Purple paint job a bruise on Wrigley

Today’s column from the Kankakee Daily Journal and The (Ottawa, Ill.) Times

Purple paint job a bruise on Wrigley


Nov. 20, 2010

This week, Cubs owner Tom Ricketts made his pitch for a state-supported overhaul of Wrigley Field.

If it is approved, I’m hoping that he handles the makeover more tactfully than the one the ballpark has undergone this week.

For the past several days, I’ve watched with disdain as parts of historical Wrigley Field have been whitewashed a garish purple for this afternoon’s Northwestern vs. Illinois football game (2:30 p.m., ESPNU).

Now, I respect that today’s Big Ten tilt is officially a home game for Northwestern, and I have no problem with the Wildcats draping purple banners and flags from the ballpark’s grandstands to its bleachers and beyond.

That’s one thing.

But taking a paintbrush to the Friendly Confines?

Well, that’s another.

You’ve probably already seen that Wrigley’s iconic red marquee has been painted purple for the game. But that’s not all. On Monday night, I noticed that the green border around Wrigley’s “Cubby Hole” – that fan-friendly opening in the outfield wall along Sheffield Avenue – had also been coated in purple haze of paint.

Let’s just say I wasn’t tickled pink.

To be fair to Northwestern, apparently it was the Cubs’ marketing staff – and not the Wildcats’ – that conjured up this not-so-bright idea of painting parts of Wrigley Field a gaudy purple.

“We talked about dressing the building up so that Northwestern did not lose a home game,” Cubs President Crane Kenney explained, as if paint somehow is crucial to maintaining a home-field advantage. “The marquee has been different colors over time, so painting it purple temporarily was not that difficult.”

Since the paint job at Wrigley is only temporary, Chicago landmarks advocates didn’t protest it this week. But I will – on grounds of tackiness.

The 96-year-old ballpark does not have a blanket landmark designation from the city. Rather, only the four exterior walls and roofs, marquee, center field scoreboard, grandstands, bleachers and brick wall and ivy surrounding the playing field are officially protected.

That probably means painting a metal frame around the Cubby Hole purple isn’t officially off-limits. But just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.

And, to me, slapping paint of any odd color – whether it be purple, orange, or otherwise – on any historic building, even just temporarily, doesn’t feel right.

Or dignified.

Yes, Northwestern is playing a “home” game today, but that home is also Wrigley Field. And, yes, the purple paint also will be gone soon. But a landmark still deserves more respect than being tarted up to look as if it’s just received an “Extreme Makeover” from Prince.

The purple paint at Wrigley was overkill.

And the Ricketts family should know better.

Game, that tune

Now that my rant is through, I do hope that they sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” in between the third and fourth quarters during today’s game.

“For it’s one, two, three plays, you punt, at the old ball game …”

If it happens, though, with this ever-expanding purple theme at Wrigley Field – has Lake Michigan been dyed violet? – it probably will be a duet.

Featuring Grimace and Barney.

However, my friend provided an alternative: “I hope [Illinois coach Ron] Zook sings. This will get him off the sideline.”

Pick ’em

Northwestern is coming off a rousing upset of ranked Iowa that has Wildcats coach Pat Fitzgerald looking like a genius. Illinois is coming off a stunning loss to lowly Minnesota that has Ron Zook looking like, well, Ron Zook.

That said, with NU quarterback Dan Persa out with injury, I’ll still pick the Illini to eke out a win. Let’s say, 27-23.

Yeah, that looks just grape.
Yeah, that looks just grape.

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