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Monday, January 16

Cubs Convention 2006 - Actual Itinerary

I really did not have to take any pictures this weekend. This picture, from "This Old Cub", pretty much sums up the Cubs Convention experience. People, jillions of people, standing in line waiting for something. I know the Tribune wants to a) make as much money as humanly possible and b) serve as many Cub fans as possible, but if they want to make this a truly enjoyable experience for all, cutting the number of passes they sell by a half would be a good first step.

If they then want to recoup the investment, and to be fair, it all goes to charity, then simply ask people to donate $5 per signature. I don't think this is too much to ask, and maybe this would prevent some of the leeches like the motherfucker in front of me who gave Bobby Dernier a whole stack of baseball cards and threw a tantrum when he wouldn't sign more than four. That way, far more people would get a chance to meet their heroes. I, for one, didn't get a chance to meet a single, solitary, current player. Plus, it would stick it to the parasites who sell autographs, who really have NO business being there.

Here is my actual agenda, and no names have been changed:

3:00 - I actually did check into my hotel (Club Quarters on Adams, a real bargain at $89) and I really did walk on a treadmill, not that I was going to need the extra walking.

4:30 - Walked through a fairly "refreshing" sleet storm to get to the Chicago Hilton. There were no strip searches or lines to get into the hotel, the one time all weekend. I was decked out in my Cub jacket, Maddux gray gamer, a coordinated logo t-shirt underneath, and my pass hanging off of my son's fake "bling" pimp necklace, and just on the stairs to get into the hotel alone, I came in probably 14th of the most gaudily dressed Cub fan.

Oh. My. God. You have never in your life seen so much cubbie blue and white double knit polyester stretched to the hilt. People, please. I found size 58 authentic jerseys in all three varieties, and without much effort. But there's a catch, as I will fill you in later. BUY STUFF that FITS! And, if you shrink it, or you grow, then BUY MORE!!! The Cubs, the Tribune, and the Sloth will thank you.

Anyway, I wanted to find some of my internet buddies, and where would be the first place YOU would look?

That's right, Kitty O'Shea's. Anyway, at that hour, the only person I remotely recognized was Dave Kaplan in a hideous tangerine sportcoat. I had a beer with Mark from Bourbonnais via Terre Haute, and hopefully he'll write back sometime soon, since I gave him one of my cards later.

5:00 - anyway, I had heard that the opening ceremonies munched ass, so I wandered down to one of the exhibition halls, and I started crying real tears, it was SO beautiful. Anything you could possibly think of that you could stick a Cub logo on, it was in there. And me, with my credit card just PULSING in my I took the punk way out. I called home, described the scene to my wife, in the hope that she would not object to my celebrating the occassion by spending $225 on a framed, signed picture of all the '69 Cubs lined up on the baseline on Opening Day. Then she unleashed the two icy daggers that plunged deep into my Cubbie Blue Heart.

Budget Cuts.

I picked up a couple of baseballs and a few photos (Santo, Wood, Dempster - none of which I even came CLOSE to having signed) and was walking out of the hall when I saw a bunch of people getting in line. So I asked the first guy I saw what the deal was. He said that this was the line for the 6:00 "Autograph Hunt" and if I wanted an autograph, that I should get in line now. Cool, I said, are you the back of the line? No, he said, he's the front of the line, Here's Yer Sign. The back is waaaaaaaaayyyyy out there...I started walking. Ten minutes later, at the back of the line, all the way in Terre Haute, I got in line, and told the guy in front of me that I Liked the Wizard of Oz.

6:15 - the line finally started moving back where I came from, and it turns out that the Autograph Hunt features such luminaries as Dave Kingman, Lee Smith, Gary Varsho, Mickey Morandini. I did meet Jody Davis, which was cool, and I could have met Fergie Jenkins, if I wanted to donate $20 to his foundation. I also could have met Bob Feller for a double sawbuck; if I donated $50, he'd let me play "Connect the Liver Spots" on his face with a Sharpie.

7:00 - the phone, which had been ringing in my pocket for hours, finally attracts my attention. It's Jason (Goatrider Famine), and he's standing in front of Cubs Bingo, do we want to get together and he'd pass out the bizness cards Kurt (Goatrider Death) mailed us? Sure, and I got there the same time as Byron (Goatrider Pestilence). I introduced myself to Famine, Pestilence, and Famine's wife, Leah.

