Baseball is strange in a lot of ways, and it being the only sport that announces the following year’s schedule before the current one is finished is way down the list of reasons why. Still, it’s a quirk that MLB has had for the past few years.
You may have caught a change to the normal slate of Cubs games, and that’s before Memorial Day and after Labor Day next season, night games will start at 6:40pm instead of the normal 7:05. It only ends up being about 10 games in total, but it does feel like some sort of trial balloon. Off the top of my head, Cleveland and the Rockies have started games before 7pm local time, as have the Giants. There may be others as well.
You heard it on the broadcast last night a bit, that the Cubs made this change because “they heard from fans” that this is a change they wanted, at least while the kids were in school. And if you think my brow isn’t furrowed about that one, you haven’t been around here for very long. Because we’ve seen this before, and it’s with one particular resident of 1901 W. Madison.
You’ll recall many years ago, the 2013-2014 season we think upon research, that the Hawks made a big stink about how they were moving all home games to 7:05 from the usual 7:30. They said the same things, that fans wanted the change, that fans wanted to get home earlier, that it would even be better for the press trying to get their game stories in for the morning paper (which upon reflection is uproariously funny). They said it was all for us.
And it lasted one season.
And the reason it lasted one season had to do with the real reason they made the switch. The Hawks thought that if they shrunk the time between when most people got off work and when the game started, they would force more people straight into the building before the game instead of people stopping at a different establishment between work and puck drop. They wanted everyone doing their pregaming in the United Center and not around it. It didn’t work. People were mostly just showing up closer to gametime, or even late, and the Hawks were actually missing out on concession revenue. So after all the hoorah they made about switching the games to 7, the following season with nary a mention they moved them back to 7:30. Your kids’ bedtimes be damned.
And the Cubs are no different. They don’t give a flying fuck how tired your kid is the next day at school because he attended a game at Wrigley. Or how late you get back to the suburbs or whatever. They’re attempting the same thing here, just not all at once.
If you work downtown, and get off at 5, catching the red line straight to Wrigley has you there what, maybe 5:30 if you’re lucky? More likely 5:45 or 6 though. But now instead of having an hour or more, you might only have 45 minutes before first pitch. Which might tempt you to just head straight into the park instead of hitting up somewhere else. Or if you really want dinner before the game, you probably want to do it as close to Wrigley as possible to cut down on transit team. Hmm, guess who owns a few of the restaurants around the park?
The Cubs sell over three million tickets a year, whenever they start the games. So they don’t have to care about what the fans want (and boy haven’t we seen overwhelming evidence of that this year). So their only focus is how to maximize revenue other ways. That’s all this is.
It’s not a huge difference. It won’t dramatically change lives. But keep an eye in 2021 whether they go to this full-time, or scrap it all together. And then you’ll know the real reasons why. And it won’t have to do with little Riker’s or Maya’s bedtime or science quiz in the morning, believe me.