Go To Zell, Assface

February 27, 2008 – 3:08 pm by Hickey

It is possible that no two subjects get me more worked up than the Cubs and the skinflint pricks who run the newspaper business. Generally, these subjects have nothing to do with one another. But now, with new Tribune Co. owner Sam Zell’s continued antics, I get two for the price of one — a value that a bottom-line driven asshole like Zell would certainly understand.

If you think my language against Zell — who by all accounts is a complete fuckface — is a bit harsh, worry not. He’s very comfortable using said language himself.

At first, when Zell bought the Tribune, I figured it was a good thing. He’s got billions of bucks, and like every other newspaper company, the Trib had seen better times. Then, I saw this video of Zell addressing one of his employees in the most condescending, arrogant and ass-bagged way possible and realized that I should definitely plan on buying the Sun-Times more regularly. (I think the biggest problem here is the number of people clapping to his response. I understand you’re afraid he’ll can your ass, but come on, stick up for your co-worker you lackeys.)

Even as Zell had the potential to foul up the crown jewel of Midwestern newspapers, I wasn’t too worried about what he would do with the Cubs. All accounts in the media said the team would be sold by the beginning of this season to anyone from Mark Cuban to one of Bud Selig’s henchmen. It turns out those accounts were wrong. And now Zell has really gotten under my skin.

On CNBC last night, Zell made it clear that he is intent on selling the team and Wrigley Field as separate assets. And that Wrigley Field is merely an asset whose naming rights are up for grabs. This was his direct quote (courtesy of the Sun-Times, of course): “Excuse me for being sarcastic, but the idea of a debate occurring over what I should do with my asset leaves me somewhat questioning the integrity of the debate. . . . There’s a lot of people who would like to buy the Cubs and would like to buy the Cubs under their terms and conditions and, unfortunately, have to deal with me.”

As Peter Venkman once told the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man, “Nobody steps on a church in my town!” So consider this my full positron blast at Zell.

I don’t care if my side of the debate has no “integrity” because Wrigley Field is not my “asset.” But I think Wrigley Field means a lot more to me than it does to you, Mr. Zell, even if I don’t have a dime invested in it.

Wrigley meant a lot to my great-grandparents, who went to the ballpark that never changed its name from when they started going to games in the 1920s.

It means a lot to my aunt, who hung with the original Bleacher Bums.

It means a lot to my dad, who is so averse to changes at the ballpark that he went some 20 years without attending a Cubs home game since they had the audacity to install lights in 1988. Ironically he broke the embargo by attending three night games last year, but I guess that was making up for lost time. I should suspect it would at least be another 20 years before he would go to a game at Empire Carpet Field.

I realize that there is some irony here of course — in effect, Wrigley was actually the first ballpark to ever have a corporate name, since it reminded people of the chewing gum sold by the family that owned the team. But the fact of the matter is the name hasn’t been changed since 1927. And while I know White Sox fans have survived the name change from Comiskey Park to U.S. Cellular Field, that wasn’t the real Comiskey that they were playing in. This is different. And I would hope Zell would respect that.

However, given that Zell seems like the type of guy that would sell his mother, sister or daughter to service a sheik from the United Arab Emirates if the price was right, I doubt that he will.

Even if the future of Wrigley’s name is uncertain, one thing that all Cubs fans do know is that when the Cubbies finally win the World Series, it is said that Hell will freeze over. And by the time it finally happens, there’s a good chance Zell will be there to celebrate.

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  1. 33 Responses to “Go To Zell, Assface”

  2. This is very troubling. What an ass.

    By Red on Feb 27, 2008

  3. Well said, Hick Flick. I’m not enough of a Padres homer to think changing Wrigley’s name is cool. I’ve had the wonderful experience of riding with the shady characters and protecting my wallet on the L to Wrigleyville and freezing my ass at an early May day game. And even though there are nicer concourses in Tijuana strip clubs, I wouldn’t change a thing. Free Wrigley Field!

    By McD on Feb 27, 2008

  4. Why should the Wrigley corporation receive free stadium ownership rights? Because they have been for years? That is pretty dumb. Who cares what a baseball stadium is offially named? I bet you were crying when they put lights up too.