Leah, she be cute. Reeeeal cute. Jason, he's a handsome man, too (but whoever told him that he looked like Matthew McConaghey probably went to one too many Joint Subcommittee Meetings). Jason did NOT shove me, and that was good. Byron, on the other hand, he, uh, took his cards and left. Me, Jason, and Leah went to go win fabulous prizes at Cubs Bingo, with Wayne Messmer.

7:45 - after 45 minutes of the worst bingo of my life (my card was so bad that when they had a game of Stand-Up, which is when you keep standing as long as they did NOT call a number on your card, they called 11 numbers before they got me, I was in the top 10, but out of the money), Leah said she was going to start biting people if we didn't feed her, so back we went to Kitty O'Shea's, which by now had all the ambience of Kam's on Saturday night during fraternity rush week. After getting elbowed and smacked into for about 90 minutes, they understandbly wanted to leave. I decided to take one more pass around when I found. Him.

Andy Dolan. The President-for-Life of the Hank White Fan Club. I made his dad buy me a beer right off, by saying please and thank you. I guess I didn't really have a good idea of what a Professional Smart-Ass looked like, but upon reflection, Andy looks exactly like a Professional Smart-Ass, and he had THE story of the weekend for me.

14,000 people scurrying about the Chicago Hilton like worker ants, and there's one pompous motherfucker getting a shoe shine in the middle of it all. Yep, Andy said, it was Tom Shaer. Anyway, the shine gets done, and asks Shaer for eight bucks. Tom digs into his pocket, and asks the shine if he has change for a hundo? Yep, that's Tom Shaer, Professional Pompous Ass.

No sooner did Andy finish his story, and we're choking with laughter, did we notice the Pompous Ass himself, standing 10 feet from us. He HAD to have heard us. So more laffs ensued. Unintentional comedy at its finest.

So was watching Dave Kingman working the chicks, with Clyde the Glide Frazier and Keith Hernandez closeby shouting "No Play for Mister Gray" into microphones. Bobby Dernier was there, of course, and even though he waved at us, he would NOT come any closer to us. Maybe he remembered last year, when Andy and his dad poked good-natured fun at him. We saw Man-Mountain Tim Stoddard seemingly buying drinks for hundreds of thirsty patrons, including Pompous Ass Tom Shaer. We desperately tried to trip Ronnie Woo as he walked by, and seconds later, another homeless black dude, not as well dressed but smelling as bad, had let himself in and was preaching to us. It seemed like an eternity, but was probably only 30 seconds, until Security came along and shoved his stinky ass out the door. All the time, my mom's words were echoing in my brain:

"Don't make eye contact. DON'T MAKE EYE CONTACT!!!!"

T. J. Brown, another Desipio Disciple and the President of the Glenbrook Powder-Puff Football Association, came by for several drinks. He was unavoidably detained covering an exciting Conant-Fremd tilt for the Herald, I think he said the score was 46-40. Yawn. Right before I left, Random Bloodshot Drunk Guy came over complaining that he had handed Glenn Beckert a ball and a pen for an autograph, and that Beckert had thrown both of them back in his face. He had his arm around me like a brother, and we were all nodding our heads, trying to avoid a drunken brawl. (This guy shows up later).

11:30 - back at my room, I keep myself up half the night with my noxious gas from my lunchtime Campbell's Chunky Chili. My-tee tastee. But, man, they HAD to have replaced wallpaper after I left.

SATURDAY 8:15 - back at it, in the Continental Ballroom for the Meet the Management conference. I had to make a decision based on something I had heard last night. Some women I was in line with were discussing getting Michael Barrett's autograph. They were planning on being there this morning between 5:30 and 6 to get in line.

When was Barrett due to sign? 11:30.

Right there, I decided that there was no way in God's green earth that I was actually going to get a chance to meet an actual player. If a Michael Barrett demands six hours of waiting, what does a Derrek Lee require? Anyway, I was able to get a seat up front as well as two extra to save for the first two friendly faces I saw. Five minutes later, I waved Leah and Jason (yep, she gets top billing) over.

The conference starts promptly at nine, moderated by Spike O'Dell and Andy Mazur. It's Dusty and Hendry, and after a few minutes, they announce that lines can form for questions. I get in about third, right behind some dude "Crawly" and in front of Jason and Al Yellon although at the time I didn't realize it even though he had his T-shirt on.

