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Ricketts explains why Cubs fans never lose their loyalty

Tom Ricketts watches his team from sidelines. |AP

Tom Ricketts watches his team from the sidelines. |AP

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Updated: September 3, 2012 1:57AM

I was recently asked to comment on the current state of baseball by someone who expected to hear me talk of a sport struggling to remain relevant today. However, the truth is baseball is doing very well. Last year’s playoffs were exciting, this year has already had its share of historic moments and attendance across the league is strong — up more than 7 percent from last season.

As I walk through the ballpark every game, I am reminded of the things that make baseball the great sport it is.

It’s a social game. Every day, it seems like the world speeds up a little. Communications have been turned into texts or tweets that are sometimes little more than a series of symbols. Baseball defies this trend. Despite technology, we remain social beings, and the most rewarding moments are those we share with others. Baseball provides a great venue for this sharing with games building, inning by inning, in a story arc punctuated by thrilling or dramatic plays.

In addition, there’s the social nature of Wrigley Field — recently named by a Facebook survey as Chicago’s top social landmark. Wrigley is welcoming, intimate and, of course, “friendly.” It’s a place to get reacquainted with old friends or to make new ones. I know couples who met for the first time at Wrigley — like my wife and me — or who had their first date at the field. There is probably no one place in Chicago that has done more to create new and lasting relationships than Wrigley Field.

It’s all about family. This past Father’s Day, more than 580,000 fans went to baseball games league-wide, including a near capacity crowd at Wrigley Field. It was the largest single-day attendance in Major League Baseball in years. I wasn’t surprised. Ask anyone about their first baseball game and you are likely to hear a story about the parent or grandparent who brought them to the game.

It’s the past, present and future in one. Baseball is woven into the fabric of American history. Since the late 1800s, baseball has been a constant in American society and its players the icons of their day. The stories of Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson, Ernie Banks, Roberto Clemente, Reggie Jackson, Ryne Sandberg, Greg Maddux and Derek Jeter are stories not just of their teams but of the era in which they played.

On a game day, too, baseball transcends time. Baseball fans have perspective. They see things in the context of the sport over time and understand that each discrete result is a tile in the larger mosaic of team history.

So far, this has been a very difficult year for the Cubs on the field. However, we too look at this year as a piece of a larger puzzle. We are building a winning team the right way by developing young talent. There are no shortcuts. Our efforts will pay off.

And we will reward our millions of loyal fans with the piece of baseball history we’ve been denied for more than 100 years: a World Series championship.

Tom Ricketts has donated his fee for writing this column to Chicago Cubs Charities.

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