What are we to call this behemoth in left field, this sapper of electricity, this beautiful harbinger of blocked rooftop views to come?
The Big Board? The Big Picture? Big Brother?
The Mother Ship? The Dwarf Star? Hal?
Or The Green Monster, because the Cubs have borrowed everything else from Boston?
Whatever the new video board at Wrigley Field is to be nicknamed, it’s from the future, or, as the rest of the sporting world calls it, “1980.’’ But who cares if the Cubs are late to the party? They’re here. Let’s see if they know what to do about it. For too long, Wrigley has lived in the distant past, and that has gotten the franchise absolutely nowhere, World Series-wise. The old scoreboard, with all its charm and history, can stay. The old ways? No.
That’s why Jon Lester, a $155 million addition, was on the mound for the season opener against the Cardinals on a spectacular Sunday night in Chicago. A big-time pitcher to go with a big-time video board. OK, so it might take awhile to get used to these strange developments.
The Cubs lost 3-0, Lester struggled, the game was dull and fans complained of ridiculously long lines for the men’s bathrooms.
But how about that new video board!
“When I saw the mockups, I was mildly concerned,’’ team president Theo Epstein said. “And then when I saw the photos when I was Arizona, I was extremely concerned. I felt like – you ever hang a flat screen on your wall and your wife’s telling you it’s way too big, and you’re arguing that it’s not too big, even though you know it’s probably too big? That’s how I thought I’d be and then I got here and it’s just perfect. I think it’s ideal.’’
The new board makes the old scoreboard in centerfield look like a museum piece, which sounds bad, but if you remember that the Mona Lisa is a museum piece, you might not feel so bad.
“Spectacular,’’ new manager Joe Maddon said of the new board. “I’m sure it’s going to be met with resistance from some of the old timers around here, but I think new normals are created within maybe, what, three to five years? I think you’ll get this new normal working here where the people are going to be accepting of it.’’
At exactly 7:19 p.m., the first replay was shown on the video board – the Cards’ Matt Carpenter grounding out to Cubs second baseman Tommy La Stella. A replay! At Wrigley Field! This must have been what it felt like to hear the first words uttered on a telephone by Alexander Graham Bell, “Mr. Watson, come here, I want to see you.’’ Or maybe Bell said, “I’m confused. Is this Tommy La Stella or Tommy Lasorda or Tony La Russa?’’
“Unfinished Business’’ has been the Cubs’ slogan since 1908, so what’s a few more months until the bleachers are done? A cynic would say that the Cubs draped the unfinished bleachers in left and right field with huge images of Ernie Banks to ward off criticism of the construction delays because, well, who is going to criticize the memory of Mr. Cub, no matter how tangentially? Oh, not us.
Lester was gone after 4 1/3 innings, a victim of too many pitches on his part and poor fundamentals on the part of his fielders. It didn’t go how the script said it would. Nothing could have lived up to the buildup, but this game seemed intent on not coming close to it.
“Everything looks great on paper, but now that Opening Day is here, it’s on the 25 guys that we have in this clubhouse to go out there and win ballgames,’’ reliever Jason Motte said. “Talk time’s over. It’s time to go out there and do what we know we’re capable of.’’
We’ll see what that is. In the meantime, like the ballpark, you have to squint a bit to see what this will look like when everything and everybody is in place, including top prospect Kris Bryant. The Cubs aren’t the Cardinals yet. You realized that when the public-address announcer introduced their lineups.
The ballpark will have more signage, blocking the views of the rooftops that have been “borrowing’’ a product for decades. It won’t be the end of the world. It might even be the beginning of something better.
As for the baseball, to use a Maddon phrase, the “new normal’’ sure looked a lot like the old one Sunday.