Although Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald would never actually use any of these following terms himself: gen-Xer, millenial, gen Z, the Chicago Cubs deemed him an expert in bridging the generation gap.
The Cubs brought Fitzgerald in this offseason to talk to the coaching staff, due to his expertise in communicating with college and soon-to-be college players. “We all learned a little something from that talk,” Cubs GM Theo Epstein told the Chicago Tribune a week after the consultation.
“We all have some written materials. (Cubs Manager) Joe (Maddon) decided to buy the idiot’s guide to millennials or whatever it was. That’s extra credit. That wasn’t an assignment. He did that on his own.”
Maddon, 65, has always had a reputation as so the so-called cool dad, or the Cubs whisperer so it was a bit surprising to learn that he wasn’t connecting as strongly with these kids today as the 45-year-old Epstein was hoping.
Of the 29 players that Google currently lists on the Cubs roster, 20 are under the age of 30, and 12 are age 27 or younger. World Series MVP Ben Zobrist is the new “Grandpa Rossy” of sorts at age 37.
The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary describes Generation Z as people born in the late 1990s and early 2000s- the ages of current college football players and recruits. Millenials are defined as people born in the years 1981-1996, Gen Xers 1964-1980. These are all highly subjective boundaries, and this anything but a hard, exact science.
It’s also worth nothing that almost everybody classifies young people today as millenials, as that seems to be the only generation commercial businesses acknowledge and the cohort that mainstream media just won’t stop obsessing over.
The most GenX thing ever. ?? pic.twitter.com/3rxHLH8CeX
— Brad King (@thebradking) January 20, 2019
“I was very thankful and honored for the opportunity,” Pat Fitzgerald said of the Cubs consultant experience.
“Theo and Joe have been awesome to me and to us as a program. With that relationship, we learn a million times more from them than they probably learn from us.”
Fitzgerald, during his media session at the end of spring football practice this past weekend, said they discussed interaction in meeting time and how to reach the:
“young people, who don’t have the same focus we had with the players ten years ago. Instead of fighting it, you have to embrace it and if you don’t embrace it you’re gonna become extinct. You’re gonna become a dinosaur.”
Pat Fitzgerald then started really rolling.
“The dinosaurs aren’t roaming anymore,” he continued, and we can debate why that, politically too if you’d like, but at the end of the day, it’s because they didn’t evolve, and you have to evolve as a teacher, a coach, as a parent, and I’m out on the front lines with eighth grade, fourth grade, sixth grade (referring to the ages of his three children), and with these guys, and with obviously with my staff.”
“So I kind of see every phase of it.”
Northwestern and the Cubs have many of the same corporate partners, and until recently, shared WGN as their radio broadcast partner. Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts is a neighbor and close friend to NU Athletic Director Jim Phillips.
“You’re in a people business, it’s about better relationships- that was the gist of what I talked about.”
Meet them where they’re at, be able to communicate with them on that level, be understanding, be more patient, but standards are standards, expectations are expectations and more so than ever you have to do a great job as a coach making clear what those expectations are, and then to have ongoing communications to make sure everybody stays on the same page.”
“That’s a lot more difficult than it’s ever been.”
It still remains to be seen whether Maddon will return or not next season, or if he even wants to manage the team beyond 2019, so I guess we’ll see just have to see is Fitz’s educational talk helped the Cubs or not.
The Orland Park native has certainly used his leadership style to get results in Evanston. The Wildcats are coming off the first Big Ten West division title/Big Ten Championship game appearance in school history.
Fitzgerald also discussed how far the program has progressed since his days there as a player.
“We took the next step by reaching the championship last year, but we didn’t finish the job,” he said.
“We’ve had to go through the natural progression as a program. Back when I played, we had to get to a bowl game. Then we went through a number of years of trying to become a consistent bowl team. Now we’ve done that, and consistency won bowl games against top-level opponents.”
“Since 2015, I think we have the 14th most wins of any program in the country…Who would’ve though back in 1993 that would ever be said.”
Northwestern has won nine games or more in three of the past four seasons.
Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, the author of “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” regularly appears on WGN CLTV and co-hosts the “Let’s Get Weird, Sports” podcast on SB Nation.
Banks, a former writer for NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com, also contributes to Chicago Now. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram. The content of his cat’s Instagram account is unquestionably superior to his.