On September 11, 1961 — 52 years ago today — a show named Bozo’s Circus debuted on WGN, Channel 9 in Chicago. The show was filmed in WGN’s studios in the city, and the wait list for tickets was something like eight years. By the time kids got their chance to play the Grand Prize Game, they had already waited a very long time.
I didn’t grow up in or around Chicago, but we did get WGN on our cable TV. I watched the Cubs games on Channel 9, along with the Ray Rayner Show in the morning, and Bozo’s Circus whenever I could. This made me feel like a Chicago kid, even if I technically wasn’t one.
The idea of being on a long waiting list intrigued me, then as now. There are two possible outcomes of spending years and years waiting for something: You’re either thrilled to finally get what you were waiting for, or the wait was so long that you lose interest in the first place. And while I was never on Bozo’s waiting list, I was — apparently — on the list for his one-time Channel 9 partner, the Chicago Cubs.
But the Cubs and their waiting list for season tickets was not exactly like the waiting list for Bozo’s Circus. When Bozo taped his show in the WGN Studios — located a couple of miles west of Wrigley Field — all the kids on that show vacated their place on the list, and the next bunch of kids had their turn the next time they taped. That was the only way to make it fair for every kid who wanted to see the show in person, instead of watching it on TV.
But the waiting list for Cubs season tickets is another story. It would be as if a kid saw the Bozo show, and then had the option of keeping his spot in the studio for as long as he wanted. Some kids would be done after one show, but others would probably jump at the chance to go back again and again. And if they kept coming back often enough, they might even get better seats someday. That’s what having season tickets was like at Wrigley Field. It cost money to renew those tickets, sure, but the incentive to hang onto them was certainly there.
Even though I’m a long-time Cubs fan, I had never given season tickets very much thought. I had, apparently, put myself on their waiting list at some point over the last 20 years. Over the weekend, the Cubs called my house with “good news” about my chance at buying season tickets, presumably for next year. Instead of being happy, though, I was more amused than anything else.
The previously too-lengthy-to-be-thought-about wait list for season tickets had finally made its way down to me. The on-field results of the last two seasons have been the result of a complete teardown of the franchise from a talent perspective. That’s fine, because Aramis Ramirez, Derrek Lee, et al., never took the team where we fans wanted to go. Theo Epstein and his people were brought in to rebuild the franchise, and they’ve been doing that.
Tearing down the talent within the organization has apparently served to tear down much of the old fan base, as well. That’s the only reason I can think of to explain why — after so many years that I had forgotten I was even on the waiting list — I finally got a call about season tickets for next year.
Like the kid who got a call from Bozo’s Circus when he was 14 and thought that Bozo was stupid, I feel like there’s no real reason to take the Cubs up on their offer. It seems like a bad time to buy tickets for anything more than one or two games next year. So, thanks for the offer, but I’ll let someone else try their hand at bucket number 1, instead.