Illusions are crucial in baseball.
We pretend that players are devoted to their teams and their cities. When, in reality, the average player has the same deep loyalty to his team that your average hooker has to whoever is buying her drinks at the moment.
We pretend that the games matter and that each game is a test of skill, when top players turn out to be as juiced as racehorses and the only crime is being found out.
And generally I don’t like to mess with another’s delusions. Life is a long time, and it helps to believe in something.
But this kerfuffle between the Chicago Cubs’ current ownership and the operators of the neighboring rooftop party playpens are based on two huge fictions that just cry to be pointed out by somebody.
I guess that somebody has to be me.
Fiction one: The rooftop owners, the Lakeview Baseball Club and Skybox, who sued to stop the team from erecting advertising and giant video screens that they claim would block their views and thus hurt business.
What views? You mean the tiny ants at home plate? And what makes them think that the businessmen gathering to drink beer and gobble hot dogs and duck their responsibilities for an afternoon care about watching the game directly? The people packing the bars around Wrigley don’t have any views; they’re all watching the game on the nearest flat screen.
Heck, half the fans inside the ballpark don't watch the game — not that there's ever much of a game to watch. At any given time half the fans are lining up to get beer or dispose of it, wandering the concourses or checking out their phones, and half miss the 30 seconds of actual action that occur in any given three-hour baseball game.
I'm not sure this is what U.S. District Judge Virginia Kendall had in mind when she said the rooftop owners haven't shown any evidence their business might be harmed.
The mistake the rooftop owners made was in drawing attention to the possibly obscured views. Who cares? Sure, some patrons might complain they can't actually see the plate. Buy 'em a free beer and tell them that's how it goes and they'll shrug and be happy. You're paying for ambiance, or what ambiance will be left after the Ricketts are done wrecking Wrigley and vicinity. It's as if, unable to relocate to Addison (the town, not the street), the family has decided to bring Addison to Wrigleyville, transforming an urban gem into Disney's Baseball Experience.
Which leads us to the second illusion: the charmed notion that the money from the additional advertising will go toward getting better players who will propel the Cubs to a World Series. Pretty to think so. But from the ham-handed, arrogant, kill-the-golden-goose managerial style of the Ricketts clan, I can't imagine that happening, nor imagine a providence so perverse that it would allow Tom Ricketts to smile his smug, frozen, lipless smile in triumph over a pennant win. Fate is cruel, but I don't see it as being that cruel.
All this might be moot anyway — another game where the Cubs have victory in their grasp in the 8th inning and then lose in the 9th. All the federal judge said is she wasn't going to stop the team from installing their obstructions now because the rooftop owners haven't shown the harm it would do to business. They could still lay out evidence that their customers are flocking to Hooters instead, and the judge could yet order the Cubs to take their signs down, and wouldn't that be a season highlight dwarfing anything conceivably occurring on the field?
My guess is their business will be fine. The Law of Ironic Bad Publicity states that controversies over potential flaws draw far more people to a product than are repelled by the flaw. If I sold a soft drink, "Neil's Special Elixir" and authorities were concerned it contained some herb that might cause cardiac arrest, the number of people who would learn about my product's existence from the bad publicity and flock to buy it before it was pulled from the shelves would dwarf the few timorous souls worried about their hearts.
So I expect rooftop owners to get more business from this, not less, as new customers line up to enjoy the rooftops before they're driven out of business, since laying eyes on the game is so far down the hierarchy of beer, buddyhood, bratwursts and blowing off an afternoon. I'm not the average fan; to me, a sporting event is watching the superstar Bulls play, not watching whatever nonet of nobodies the Cubs are fielding this year. Still, I'd rather sit on a rooftop chair and stare at the back of the Wrigley Field Jumbotron than sit behind home plate at U.S. Cellular Field and watch the game. Because say what you will about the Cubs — and if it's negative, it's probably true — they'll always have this going for them: At least they're not the Sox.
Your conclusion that the rooftop owners will make more money is probably wrong.ReplyDelete
1. Due to bankruptcies, the Ricketts now own two or three of the rooftops, as they bought the non-performing loans from the banks & took over in foreclosures.
2. I receive daily emails from both Groupon & Living Social on their bargains. All last year I was getting half price offers on Groupon for rooftop game days. I've already gotten one in the last week from Living Social for a half price rooftop on a game day.