    By Anonymous on Feb 28, 2008

  5. You had me at Peter Venkman.

    By The Sports Hernia on Feb 28, 2008

  6. The Wrigley Field name is a corporate name so I see the validity of the point that maybe it shouldn’t matter if a new corporation buys the naming rights. However the tradition of the Wrigley Field name has such meaning – that has to be a consideration too. I think a lot will have to do with what company ends up with the naming rights and how they handle it. I don’t mind the United Center because it still sounds like a stadium. The Dunkin’ Donuts Center of Roto Rooter Field don’t sound like sports stadiums. If the naming rights have to be sold, I wouldn’t mind Empire Today (AKA Empire Carpet) having the naming rights because that company is another Chicago institution. But it would depend on how they handled it. It could be handled in a way that really made everyone happy: Empire Today’s Wrigley Field — get the naming rights added but pay homage to the tradition of Wrigley. But if it ends up being the Chuck E Cheese Field I don’t think there will be many happy campers out there.

    By Anonymous on Feb 28, 2008

  7. Wouldn’t the company that pays for those rights see an insane amount of backlash that it may end up losing more money than it paid for those rights? Especially if a local institution bought them? If Empire Carpet had the balls to purchase those rights and and changed Wrigley’s name, every thick mustached, coke bottle wearing old guy would be afraid to go outside for fear of retribution, right?

    By Aaron on Feb 28, 2008

  8. I love the memories I have of going to ballgames at Wrigley. It’s a huge part of my childhood, teen years and early adulthood. It’s all very feel good and wrapped up in tradition. The flipside is, another part of that tradition is losing. To those, like me who despise losing, and the Wrigleyville ass hats who are there for fake tanned, urinal cake eating, fight starting, backward baseball hatted, vomit covered meatballs, maybe change to the aesthetic will help. It probably won’t, but I want the Cubs to win a World Series. Every year. And I don’t care if I watch the Cubs win a World Series at Eagle Man Insurance Park or Moo and Oink Field or Willow Creek Church Presents Cubs Baseball at the Field of Jesus and His Apostles. Tradition is grand and warm and fuzzy. A World Series is triumph.

    By Thad Bosley on Feb 28, 2008

  9. Get over it. Wrigley is the 3rd name of Zell’s, not yours, precious ballpark. How come nobody was outraged when the name changed from Weeghman Park or Cubs Park? Unless you have some money to make a difference, shut it. I hope you feel better by writing on the Internet.

    By Anonymous on Feb 28, 2008

  10. What I think is lost in the argument is that Wrigley Field already has a corporate sponsor paying a royalty for naming rights. With the upgrade to the bleachers was completed before last season (addition of the batter’s eye lounge, more seats, etc.), they gave the bleachers a separate name: The Bud Light Bleachers. So really, Zell wants two corporate sponsors, each paying for a specific section of the ballpark. This gives rise to a much scarier thought. That being that this is just the tip of the iceberg. How far are we from “Wrigley Field at Motorola Stadium featuring the Bud Light Bleachers, Unilever Grandstand and Tampax Luxury Suites”?

    All that aside, I don’t see why there can’t be some kind of compromise. If the Wrigley name is really what is important to the fans, and having a corporate sponsor is what has Zell’s panties in a twist, why not just call the ballpark Wrigley Field at [Corporate Sponsor] Stadium. The Rose Bowl already does this type of thing (Rose Bowl presented by Citi). Yeah, sure, it’s not exactly the same, but it’s better than completely blowing off the tradition as Zell is currently proposing.

    Lastly, as much as I hate this as a Cubs fan, naming rights are inevitable. The Mets inked a deal to collect $30 million a year from Citigroup for the naming rights to Citi Field for the next 20 years. No way that Zell doesn’t want to set something up similarly to guarantee the team can generate additional revenue (and thus boost the price) before the sale. What’s going to be interesting is how he sets this up and works his way through the Chicago city government since the famous Wrigley Field marquis at the corner of Clark and Addison can’t be touched (historic landmark, for the time being). That said, Chicago politicians are historically susceptible to a bribe, and a guy like Zell doesn’t strike me as the type to be against issuing one…

    By dabearbus on Feb 28, 2008

  11. Is anyone else concerned that Zell’s got a Leprechaun/Gollum thing going?

    I don’t think the name means anything–it would be one thing if they substantively changed the park–tear down the ivy, put it fake grass, etc. But I don’t believe the name’s ever been that important to the park’s character.

    By Anonymous on Feb 28, 2008

  12. Some Cubs fans have set up a petition where you can pledge to boycott the products/services of any company that is compelled to buy the naming rights.

    You can sign here:
    http://www.savewrigleysname.com

    By Anonymous on Feb 28, 2008

  13. Yeah that will work.

    Whatever name is on the stadium shouldn’t detract from any memories that were had there…it is the same team playing in the same building! Regardless of whether Zell is a jerk, he absolutely has the right as the owner to sell the naming rights to the stadium.

