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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Offseason blues & a Tribute to McDonough

Most of us are stuck in this limbo right now of baseball purgatory. It's a scattered mixture of anticipation for the coming season haunted by continual days that lack game play. For the most part though, we have all started our count downs and planned our spring training vacations, while continually checking our spots on season ticket waitlists. This past weekend and the next two are fan conventions league-wide that serve as a kick off party for fans to celebrate the anticipated season. Being from Chicago, I am proud to note that I have been a Cub Convention attendee for most of my life (and even a few Sox Fests!) Fan fests are the ultimate for die hards, especially autograph collectors. It allows you to sit in on seminars where management discusses their philosophies and future plans. It even lets you ask the players questions, stock up on merchandise, and learn more about your team all while enjoying fun filled days with your friends. Now let me ask you.... who invented fan fests?

John McDonough.

Mr. McDonough is an outstanding man. Growing up, I referred to him as the marketing guru. He was hired in 1983 by the Chicago Cubs and by 1985 he had launched the first ever Cubs Convention- it was the first fan fest of any kind in professional sports. When Harry Caray died in 1998 it was McDonough who started having guest conductors come to Wrigley. Today, its a huge fan favorite as celebrities sing the stretch while paying homage to the late Caray.

In 2007, I had the pleasure of meeting McDonough. I was at Skyharbor International Airport in Phoenix, Arizona and I was on standby waiting for a flight back to Chicago after games 1 and 2 of the NLDS (Cubs @ Dbacks). We had been at the airport for about 6 hours with little-to-no chance of getting a seat on any upcoming flights, and in the corner of my eye I spotted McDonough walking past us. I woke up my friend and pointed (not very subtly) and he confirmed my suspicion - it was him! With absolutely nothing else to do at the airport, we interrupted our waiting-game and we approached McDonough to introduce ourselves - mind you, we were still unshowered and wearing our cubs attire from the game the night before, while being majorly hungover (Cubs fault - we did shots to all their miscues).

Like many, John McDonough went on to bigger and better things. Shortly after their playoff catastrophe, McDonough joined the neighboring Chicago Blackhawks hockey front office and immediately introduced his concept of fan fest to the organization. He was a large factor in bring the Winter Classic to Wrigley Field in 2009 as the Hawks faced off against rival Detroit and drew over 40,000 in attendance while boasting the highest ratings for any hockey game in 34 years. Another McDonough PR move was bringing back Hall of Famers and re-introducing them to the public as ambassadors for the sports.  Forbes later named the Hawks under his guidance “The Greatest Sports-Business Turnaround Ever.” Since then, he has been promoted to President and Chief Executive Officer.

Well folks, hope you've been hanging in there. We are almost there!