The Washington Times-Herald

May 3, 2014

Falling in, out of love with George Will


The Washington Times-Herald

---- — I fell in love with George Will in the early 1980s when he was a regular panelist on ABC’s “This Week With David Brinkley.” Apparently I was not alone in my affection, for he has since become one of the most respected and widely read journalists in the country. His columns appear in more than 450 newspapers, including the Times-Herald.

So great was my esteem that I have often thought if I could choose one person I would most like to work for, or merely spend some time with – just hang out and talk about politics, life in general, and baseball – I would choose George Will.

George was, is, and always will be a conservative. So while I didn’t always agree with him, I nevertheless admired his style.

He wrote with wisdom and calm, intelligently supplementing his opinions with historical analogies and learned quotes, avoiding the shrill hyperbole characteristic of many of today’s goofy, uber-conservative, wannabe pundits we hear and see on right wing radio and TV.

Over time however, I sensed a change in him. When his second wife, Mari, became a consultant and speechwriter for the 2012 Rick Perry presidential campaign, George’s writings took on a sharper, harsher edge. I shrugged it off however, thinking to myself, it must be something hormonal, typical of an aging, perhaps frustrated male.

After all, many men do things they might otherwise not do to placate an occasionally cranky spouse. Consequently, I forgave this seemingly minor transgression.

Then he did the unthinkable. He dumped ABC and joined Fox News.

I was devastated. Fox of all places! A place where apparently the right to receive a paycheck is conditioned on the recipient having publically disparaged President Obama, while at the same time deifying Ronald Reagan at least a dozen times during the preceding pay period. Out of habit I continued to read his columns, but I no longer enjoyed them, and I no longer yearned to work for him or hang out with him. He was summarily ousted from that fanciful realm by Rachel Maddow. (I understand her two favorite hobbies are mixing drinks and fishing. What’s not to like?)

But ah, the fickle heart! Thanks to his recent book, “A Nice Little Place On the North Side,” I find myself once again in love with George Will.

The book is about Chicago’s Wrigley Field. In it, George tells the reader about the history of Chicago, the history of beer, the history of baseball in general and of the Cubs in particular, how radio aided the popularity of the team, and how the ivy came to be.

He writes wistfully about old timers like Hack Wilson, Phil Cavarretta, Mordecai “Three Fingers” Brown, Dickie Knowles (the only player ever to be traded for himself), and Ernie Banks. But as the title would suggest, the field where the Cubs have played for the past 100 years, and which Will says, “…is part cause and part symptom of the Cubs’ dysfunctional performance,” is the real protagonist.

At its core, the book attempts to explain why, despite their long history of losing, the Cubs still draw more fans than many other teams that offer a superior on-the-field product.

Will goes into great detail in explaining “attendance sensitivity,” and cites numerous statistics in support of his hypothesis that “Cubs attendance is the least sensitive to performance in all of baseball.”

In addition to the certainly interesting historical and statistical analyses that make up much of the book, the reader cannot help but appreciate the author’s love for the game, for this singular venue, and for the team that plays there. But because he is George Will, he expresses that emotion a little differently than the rest of us might. Instead of saying, “Gee, it’s nice to know Wrigley Field is there, and will continue to be there,” he writes, “For the subset of Americans who are baseball fans, Wrigley Field is an orienting patrimony.”

Okay. I was just thinking that very thing.

In any event, because of the book, George Will is once more an “orienting patrimony” in my life. So in case you’re interested George, all is forgiven.

Call me sometime and we’ll have lunch.

And if we’re lucky, maybe Rachel can join us.

Blake Chambers’ email address is: blakechambers51@gmail.com. Know what a mother bear on birth control and the World Series have in common? No Cubs.