Wrigley Field has been listed among the “happiest places in the world,” and the rampant gentrification throughout the surrounding neighborhoods has significantly altered demographics over the last 30 years. But because people are undefeated at being the worst, not even a World Series title and $700 million in renovations and new construction will keep them from acting like idiots.
The glitzy façade of pricey bars and $600-a-night hotels has done nothing but paper over the area’s seedy underbelly, or so the data presented by Rob Arthur of Deadspin indicates. If anything, the Wrigleyville environment may be worse than in the past.
Chicago Cubs home games coincide with the biggest increase in the raw number of emergencies of any city/sport combination. The area around Wrigley Field is a hotbed of drinking, debauchery, and public urination. And if we zoom in on a map of Chicago’s extra 911 calls, it’s clear that many of the additional emergencies are in the area around Wrigley.
One might think that the Cubs’ recent spate of success would have cut down on all this mayhem, what with the general euphoria that typically accompanies winning. Then again, anyone who’s been monitoring the Cubs fan experience over the last several years likely understands that being frontrunners has done little to quell anxiety or promote unity.
Surprisingly, there was no connection between the outcome of the game and whether the fans got into more trouble afterwards. Close wins and losses provoked just as many emergencies as blowouts. Fans apparently don’t take their disappointment out on the city after a loss, or maybe their enthusiasm for crime is just blunted by sadness.
So the volume of 911 calls isn’t contingent upon how the Cubs play, nor has it been lessened by additional amenities that ostensibly create a safer and more family-friendly atmosphere. Then what’s generating these issues? I had a little extra time – and a whole helluva lot of frustration – while waiting for a massive server issue with the site to clear up and I wanted to share some of the thoughts I was chewing over.
While I have no hard data or evidence to support my working theory, it’s rooted in general common sense and observation. What if all the gentrification has actually made things worse?
It may sound a little strange on the surface, but I believe there are some landmines in the Wrigley experience that are more easily tripped these days. You know that old saying that Cubs fans will come to the ballpark no matter how bad the team is? While the Cubs haven’t tested that in a few years, they’ve absolutely pushed the limits of fans coming out no matter how expensive the team is.
Because so many individuals and families may only be able to afford one trip to the Friendly Confines each year, those folks are often going to make the most of it. That’s always been the case to an extent, but it seems to be more so now even with folks who live close enough that Wrigley isn’t a major travel destination.
That includes a not-insignificant portion of people who are basically going to spite-drink when they attend the game. Whether that means angrily chugging $10 Bud Diesels in the bleachers, smuggling in airline bottles of booze, or road-popping on the way to the game, alcohol is undoubtedly a big driver of 911 calls. That’s part of the greater sports culture, but it’s really been glamorized in and around Wrigley.
There’s an undercurrent of unease and even anger flowing through a portion of Cubs fandom, as well. You can see it on social media and in the comments on this site, and that stuff bubbles to the surface when the drinks flow. Hence my “riot punch” analogy in the piece about when the Cubs would bring Addison Russell back.
On the other end of the spectrum are those folks who can more easily afford to attend games, particularly in the ever-increasing number of premium club seats throughout the ballpark. Is it conceivable that a little bit of contempt and condescension exists between different patrons? Perhaps. Might one group be quicker to blow the whistle on another? Perhaps.
In the more rough-and-tumble days when the Latin Kings or Gangster Disciples patrolled the area and the only rooftop seats were folding chairs, there was less of a class divide. Or at least it wasn’t as obvious as it is today. Day games meant a good number of denizens came from among the 15% of the rest of the world that wasn’t working. Tickets were cheaper, so was beer. Expectations were lower.
Another note I’ll make on this, and it’s tied to the earlier point, is that a not-insignificant number of fans believe their ticket buys them more than just access to the game. They feel entitled to say whatever they like to whomever they like, whether it’s players or fellow patrons. As the prices go up, so does the level of entitlement.
Then you toss in the subconscious – or maybe totally conscious – anxiety that a trip to Wrigley is costing you how much(?!) and you can see why folks are more on edge. It’s crowded and the traffic situation is abominable at times because the city won’t let the Cubs adequately block the surrounding streets during games. Wrigley being shoehorned into a residential neighborhood that has been (over)developed in recent years doesn’t help.
And that’s really what it comes down to. People are overheated, they’re tripping over each other, over-consuming alcohol, etc. There’s your EMS calls. Drunken morons carrying on and perhaps bumping into fences or trying to open the wrong door to the AirBnB they rented for the night probably account for a lot of the disturbances and burglar alarm calls.
It should also be noted that the Cubs don’t have the highest increase in calls on a percentage basis. That honor goes to the Cincinnati Bengals, whose home games generate a 50-100% spike in emergency calls. Who Dey, indeed.
Maybe this whole thing means nothing to you, either because you think stats lie (which they often do) or because you’ve never experienced or witnessed an emergency-worthy event at Wrigley. I suppose some people simply don’t care, chalking this all up to a necessary evil of attending a game. Which, man, that would be some seriously cynical stuff.
But I think we can all agree that it might not be a terrible idea to just be a little more conscientious and considerate when heading out to the old ballgame. It’s a revolutionary idea, I know.