So, from that, I don't think they're doing very well. I know one person that went to one game up there, he didn't watch much of the game & neither did anyone else, it's too far away & you need binoculars to really see what's going on. My friend has no desire to go back, even though he didn't pay, he won it in some raffle. I get a better picture on my 50" TV, my own fully stocked kitchen, private bathroom & A/C on hot days. It's just a beer drinking party & most people go only once or twice, so the audience is self limiting.
Don't know if I agree with much of what you say here, but that last sentence was a winner for sure.ReplyDelete
Tone of a Kass column but as a reverse snob -- you are right about the Rickettses but don't piss on baseball fans and we won't piss on the operaReplyDelete
Hey now, no need for that...ReplyDelete
please, please, please be certain to share some of the mail you're gonna get with this one ~ especially the last line.ReplyDelete
one thing i've never understood. these guys actually are stealing someone else's business. i lived a block away from Wrigley years ago and the rooftops were a novelty and fun, a backyard barbecue on a roof. now they are actual miniature stadia. i don't quite 'get' how they are the aggrieved...
Mike, that used to be true, but the Cubs signed an agreement a number of years ago to get a cut of the rooftops' revenue in exchange for a pledge not to obstruct their view for ten years (or however long, I don't recall now), and now the Cubs are breaking that pledgeDelete
Exactly. So the Rickettses don't like the contract? Tough. They inherited it and should be prepared to live up to it.Delete
the rooftops were a novelty and fun, a backyard barbecue on a roof. now they are actual miniature stadia. i don't quite 'get' how they are the aggrieved...So as long as they are not getting charged they can jam as many fans on the roof tops as possible? When the Trib owned the team they could have bought all those buildings for probably less than what Ricketts paid for one. The roof top owners were not taking any money out of the Cubs till. Just goes to show timing is everything. When the Trib bought the Cubs there were relatively no new ball parks, no jumbo screens. I don't think Wrigley was considered a landmark at the time. Put up a big screen then and the roof top owners couldn't have complained.Delete
I've been to a rooftop game once and there were a few of us there interested in watching the game, but most were fine with the big screens. Regardless, Joe Rickettes made a statement that backs Mr. Steinberg up: he said he wasn't going to let the family buy the team until Tom showed him that the fans come out win or lose. Their plan is to play for perenial 2nd place - always in contention and hopefully into the playoffs where anything can happen, but never spending enough to match the big spenders.ReplyDelete
As for the last line - 2005. 1908. [drops mike]
C'mon, Neil, you had a perfectly good Cub-and-Cub-fan-bashing column going there: why'd you have to go and ruin the end with a gratuitous cheap shot at the only team anyone now alive can remember winning a World Series?
As for the game-day experience, the only thing Wrigley has over Comiskey…er, sorry, The Cell…is the neighborhood bar and restaurant scene. However, since I attend most games with my teenage sons, that is far less important to me than expressway access, lots of parking, clean and plentiful bathrooms, MUCH better food, and concourses that don't look and smell like a stinky old boiler room under a prison
Wrigleyville... be it in the ballpark, in the bars, or on the roof, is just one big excuse to drink and socialize and drink some more. You could turn the seats in the ballpark away from the field and few people would notice they're not watching the game. Let the rooftop owners and the Ricketts slime work this out themselves and pay it no heed.ReplyDelete
Neil, Sox park is real baseball with fans actually interested in watching the game and not all lowend like the northside snobs think? What exactly is your beef there? Was old man Comiskey anti-Semitic or something? And yes, Ricketts is an ass.ReplyDelete
When the Sox players refused to let Minnnie Minoso take a symbolic swing in 1996, so he could have taken a swing in a major league game in each of the previous five decades, even though management said it was okay, I wrote them off as cursed, for having offended the Great Baseball Karmic Wheel. Since you asked.Delete
It was the Major League office in NYC that prevented it, not the Sox players.Delete
From Wikipedia: "In 1990 he was scheduled to make an appearance with the minor league Miami Miracle and become the only professional to play in six decades; however, MLB overruled the Miracle on the idea."
From the Sun-Sentinal in Florida: http://tinyurl.com/lvsspmr
"Minoso, who played 17 seasons, attempted to add the '90s to his resume earlier this decade by making a cameo appearance for the White Sox, but the commissioner's office quashed that idea. Major League Baseball also blocked Minoso for playing for Mike Veeck's Pompano Beach Miracle."
Alas, Clark St., file your comment under, "Correction, Most People Who Make Are Themselves Wrong." The world did not end in 1990, but kept spinning. In 1993, Minoso tried again:