The Chicago Cubs and College Union Community

The Chicago Cubs, a professional baseball franchise mired in mediocrity for over a century is yet beloved by generations of fans. For many, including these authors, rooting for and suffering with the Cubs is a badge we wear, a commitment we make to a day when our hope will be rewarded. Narrated by Harry Caray on the superstation, the Cubs were there to greet us off the school bus or on a long, hot summer afternoon. Players, former and current, provided a familiarity among the fans that allowed for the shared experience. The facility they play in, Wrigley Field, is a setting steeped in tradition and imagery and provides additional connective tissue among parent, child, neighbor, and stranger alike. As the 2017 season gets underway, we reflect on how the Cubs and college unions share many characteristics.

Sometimes it takes one or more leaders to inspire. Other times a small group of folks can truly make a difference. Or a whole team might be needed to move an important initiative forward to ultimate success. Usually it takes all three examples, and more. Does this sound like your college union program? You have recognized leaders across many positions, teams of folks are working together, ideas and challenges arise daily, unforeseen forces can affect your outcomes, and on and on. What is the magic that pulls it all together? Okay, so we’re talking about the 2016 World Champion Chicago Cubs, but follow us here.

The 2016 baseball season will forever be remembered by Cub fans everywhere as a promise fulfilled and the ultimate obstacle overcome, but what made it truly special are the memories it conjured of the times we spent wanting it together. We were particularly moved by the stories of late-night trips to cemeteries across the country on those magical fall evenings to share one more memory with a loved one. It’s these moments that capture the power of tradition and loyalty in the work we do every day. The programs, spaces, and experiences we have a hand in creating and maintaining are factors in establishing the sense of belonging that our students require to be their most successful. For Cub fans, we have Santo, Sandberg, Banks, the Ivy, and the Curse of the Billie Goat that bind us together. For your students, it may be a favorite lounge, program, or shared experience that make these years in their lives so important. Celebrating them allows the students that came before and those that will come after to have a meaningful connection with one another. Those connections help them fly their own “W” flag! 

Some have called Game 7 of the 2016 World Series the greatest game ever played in postseason baseball history. Cubs Manager Joe Maddon had some difficult pitching decisions to make—decisions that were questioned in the moment and still to this day by fans and pundits everywhere. Clearly it worked out for the best, but what if it hadn’t? The pitchers removed from Game 7 who were arguably pitching very well must’ve thought to themselves, “What is going on here?” When questioned following the game, Maddon consistently referred to trusting his pregame plan and communicating it to his players.

Since his arrival as Cubs manager in 2014, Maddon has somewhat infamously worked to establish a team culture based on trust, mutual respect, fun, and removing unnecessary complexities. Some of his more popular axioms are “never let the pressure exceed pleasure” and “do simple better.” These and others make for great T-shirts, but more importantly they create a consistent environment allowing for focus and energy to be placed on the game with a healthy balance of team, teammates, and family. Can we say the same for our staffs that we lead? Have we done the work to build the relationships with our team so that when we have to make the decision between two candidates for the position, or which student deserves the scholarship or the conduct sanction, our team will support it? Another of Joe Maddon’s simple quips provides some humorous advice as we go forward trying to make the best decisions for our own students and staffs, “Try not to suck.”

Waveland Avenue. Wrigleyville. The Friendly Confines. These names connote feelings of community for Chicago Cubs fans everywhere. The Cub fan base is certainly one of a kind among sports franchises. What is it about this baseball team that brings so many people together? It’s quite simple really: they have a union called Wrigley Field. Like many of our own college unions, Wrigley and the Chicago Cubs have:

  • Long-standing traditions and a strong connection with the local community
  • Old and dated areas adjacent to brand new and contemporary spaces
  • Leadership that has exceeded expectations but has also waned at times
  • A history of hosting concerts, competitions, and community gatherings
  • Experience consistently served their community for over 100 years
What makes Wrigley special is also what can make our own unions feel special—a tie to a community with common purpose. Certainly Cub fans and our campus community members come into their home facility with a variety of motivations, expectations, frustrations, etc. And we value the breadth of ideas our community members, especially students, bring with them. Just as Wrigley Field does for a legion of fans, our college unions serve as the unifying force that honors each individual, while also celebrating our collective connections. At our best, we should be striving to provide friendly confines for each of our students and campus community members.
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