The Washington Times-Herald


May 3, 2014

Falling in, out of love with George Will


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.”

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