Investigative Journalism, Part 3 of 4: Cubs Fan Psyche, Uncle Ernie, and Malort

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Investigative Journalism, Part 3 of 4: Cubs Fan Psyche, Uncle Ernie, and Malort

. Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Today we return with the third part of our interview with authors Donald Evans and Don DeGrazia. You can find part one here and part two here. As you may or may not have noticed, Steve hasn't asked a question once to this point, because as much as I like to talk, I really start running my mouth when I'm in the middle of a healthy session of cheap beer. Anyway, about halfway into the interview, I finally wise up. I'm quick like that, see.

Once again, WAIW would like to thank these enjoyable gents for an enjoyable Cubs discussion. It occurs to us that they would probably like a subtle plug, so here it is: BUY THE BOOK, BUY THE BOOK, BUY THE BOOK! DO IT NOW, OR PERISH IN THE UNQUENCHABLE ETERNAL FLAMES OF THE DESPAIRING AND DAMNED!

Now to the interview. Please enjoy:

J: What I’d like to know slow realization that I haven’t allowed Steve to ask a single question yet … Steve, what do you want to ask?

S: I know there’s a point where there’s just no turning back. You know you’re going to be hooked on the Cubs for life. Do you know what that moment was? I know for me, there was this time my parents were outside working, and Andre Dawson hit a home run, and I felt the need to go outside to tell them. I just knew at that point, I was Cubs all the way. I was probably about six. Do you have the one moment that made you realize there’s no turning back?

DDG: Well, for me, that moment happens every year because after just about every Cubs season I’m like “what the fuck did I just waste all my time with?” And even more introspectively, “What could possibly get me interested in this team again?” And every year, something happens. I think it’s just like imprinting or something – something in my psyche.

DE: Like I said, I grew up in a neighborhood where I was living with an uncle and my dad and neighbors and family who were big Cub fans. They took me to Cubs games, they listened to the Cubs games, they watched Cubs games. In my neighborhood you never had to decide. You were a Cubs fan. That was it. From an early age, people would give you the Cubs caps and everything. Childhood is different now.

More after the jump

J: Yeah, I always got Cubs stuff from my mom every Easter, so that was reinforced that way.

DDG: Weird – that’s so religious.

J: She used to buy big for me. So the Cubs windbreaker she bought me in sixth grade still fits me.

DE: But things are a lot different now. Kids don’t just go play unsupervised anymore. When I was a kid, I would go to the Cubs game with a friend. People ask me how old I was when I was going to a Cubs game by myself. I thought about it – I was seven. I checked, asked my mom, she said “yeah that’s right.” So we were taking the Fullerton bus to Cicero, the Cicero bus to Addison, me and some friends. We’d all go to the game. And in our neighborhood, we played baseball in the park.
This was my schedule in the neighborhood when I was little, six or seven years old. You’d have to be home for lunch, or you could go to a friend’s home to eat lunch, and then you’d have to come home for dinner, and then you’d have to be home when the street lights are on. And in between, my parents, they vaguely, vaguely knew where I was.
And we were playing baseball in the park. You could go around my neighborhood, and people were sitting in their garages, because no one had air conditioning. Air conditioning was invented, I’m not that old, but it was expensive. Not only to get an air conditioner, but to keep it on was really fuckin’ expensive. Nobody I knew had an air conditioner. So people would sit on their porch, they would sit in their garage with the door open, and everyone had the Cubs on.
And so you would walk around and you could play softball, walk down the street and see your friends, go to the park. When I was little, we went to my grandpa’s house a lot, even after I moved. And there was this abandoned lot, you know, you’d see them all over the South Side mostly. But it had a stop sign in it, broken glass, the weeds and everything. It was owned by the city, but there was nothing there. We called it the prairie. There was no irony when I was a kid, we just called it the prairie.
We played there, played softball in the alley there. So everyone was a Cubs fan. There was never an epiphany, that’s just the way it was as far as I’ve ever known.

J: One thing that draws a lot of people to the Cubs is the great tradition. What’s your favorite tradition, if you could single out one?

DDG: My favorite tradition, my favorite tradition …

J: Or whatever comes to mind.

