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Wrigley Regulars

Wrigley Regulars: Finding Community in the Bleachers

Holly Swyers
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 200
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  • Book Info
    Wrigley Regulars
    Book Description:

    Holly Swyers turns to the bleachers of Chicago's iconic Wrigley Field in this unique exploration of the ways people craft a feeling of community under almost any conditions. Wrigley Regulars examines various components of community through the lens of "the regulars," a group of diehard Chicago Cubs fans who loyally populate the bleachers at Wrigley Field. In a time when many communities are perceived as either short-lived or disintegrating, the Wrigley regulars have formed their own thriving set of pregame rituals, ballpark traditions, and social hierarchies._x000B__x000B_Swyers examines the conditions, practices, and behaviors that help create and sustain the experience of community. At Wrigley Field, these practices can include the simple acts of scorecard-keeping and gathering at the same location before each game or insisting on elaborate rules of ticket distribution and seating arrangements, as well as more symbolic behaviors and superstitions that link the regulars to each other. _x000B__x000B_A bleacher regular herself, Swyers uses a qualitative approach to define community as the ways in which people arrive at an awareness of themselves as a group with a particular relationship to the larger world. The case of the regulars offers a challenge to the claim that community is eroding in an increasingly fragmented and technologically driven culture, suggesting instead that our notions of where we find community and how we express it are changing.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09031-8
    Subjects: Anthropology, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Pregame
    (pp. ix-xx)
  5. 1 Community as Experience and Practices
    (pp. 1-11)

    My interest in community is long standing. I was a navy brat in my childhood, and as a consequence, I learned young that every new home included a new code of rules to crack. Like most children raised in mobile families, I had mixed success with the various communities I passed through. Two things were very clear to me: every place we ended up had some sense of community, and the nature and permeability of each community varied dramatically. I encountered small towns that offered open-armed welcome and others that closed ranks. I found the same extremes in urban centers....

  6. 2 Social Space
    (pp. 12-28)

    It almost goes without saying that a community requires space. After all, how could a community exist at all without some place to bring people together? However, simply having a space where people can gather does not guarantee community. To complicate things further, there seems to be little consistency with regard to what kinds of spaces will stir community sentiment. A street corner can serve (Whyte 1993), and in recent years, a compelling case has been made for cyberspace as the starting point for communities (Rude 1996; Holmes 1997; Stoecker 2002). The questions to be answered, though, include “What qualities...

  7. 3 Baseball Time
    (pp. 29-45)

    “It’s like we were saying,” Judy from Centerfield began, “no matter how long you’ve been out here, there’s something you’ve never seen before.”

    On this occasion it was raining. A lot. An unpredicted, thoroughly drenching downpour had begun with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning, right after the Cardinals’ shortstop had performed a circus catch in short leftfield, complete with a near collision that was avoided when the leftfielder leapfrogged over him. We scrambled into ponchos and put up umbrellas, and the game continued. The Cubs’ Jeromy Burnitz singled, Ben Grieve struck out, and the rain kept...

  8. 4 Effervescence
    (pp. 46-62)

    Two thousand one could have been the Cubs’ year. They spent a seventy-six-day stretch in sole possession of first place in the National League Central Division—all of June and July and part of August. They had overcome a devastating injury to third baseman Bill Mueller in May (an injury that had sent them on an agonizing eight-game losing streak), and the resilience they had shown had been enough to make people believe. Even the regulars had manic gleams in their eyes as the conversations in the bleachers turned to playoff tickets and October baseball.

    Hope built so high takes...

  9. 5 Boundaries and Gatekeeping
    (pp. 63-79)

    My first experience in how ballpark friendships form came from Linda from Centerfield during our games at Shea Stadium. As I described in the introduction to this book, Linda and I began meeting at Shea for Cubs games in 1996. I learned then that among bleacher regulars, vague plans and promises have more weight than they appear to, and reliable patterns can set in with astounding swiftness. By the end of the season, our joint appearances for Cubs’ series in New York was so consistent that the ushers in our usual section began to comment on it.¹

    At that time,...

  10. 6 Organization and Hierarchies
    (pp. 80-98)

    One of the classic ideas of community is that it is an egalitarian social grouping. It gets contrasted to the dog-eat-dog scramble for the top of the pile scenario that seems to characterize contemporary American society. This contrast produces the image of a group of warm relationships where everyone has the same power. The fact that every community has fairly clear roles and hierarchies tends to be elided in this fantasy of what community should be.

    As we shall see in this chapter, a community might not formally institutionalize its hierarchies, but we can see clearly that real roles and...

  11. 7 Ballpark Rituals
    (pp. 99-111)

    Over the last five chapters, I have been laying out a set of relations to the world that allow the bleacher regulars to feel a sense of community. Throughout, I have been relying on their own reports and practices as evidence of how space, time, effervescence, boundary keeping, and social organization serve to identify the regulars as a community. In this chapter and those that follow, I focus explicitly on the practices themselves and how they create a moral community. To do this I follow anthropologist Edmund Leach, who, in his work on highland Burma, pointed out that every functional...

  12. 8 Baseball Gods
    (pp. 112-130)

    On June 1, 2008, the ESPN Web site’s RSS feed featured the following headline: “Cubs top MLB on June 1 for first time since 1908.” The next day, a group email was sent around by Mary Ellen from Leftfield, citing the June 1 convergence and adding, “Ok, we all know that. But did you know how many games the 1908 Cubs were up on this date? 2 1/2 games; just like the 2008 Cubs. Getting spooky, isn’t it? :)”

    In 1908, the Cubs won their second World Series. They returned to the playoffs fairly regularly throughout the 1920s and 1930s,...

  13. 9 Births, Weddings, and Funerals
    (pp. 131-146)

    It was St. Patrick’s Day 1992, in Apache Junction, Arizona. Ellen and Tim from Leftfield stood before the judge, and he asked, “Do you want the fast or the slow service?” They didn’t have to think about it. “The fast service,” Ellen recalled for me thirteen years later, “we’ve got a ballgame to go to.” So Ellen and Tim, who met in the Wrigley Field bleachers in 1991, became husband and wife and immediately headed off to a spring training game to celebrate their union. “I knew for years I always spent St. Pat’s in sunny, warm Arizona; so what...

  14. Postgame
    (pp. 147-154)
  15. Notes
    (pp. 155-168)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 169-173)
  17. Index
    (pp. 174-179)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 180-180)