After Crawly got up there, and plugged his blog before asking his question, I figured I could, too. So when it was my turn and I mentioned I was from Goatriders, I heard grumbling from the crowd. I first decided to give the Spiker a shoutout, and he asked me if I wanted to take his underwear home to my mother-in-law. (When I told Steve Cochran from WGN about it later, he scrunched up his face and asked "Why? For some sort of bizarre science experiment?") Then I asked Dusty if he was planning on making a batting order this year and sticking to it.

He kind of softsoaped it, and said that he would have liked to have done it, dude, if anything would have worked. Actually, both of them said pretty much the right things, and I'm not saying this just because I got to give Hendry one of our business cards for a possible e-mail interview.

Jason asked a question about the top of the order that got the crowd riled up pretty good, so we were pretty proud of ourselves. The next guy kind of bitched and complained, and it didn't go over well AT ALL with that Kool-Aid crowd. I guess it's one thing to write it out here, and quite another to actually say it. By the time Al identified his web site and asked his question, we were getting quite a few grumbles from the crowd, "we" being the bloggers of the world.

After this session, I went to the bathroom, where I heard some yutz bitching about "If he heard ONE MORE dot-commer plugging his website I was just gonna..." and when I turned around, yep, it was none other than Random Bloodshot Drunk Guy. So I said, "Hey, at least I didn't bitch". There was some embarrassed silence, and he soon ducked his head and walked out.

There was one big thing that I knew all along, but have lost sight of the last few years...maybe the "fans" that you meet in the bleachers, and say that "they're fans, fer shuuure", maybe they have access to a computer. THESE people at the convention, most of these hard-core Cubbie Blue geeks, do not, obviously. I saw exactly ZERO hot bleacher babes at this function: Jason's wife was about as close as it got. So my seven year struggle (so far) to eradicate Ignorance and Misinformation amongst Cub Fans on the internet has largely been in vain, for I saw at least 10,000 people this weekend, and you figure there are many, many times more who are too old, too young, live too far away or are too scared of the "big city" who did NOT come to the convention, who do NOT use the internet, who I'm NEVER gonna reach, and who are going to continue to swill all the icey-cold Blue Kool-Aid Hendry and Baker can pour.

Oh, BTW: Byron? Showed up a half-hour after stuff started, got in line to ask a question, and they cut off the line right in front of him. Good Grief!

10:30 - back downstairs where the autograph "lines" were happening. I kept looking for the "Express Pass" machine like they have at Universal Studios. I ran into Andy for the first of several times, and he was just beaming after the purchase of his "Blanco" locker nameplate. I was (genuinely) happy for him, we made some snark about the wait for a driver's license, and then I bought a italian sausage for breakfast.

12:00 - after the "27 Outs" seminar with Z, Dempster and Rusch, I went back to the bathroom to release the remnants of the morning's venti w/lowfat and Equal, where I was rudely Shoved Out of the Way by two members of security...seems that Z, Dempster, and Rusch needed to take a leak, they were going to use This washroom, and that I needed to Leave, now. Meet The Cubs Up Close and Personal, my fucking ass.

1:30 - after the "Voices of the Cubs" segment with Len, Bob, Pat and Ron, which was pretty damn funny and very enlightening (see GROTA), it was time to bid the Convention adieu. I walked back to the parking garage, paid the $41 (!!!) and drove back home without touching the brakes once.

So, who was cool?

Andy - yep, smartasses are born, not made
T. J. - yer a fine looking man in yer own right
Jason and Leah - it was a pleasure. Let's get together again.
Al Yellon - a seemingly happy guy. Greeted me warmly. We've had our philosophic differences concerning our favorite ballclub, but a good man.
Bob Dernier - I hope next year he won't be so afraid of us
Kurt - thank you a MILLION, man, for getting us the passes, sending us the business cards, and making it possible. We got the name out. Can't wait to see my cellular bill next month.
Jim Hendry - unlike the rest of his staff, he hung out there like a man
John Williams - one of the two WGN guys (Steve Cochran was the other) who literally spent HOURS talking to everyone who would come up to him. Very human of him, I'll be sure to tell him so later. He MC'd the "27 Outs" thing and asked Z, who has three young daughters, if he was going to try for a son. "No," groaned Z, "thee factory ees closed".
Mickey Morandini - he wanted to see pictures of the basement. Wonder if he has a website. Begged a woman for cookies.
Jody Davis - was very nice when I got to meet him. I'm going to stalk him a little this summer in Peoria.
Ryan Dempster - wore an Urlacher jersey. I wish I could have bought HIM a Molson's. He's the man.