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.