DDG: Well, I like the tradition of drinking a lot of beer while watching the Cubs game.

J: You’ll fit in nicely on the blog.

DDG: I also like the tradition of, well, I’ve never had the opportunity, but the tradition of throwing the opposing team’s home run back.

DDG: I like the tradition of true Cubs fans looking at Ronnie Woo Woo with derision. Even though I don’t necessarily look at Ronnie Woo Woo with derision.

DE: You know what tradition I like? I like the W/L tradition. I like that you can be on the L, and it sort of harkens back to that feeling I had as a kid that you were always connected to the Cubs even when you weren’t at the game.

J: Yeah, back then it’s not like you could just pull the scores up on the Internet.

DE: Yeah, you could be on the L and check, and I like that tradition.

DDG: My uncle owns of the L flags.

DE: Oh, he does?

DDG: Yeah, he bought one. I guess somebody had already bought the W flag.

J: See, when I moved into the city, the first thing my mom bought me was a W flag, but at the same time, I think I’d like an L flag. It’s all part of the same tradition.

DDG: Well, Uncle Ernie’s got one.

DE: Well, where’s your Uncle Ernie got it?

DDG: Well, he used to have it up on his wall when I was living across from Wrigley, but now I think he’s got all that stuff in storage.

J: Well, we’ve gotten to the good traditions, but what could you live without?

DDG: Hmm … about 90 percent of the current Cubs fans that go to Wrigley.

S: I sort of take offense to the fact that you call them Cubs fans.

DDG: They probably are, it’s just not my particular crowd. I don’t like going to the bleachers anymore.

DE: I don’t like … the seventh inning stretch, as far as I’m concerned, if it’s a Chicago person, a real Cub fan, I’m all for it. But like, David Cassidy, the American Girls? No idea

J: Carmen Electra, Denise Richards.

DDG: Denise Richards?


DE: I have no use for them whatsoever.

DDG: Ozzie Osbourne.

J: You know who was good? Mr. T.

DE: He was a Chicago guy, yeah.

J: He was in the front row, and two innings before, he went up to the booth, signing autographs for anyone who asked, sang the song, and then screamed “Go Cubs Go” at the end of it.

DE: Like I say, if they’re Chicago guys, I’m all for it.

S: We’ve talked about this a bunch on the Web site.

DE: Bonnie Hunt was good.

DDG: Is that Mike’s sister?

Think about it a second ...

S: What they’d talked about was just having Harry Caray recordings instead of the 7th inning. How would you feel about that?

DE: Eh, just pick someone else. Let Santo do it every time.

DDG: Santo’s good. Now it’s just so random – it’s like why the fuck does this person get to do it?

DE: Like the basketball coach from Northern Illinois. Who gives a fuck?

J: They don’t even have a good team, I don’t know where the notoriety is.

DE: You have to be either an athlete or a celebrity.

DDG: Why did Todd Hollandsworth get it the other day? Is he doing something now?

DE: He’s a Comcast guy now.

J: I liked him when he was on the team.

DE: He’s fine, but it’s Todd Hollandsworth.

S: I was more confused with George Lopez on Saturday.

DDG: Some LA motherfucker.


DDG: They should get you guys on there, they should get Don on there. Has Ronnie Woo Woo ever done it?

S: Nope.

DDG: That’s outrageous.

J: He’s got a contentious relationship with the team. Like him or hate him, he’s a part of the culture.

DDG: Yeah, since the bleacher bums, basically.

J: How has being a Cubs fan influenced your writing?

DE: It’s the Cubs, but more baseball in general. Don and I both have tried to write things that are true to our experiences. And that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re true to everyone else’s experiences …

J: Wait, is that a shot of Malort? Holy shit, I love that shit.


Yes, that is indeed how that portion of the interview ended. Malort is fucking glorious. Next time you go to a bar in our fair city, ask the waitress or bartender if they have Malort. They'll probably have to ask someone else. If you see that person make a horrified face, then they definitely have it. Order that shit. You'll thank me later, when you're a two-fisted private detective fighting for justice after being framed up by the very system you're fighting. Just don't throw up. That's for squares.

Tune in Wednesday for the excellent conclusion.