my 1 PM discussion section. Now, normally this wouldn't be a big deal, but this is my discussion section with only five students in it that I've made it a routine to show up like nine minutes late to every week. I don't have a class beforehand, generally I'm just chilling around, enjoying the lunch table conversation, and I look down and it's 12:57 and I've just been wasting time the entire time, and my TA obviously notices I'm late because there's only five people in the class and he's like "hey, why are you late?" and I'm like "uhhh, just lost track of time, man!" and I slowly realize that I'm crapping away the 25 percent of my grade that is dependent on participation. But there's no way the presser's going to go more than an hour, I figure there's no way I can't make it back in time.

So, instead of a "nah, son!", I gave a "yeah, sure, I can cover the presser". Northwestern athletics department, I will indeed enjoy the awesome visual that your clear attempt at a photo op will offer. So I borrowed a legit camera and agreed to go be a one-man reporting band the next day.

I spend that night a) reading The Merchant of Venice b) formulating a paper topic about the Merchant of Venice c) writing that paper, and finally passed out with the sucker about 3/4 done at like 5 in the morning. Sadly, the whole "press conference at 11 AM at Wrigley Field" thing necessitated that I leave at 9:30 to hit up the purple line. Luckily for me, I woke up at 9:25, and hey, I was already wearing the shirt I forgot to change out of the night before, so that saves me almost eight seconds of the prep process. Pants, shoes, shoving a camera bag into my backpack, and no shower later, I left to go be a journalist, the way they teach you in textbooks: bleary-eyed on the el, wearing a fraternity rush shirt and the sweatshirt of the school whose press conference you're covering, Timbs, my flat-brimmed Knicks hat, and smelling like an 3/4 all-nighter writing about the Merchant of friggin Venice. 

On the el, I couldn't stop from wondering: how many other journalists heading to this thing were riding the el? Who was skipping class to be there? Miserable, but still, I was excited. 

They absolutely DECKED OUT Wrigley for the event. NU flags flying from the centerfield scoreboard, the foul poles, and the "Welcome to WRIGLEY FIELD" sign out front. I entered under there. There's not many things cooler than coming out from behind home plate into the stands at Wrigley, as I learned the first time I did it, for a random weekend Brewers game... but there's something surreal about doing it and there being nobody there. Nothing. A few NUAD types chilling out near the dais, but the field, the stands, the bleachers on the rooftops... quiet. I plopped all my crap down a few rows away from the podium and waited. In the meanwhile, they proceeded to blast the NU fight song at about 400 decibels a few times to knock me out of my reverie, but I was still pretty entranced by the scenery.

Eventually, some press types showed up to join me and all the athletic department types and the show got on the road. It was pretty much 20 minutes of unadulterated NU porn. Here it is, if you want to listen to it.

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Also, I feel like I should mention that somewhere in the middle of that, our photographer showed up. I had been dutifully taking photos of everything because I thought I was being a one-man reporting machine, so when she showed up and saw me snapping away, we exchanged a sweet "what the hell are you doing here?" expression from across the press conference. My photos all sucked, so, it was for the best.

 

Anyway, you hear that at the end? Something about people being involved... being available... for one-on-one interviews on the field?

I have a little bit of an obsession with the places sports are played. And yet I've never seen what it's actually like from the eyes of the people who play there. I always love when they show baseball managers chilling in the dugout wearing aviator shades, because it gives you this unbelievable view of something you'd never otherwise have access to: the actual view out of an MLB dugout. Yes, I've rushed Ryan Field before. Not that special. Ryan Field, for how cool the towers look, is a glorified set of bleachers. It's just a big grass field. Being on the field didn't make me think, "wow, I'm where CJ Bacher played!" I've played basketball at Welsh-Ryan Arena. Yeah, a bunch of great players have played there - visiting, mainly -but I didn't get a rush from it. The court is no better than the parquet over at SPAC, and the backdrop of the wooden bleachers behind the clear backboard didn't throw off my jumper as much as I'd thought. Cool experiences both, but, they're our tiny little college facilities. I've been in the first row there. I've seen what it's like, even without walking out. I'd never been someplace I consider to be hallowed ground before. Maybe the one time I sat in the second row of a Knicks game, but that was, like, the second row.

So when I heard that, I realized what was going on. I had been getting a rush just from sitting in the chairs five rows behind the third-base dugout... things were about to get real. All the professional journalists were clearly taking this calmly. They busted out their tape recorders and calmly formed a huddle out behind third base while waiting for the orderly group of NU related people to make their way out for interviews. Me and the photographer, on the other hand, were sort of freaking out. Like, freaking out. I slipped onto the field behind the third-base dugout, sort of halfway in between the bullpen and third base, and immediately started going buckwild with my iPhone camera, which already isn't what you're supposed to do. 

