In the midst of a gloomy Cubs season, a new book titled Wrigley Regulars: Finding Community in the Bleachers might provide some hope. Not written by just a normal fan, it is written by an anthropologist. The website Bleed Cubbie Blue provides some insights into the book’s content:
Before I tell you about this book, you should know a couple of things. First, Holly Swyers, who is an assistant professor of anthropology at Lake Forest College, is one of the “Wrigley Regulars” and has been a personal friend of mine for more than ten years. She asked me (and other regulars) to read through her drafts to make sure all the facts were correct, and that means you’ll find things about me (and about this site) in the book. It’s also written not just about baseball and the Wrigley bleachers, but it’s designed to be a college-level sociology/anthropology textbook about communities and how they come together…
This book is highly recommended for anyone who’s a Cubs fan — or baseball fan — to understand why some of us spend so much time in the bleachers. Yes, it’s about baseball, but as Holly points out, it’s also about community and those you get to know so well over the course of many baseball seasons become family. We all found this out just within the last week, when someone who is a bleacher season ticket holder and one of the “Wrigley Regulars” became seriously ill. The outpouring of love and concern I saw everyone show is a perfect example of the family and community that Holly writes about.
A couple of quick thoughts:
1. This sounds like a fun research task.
2. I haven’t read the book but I’ll take a quick guess at the premise: American community has declined over time as we have become more individualized and separated from others. Here, in the unlikely setting of the Wrigley Field bleachers, strangers came together, not just for Cubs game but for authentic social relationships that transcended typical social categories that tend to separate people (social class, age, gender, etc.).
3. The plug from Bleed Cubbie Blue brings up an interesting point: sports isn’t just about competition and winning for fans. Perhaps for males in particular, sports allows people to build bonds over an external focus. A friendly relationship or community can develop without having to sit down and have deep conversations.