    This gives rise to a much scarier thought.

    Pleaty of teams already do this. I know it keeps me up at night. FRIGHTENING!!!

    By Anonymous on Feb 28, 2008

  14. Why doesn’t the Wrigley company pay for the naming rights so the stadium doesn’t need to be renamed. They sell a lot of gum, I think they can afford it.

    Oh, and it’s averse, not adverse.

    By Anonymous on Feb 28, 2008

  15. Changing Wrigley’s name would suck, but I’m far more concerned about the widespread nature of the “puppies instead of Iraq” mindset that has permeated American media.

    By STW P. Brabbs on Feb 28, 2008

  16. I agree they should do everything they can to protect the integrity of the building’s name. I mean there’s nothing more pure than sitting in the Bud Light Bleachers and enjoying the giant Under Armour ads up against the ivy. Nothing would ruin that pure experience more than changing the name of the stadium!

    By Anonymous on Feb 28, 2008

  17. People will still call it Wrigley Field long after the naming rights are auctioned off.

    I’m thinking Square D, but Old Style would be a sentimental favorite.

    By Chris on Feb 28, 2008

  18. They should do what the Rose Bowl did… “The Rose Bowl… presented by Citi.”

    “Wrigley Field, presented by Oprah.”

    By Anonymous on Feb 28, 2008

  19. With the exception of Fenway, Wrigley is a stadium unlike any other. You would hope something could be left sacred but apparently not. Cuz there are a few bucks to be made.

    I think your post is awesome, and thanks for writing it.

    By The Zoner on Feb 28, 2008

  20. That guy is a douche and it is troubling that the ridiculous amount i pay for tickets is for his benefit. I will definitely end my Tribune subscription (now that i have provided scholarship opportunities to the kid from my porch)..

    All that said, he has a point. Wriglel is getting a free ride. They too are a big fat corporation. You realize we are screwed here. Unless we can collectively buy the thing.

    -commie

    By honest on Feb 28, 2008

  21. I love how the biggest assholes are always the anonymous ones. My favorite comment thus far:
    “Get over it. Wrigley is the 3rd name of Zell’s, not yours, precious ballpark. How come nobody was outraged when the name changed from Weeghman Park or Cubs Park? Unless you have some money to make a difference, shut it. I hope you feel better by writing on the Internet.”

    I hope you feel better by not having a nutsack and leaving me an anonymous comment, you tool. And nobody was outraged when the ballpark changed its name twice 80 years ago because it hadn’t become the park’s identity yet. Go shove your head in one of Wrigley’s lovely urinal troughs.

    By Hick Flick on Feb 28, 2008

  22. Anon at 10:53:

    My point, which it seems most others would agree with, is that all this debate about naming rights and the Zell-like suits’ pursuit of ever-more non-traditional means of generating money ultimately detracts from the game and makes it into something less pure for the fans. At what point does the central focus shift away from baseball and focus solely on how to market, sell and squeeze every last penny out of the spectators? We’re already on our way there, and the prospects arising from Zell’s push to sell the naming rights only accelerates the shift. That to me, the fan, is truly frightening.

    Also, Wrigley Field was named thusly for the man, William Wrigley Jr., you guessed it, founder of William Wrigley Jr. Co. (NYSE:WYY). While it may appear to be a corporate name, this is much closer to the equivalent of changing Comiskey Park to U.S. Cellular, than it is Enron Field to Minute Maid Park. In other words, this isn’t as Zell would have you believe, a corporation benefiting from free-naming rights, but rather a tribute to a former owner of the team.

    By dabearbus on Feb 28, 2008

  23. Dear Diary

    An Anonymous poster made some comments on the WWW and now I can’t sleep. Worst of all, it was about the Cubs. He called me the A word. I don’t know what to do. The Cubs may sell the name to their ballpark. I wish I owned the park, but I don’t. And the guy that left a comment was named Anonymous and my name is Hick Flick. That’s a huge difference. I wish it was 1998 again and Sammy was hitting homeruns. I’ll go buy some Wrigley gum.

    By Anonymous on Feb 28, 2008

  24. Hey, my anonymous buddy came back! Good to see you again, pal. Should I call you Sam, or Mr. Zell?

    By Hick Flick on Feb 28, 2008

  25. Zell’s point is, however angering, correct. He owns the ballpark. What he should do is look at the hard lessons learned by the idiots at Macy’s and all the bad press and grief they had when they bought a Chicago institution and changed its name almost in defiance of every consumer. His gripe that the Wrigley company is still getting a “free ride” is valid, so maybe Wrigley will step up and buy out the naming rights or set up a trust with the City to insure that the friendly confines are also known as Wrigley Field from here to who knows how long. What we shouldn’t do is blame a business man for being what he is – unsentimental and pragmatic. In this case, we feel he’s wrong, but it’s his team and it’s his right.

