When I was a kid there used to be a whole page of advertisements on the back cover of Superman comic books. You could buy everything from X-Ray Specs to Hypno-Coins to Amazing Sea Monkeys. Unfortunately, the ads never lived up to their hype.
The X-Ray Specs claimed you could see people’s bones, but I couldn’t even see their underwear. The Hypno-Coin couldn’t even convince my mom to let me send in the coupon to get the free live miniature dog that fit into a teacup. And the Amazing Sea Monkeys were not astonishing swimming primates at all, but grotesque-looking aquatic crustaceans called brine shrimp. But that didn’t stop me from drooling over those ads and continuing to spend my hard-earned newspaper route money.
With each issue of Superman came spectacular offers. A huge Frontier Cabin for $1. Life-sized inflatable dinosaurs for only $1. Oh, and the ad that said, “Own a Real Texas Ranch” for only $2 was a real steal, until all I received was a deed and map that showed that the ranch I owned in Texas was only one-inch square. Yee-ha!
But despite my disappointment and 100 percent customer dissatisfaction, I continued to buy that junk. Why? Because somewhere deep within me, I believed. I believed the realistic illustrations and photos. I believed the sensational descriptions and outrageous claims. And I believed that a Superman comic book would never promote anything but truth, justice and the American way.
Obviously, I was a victim of slick marketing. And after experience taught me its tough lessons, I swore I would never fall for those tactics again. Not!
And that’s where the Chicago Cubs come in.
I’ve been going to Wrigley Field since I was that comic-book-buying kid. That’s more than 50 years now. And it took me all those years to finally realize what was really happening … it’s the Amazing Sea Monkeys all over again! And again. And again.
You see, each season is like the comic book advertisement ... cool glossy photos of the product that they hope I would buy: the team. They look dazzling in their Cubbie blue pinstriped uniforms. We’re told they are the new, improved version. These guys are realistic, life-sized ballplayers. They will entertain us for hours. And they will win, win, win!
This product also comes in very attractive packaging: Wrigley Field, with its ivy-covered outfield walls and giant antiquated scoreboard. Why, it even sits in the middle of a cozy, quaint neighborhood called “Wrigleyville.” And this year they have added their mascot “Clark,” who will be there to welcome you to the Friendly Confines.
And that’s not all. This packaging will soon undergo a $500 million renovation, adding everything from restrooms with toilets that actually flush to additional high-priced concessions to even a huge hotel complex that is attached to the park by a walkway. Yep, that’ll bring in more runs.
But to the typical childlike Cubs fan, all we want to do is clip out the coupon, send in our money and wait every day at the mailbox until our dreams arrive. But once we get beyond the spiffy packaging and actually see the product, we realize that, once again, we’ve been duped. We try our best to enjoy the product we bought, but, in the end, it goes into the pile with the X-Ray Specs and the Hypno-Coins and the deed to the one-inch square Texas ranch.
Now, I’m not saying that we should give up on the Cubs. We simply need to rejoice more in the packaging and radically reduce our expectations for the product. Nevertheless, for us real die-hard fans, I guess we’ll have to just keep on believing in the Amazing Sea Monkeys.
• Michael Penkava is a retired teacher who taught for 35 years at West Elementary School in Crystal Lake. Send him $2 and you can own a real Crystal Lake Yard. He can be reached at email@example.com.