TBOX 8 & TBOX 9 (2003-04)
TBOX8: Growing Pains
Flush with the breakthrough success of TBOX7, and happy to be back in Chicago, I began to think about TBOX8 in the late summer of 2003. But as those of you who are Cubs fans know, that was the year, the year that should have been “Our Year”. In May, I had started my other company, then known as Festa T-Shirts, and by September, THE catchphrase of the year had become “IN DUSTY WE TRUSTY” – our company’s very first and then best-selling (and only) t-shirt. With the euphoria of the Cubs “knockin’ on heaven’s door”, TBOX was the furthest thing from my mind… and right up until the moment Steve Bartman’ xtended his arms, I imagined that all of Wrigleyville would melt into one big happy, celebrating, sweaty ecstatic lovepile for months, and that Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s would probably all be cancelled while they separated the bodies… with me becoming rich and famous in the process. But alas, it was not to be, and after more than 3 weeks spent in a dark room with the shades drawn, unshaven, and urrounded by empty pizza boxes, I emerged from my lair, scratched myself, and started bucking up to get my act together for TBOX8. So if you’re a Cubs Fan and you’re sad they blew it in ’03… you heard it here… if they hadn’t blown it, there might not be a TBOX anymore. Not a bad tradeoff!
Though I am certain most everyone had a good time, TBOX8 was probably my personal LEAST favorite TBOX, because it grew alot from the previous year,and we weren’t quite prepared – we didn’t have a “Headquarters” bar like we have had every year since, we were lugging boxes of t-shirts around, and the badges, oh my, the badges were a disaster, they were huge 8.5×11 unlaminated cardstock pages that were unweildy and flapping in the wind, and the holes tore, and they were the object of much derision and mockery. But there were 2 important innovations for TBOX8… first, as the event had grown, we decided to take a little part of the schedule – 2 hours I believe – and make a “Round Robin” among the smaller bars – assigning the teams with names of colors – before reuniting at John Barleycorn – and secondly, as I was putting a ton of work into TBOX, and the Cubs T-Shirt business had gone off a cliff, I said to myself, “I wonder if we could charge people a little something for this?” And we did… and thanks to that… myself and my employees and sponsors and helpers throughout the years have been able to grow and put so much into the event…
And though there was no such thing yet as “The Royal Court” – no license plates or anything like that – it was our second year of badges, and the honor of NUMBER ONE at TBOX8 was bestowed upon TBOX Superstar Jeff “The Ubiquitous Mr. Jeff Davis” Davis.
TBOX9: The Show Goes On
I kind of group TBOX8 and TBOX9 together in my mind because they were my first 2 years of being in business for myself, and I was still working out of my living room on West Newport. It was sometime in 2004 that we had the brilliant idea… “why don’t we set up a desk at one of the bars and make that the TBOX HQ and Customer Service Desk?” And alas, the Blarney Stone became the TBOX HQ for the next 3 years.
And attendance grew even more – to about 2,300 – and though I still consider it part of the “Middle Ages” or “Growing Pains” of TBOX, it really did go much smoother and more pleasantly. TBOX9 started @ Sheffield’s, ended at the old Hi-Tops, and we had the Opening Ceremonies under the El Tracks on Newport, followed by the Tiki Torch procession. The Blarney Stone customer service desk was a revolution, the badges were back to being a normal, manageable size, the round robin was working like a charm, and… it was all really “Locking In”, but I still didn’t feel like it was “all there”. The future of TBOX, and what it would become, were still ahead of us…