    Maybe the petition should include a pledge of money to save the name.

    By GetOnMyMap Media on Feb 28, 2008

  26. haha, sucks to be a Cubs fan says Rickey.

    By Rickey Henderson on Feb 28, 2008

  27. Understand that it means a lot to your family (grandparents, aunt & dad) but has there been this much hand-wringing when Zell has broken up or sold other ‘assets’ and actually scr*wed actual people’s actual jobs/livelihoods? Last time I checked no one really gets permanently hurt here (except for the asses who named their kids ‘Wrigley’).

    Unlike Macy’s who changed the name of Marshall Fields, you think many who attend games are going to stop going? Zell is purely profit-driven so doesn’t care (nor has to) unless he thinks attendance will suffer (if it hasn’t in the past despite the lousy product for so many years, why should it now?).

    By Bruce on Feb 28, 2008

  28. You bring up a valid point, Bruce. I figured that this would be a pretty good opportunity to shed some light on some of Zell’s other shortcomings, since I don’t think a lot of people knew much about him other than his desire to sell a stadium name. And like James Earl Jones said in Field of Dreams, the people will come, Ray. That won’t change.

    However, the company that does buy the name figures to draw some heavy ire initially.

    By Hick Flick on Feb 28, 2008

  29. Selling of stadium naming rights has long been a subject of my ire. It just makes the stadium sound less serious, and prevents any sort of tradition being associated with said name of the park. If the names actually stayed the same for a long time, sure there would be plenty of tradition built up. But they don’t. The companies that sponsor stadiums are constantly merging with other corporations and changing names. Just look at the stadiums in San Francisco. They’ve been 3-Com, Pac Bell, AT&T and Monster Park all in this decade. That’s just ridiculous. You can’t even keep track of the changes. And just look at the Enron Field debacle. Houston’s stadium is forever associated with that, and now it has a stupid name like Minute Maid Park. Then there’s things in racing like the Winston Cup. Suddenly it wasn’t acceptable to be named after cigarettes. Then it was Nextel cup which of course merged with Sprint so they changed the name yet again. It’s just all so retarded.

    By charlie on Feb 28, 2008

  30. Zell is a big, ol’ douchebag. I shall remain anonymous because the company I work for is partially owned by the Trib.

    I do want to note that for those commentors that think Empire is a “Chicago Institution”, well that’s just plain silly. I grew up in Detroit & we have Empire Carpert there, too. A good friend of mine grew up in Tampa & guess what? Yep – she grew up singing that damn Empire jingle, as well.

    Empire is not unique to Chicago.

    Sam Zell still SUCKS.

    By Anonymous on Feb 29, 2008

  31. As a fellow (non-editorial) newspaper lifer, i agree with zell… editorial types in newspapers have an “eat your peas” mentality to force feed people what they think they need to know, not what is of actual interest. hence readership and advertising goes down, blogs like this, etc catering to people interested in a topic go up. its not rocket science. 95% of the newsroom folks are completely out of touch with reality and have no concept of the business side of the world. newspapers are not a charity created for you to spread your knowledge of dull topics to the rest of us – its a business. until then you’ll write what you want and stand on your soapbox and tell your declining customer base how smart you are. good luck with that.

    By brian on Feb 29, 2008

  32. As a fellow (non-editorial) newspaper lifer, i agree with zell… editorial types in newspapers have an “eat your peas” mentality to force feed people what they think they need to know, not what is of actual interest. hence readership and advertising goes down, blogs like this, etc catering to people interested in a topic go up. its not rocket science. 95% of the newsroom folks are completely out of touch with reality and have no concept of the business side of the world. newspapers are not a charity created for you to spread your knowledge of dull topics to the rest of us – its a business. until then you’ll write what you want and stand on your soapbox and tell your declining customer base how smart you are. good luck with that.

    By brian on Feb 29, 2008

  33. I can sense a moreangry demeanor here because no one likes the guy. he does seem to be a prick. I wonder if this anger would be the same if it was Mark Cuban changing the name?

    (don’t kill me guys, just an interesting chat going on here)

    By Gonzo on Mar 9, 2008

  34. Why not Harry Caray Field?

    By Anonymous on Mar 9, 2008

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