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These aren't even, like, good photos.

I clearly had to do something journalistic, so I went ahead and got some interviews in. Like, exactly as many as I realized that I'd need to write a good article, and none more.

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(It goes Corbin Bryant, Dan Persa, Pat Fitzgerald, then Bryant, then Persa.)

I got a few words from Bryant and Persa, then saw our photographer chilling out by herself around second base. I went over, and about as quietly as I could, said something to the extent of "I NEED YOU TO TAKE A PHOTO OF ME HANGING OUT ON THE FIELD AT WRIGLEY FIELD." Luckily, she was like "yeah, I was going to ask you the same thing," so I was golden. I went back and interviewed joined the throng of about 15 reporters hounding coach Fitz, got some quotes, didn't even have a chance to ask any questions. (this is when the above photo of me clearly being the only unprofessionally dressed person in a crowd of reporters was taken. I love that one.) Satiated, I realized it was game time. Me/photog were determined to make this somewhat discreet, so as quietly as we could, we slinked away to about 20 feet away and started shooting. 

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WORD!

My shooting instructions: "Daddy needs a new profile pic!"

(Side note: I realize this photo ends the Sippin' on Purple traditional charade of people guessing which fraternity I'm a member of. My apologies to the brothers of Lambda Chi, sports-blogging brothers probably isn't much of a rush tool.)

Knowing that we were under the watchful eyes of a bunch of media, we took like five hasty photos each, with me trying to capture the "aloof mean mugging dude" pose but just kinda giggling in most of them. I noticed that Corbin Bryant was just kind of standing by himself, taking pictures of everything on his phone. Seeing a kindred spirit, I went over and briefly interviewed him, and what resulted was the "like"-filled series of questions captured above. (I was kind of hyperventilating on account of the taking photos in front of the ivy-covered fences at Wrigley Field thing.) Dan Persa was also solo, so I did the same for him, with equally poor results. The three of us were clearly thinking along the same lines: everybody else was all worried about getting enough quotes to have a story into press by deadline that night, or cutting a segment for the 5:00 news, but we were just kind of there to soak everything in and think about how awesome life was right then, and how awesome this game was going to be. Props to Corbin Bryant's camera phone.  

Now, at this point, my journalistic duties were through. I had enough quotes to write twice as much as I needed, I'd interviewed every relevant person, I'd taken more photos than I needed to accompany the story, and I had class in about an hour. So the photog and I had a powwow: when the hell would we ever be on Wrigley Field again? Probably never, or at least not anytime soon. Shouldn't we be being professional, being at a press conference and all? Well, yeah. But hadn't we already broken the bounds of professionalism by taking about ten photos of me mean mugging in front of the old-timey scoreboard? YES. And in that case, IT WAS TIME TO TAKE MORE PHOTOS OF BEING ON THE FIELD AT WRIGLEY FIELD BECAUSE IT WAS AWESOME.

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WORRRRRRRD!!!

My favorite part of this photo: the legit journalists doing their jobs in the top left of the image.

We kept taking pictures of random things around the field - the on-deck circle, just us in random areas, pretending to call shots - for like a minute and a half. It was pretty clear people noticed us acting like idiots, but we'd crossed that bridge, blown it up, and threatened to kick the crap out of our enemies with remaining fragments of the bridge if they pointed it out to anybody. We pondered how unprofessional it would be to go chill out in the dugouts, since they were completely open, decided that was on the borderline of an arrest-worthy offense in trespassing on the Chicago Cubs, considering no part of the press conference involved going into the dugouts, and decided we'd had our fill.  

The el ride back was pretty much just us checking out our photos for 45 minutes straight. We'd used up all the memory on two cameras, mainly with relevant photos, but also with us goofing around. Thanks to a 15 minute wait at Howard - quick poll, anybody of you fools ever actually taken the Skokie Swift? Well, I hate you if you have, you dirty punk, for making my purple line train come slightly slower - I pulled into Davis, looked down at my cell, and - oh, crap, 12:55. 

I showed up to my five-person discussion section at 1:08, and, like a routine, my TA was like "so, why are you late?" The first three classes, I'd just been screwing around, and didn't give him any reason why I was the only one of his five pupils who couldn't be bothered to show up when I was supposed to. Luckily, this time, I had a memory card full of reasons why I was late.

"You see, I had to cover this press conference downtown, at Wrigley Field..."

 

 

 

 

p.s.: I ended up writing this story a few days later, so, something good actually came out of all this. 

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