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Monday, December 4

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Baseball Thu Sep 26 2013

As The Ivy Fades In Wrigley So Does G. Heileman's Finest

As the long hot summer afternoons fade gently into the short crisp autumnal dusk, so goes the iconic ivy in Wrigley Field on Clark and Addison. What starts naked and vulnerable upon the red brick in the outfield, where the likes of Moreland, Pafko and Sosa once chased flies, slowly begins to turn to an effervescent green through the dog days, until finally a yellowish-red-brown combination, unfortunately not witnessed very often by the players or fans within the Friendly Confines.

This circle of life breeds optimism amongst the Cubbie faithful, lo these decades, with the metaphoric: there always will be baseball, just as the ivy will be reborn, grow and then die off with the season itself, only to return once again.

The same generations who shared the highs and lows of this merry-go-round also have done so with buying scorecards and Cracker Jacks for their sons and daughters, while enjoying an ice-cold beer and basking in the suns' rays. As the sweat begins to bead on your forehead, so forms the condensation on the outside of that 16-ounce cup and drips to the peanut shell-covered concrete.

For 76 years and counting, fans have taken in the colorful ivy along those outfield walls while for 63 of those years, fans have enjoyed the refreshing taste of Old Style beer and the red, white and blue logo that came with it, to add to the ambiance of cheering on their north side nine through thick and thin. But just as all things must die, so too goes the relationship of a beer so recognizable with its lovable losers.

That's right, Cubbie fans. Your team is ditching the sponsorship of a beer made from Wisconsin in order to market swill from St. Louis. It's as though they're removing the same rusty knife from your gut only to jab it right into your back.

Earlier in September, the Cubs announced they no longer will partner with Pabst Brewing Company, makers of Old Style and Old Style Light, after the season ends at home, which happened to be Wednesday, September 25 -- a game which the Cubs beat the Pirates by the final of 4-2. Instead Anheuser-Busch's own Budweiser will be the new team sponsor moving forward.

"This was a very difficult decision following a decades-long relationship we enjoyed with this great brand," said a Cubs official, casting a gut punch to admirers of the refreshing, fully-krausened beverage, reminiscent to the "Bartman Incident" or Leon Durham's attempt to catch a ground ball.

So what does this mean exactly? To be honest, nothing. That is unless tradition is your fix. Even Harry himself was a self-proclaimed "Cub fan and Bud man," right?

According to Crain's Chicago Business, the new Anheuser-Busch deal with the Cubs would allow other beers to be sold within the ball park. So you'll still be able to drink until your gut is so fully krausened you'll barely get through the stretch.

What this really boils down to, as with everything in this world, is money. The new deal (terms not disclosed) would prop up the new King in town onto a monstrous 650-square-foot electronic scoreboard in right field for all to see, including queen bee herself Beth Murphy. So now, no longer will fans not pay attention to the Old Style logos that no one really saw anyway.

So then that's it, right? All the paperwork has been signed and there's nothing the little guy can do to fight big business deals such as this. Au contraire, mon frere. At first this sort of thing sounded like it would be dashed just as quickly as the Cubs' hopes this last May. But upon further review, a site was created where you the fan can vote -- petition, if you will -- to keep Old Style as the Cubs' main beer sponsor next season and beyond.

It's a fine-looking site, which uses a picture of that iconic ivy as the backdrop, along with a counter to keep track of users who voted to keep the Old Style signage within Wrigley's walls (at last count, the tally showed a whopping 6,021).

Just below the counter are pictures, all men, holding up hand-made signs which read "#keepoldstyleinwrigley." The hash-tag indicated that social media was in play to generate buzz for the ivy-roots movement. So it was off to Twitter, to check in and see how things were coming along in this noble effort to cancel out millions and millions of dollars which already had been traded amongst two powerhouses and never ever would be annulled. Ever.

After clicking the hashtag, it was revealed that there already had been 92 tweets on the subject with 24 of those coming from Old Style itself. That and a one from my personal favorite, @FauxRonSanto:

"Hey @LevyRestaurants #KeepOldStyleinWrigley REAL #Cubs fans know that Budweiser is St. Louis swill. #oldstyle"

Old Ronnie knew how to get 'em riled up. Score one for the good guys. I can just see the old remains of @MordecaiBrown rolling up his sleeves and hash-tagging away with his three fingers in an effort to show his support.

team old style
Photo courtesy of @oldstylechicago

Make of this what you will, construction on the new sign is slated for this coming winter -- probably as soon as the team leaves town to wind out the season. A new generation of Cubs fans will enter the 2014 season not knowing what an Old Style sign looks like. Only the bright-red LED reflection of the King of Beers will glow brightly in Wrigley for flocks of newcomers to ignore as they take in the ambiance of our national pastime.

Unfortunately for beer-signage purists, it's a whole new ballgame in Major League Baseball. In order to keep up with the Dodgerses, the Ricketts family needs to generate as much revenue as possible. And unfortunately, that comes with new sponsorships, signs and, I hope you're sitting for this one, a new television deal that doesn't include WGN or Comcast SportsNet.

So while everything around you might look a little differently come next spring, maybe with the exception of the talent on the field, there always will be baseball and you'll still be able to raise a toast with your Old Style, Budweiser -- what have you -- and take in the beauty of the ivy that rests perfectly on the outfield wall.

Rest easy Cubs fans, things always are going to change at some point around you. Just know that they'll always still remain the same.

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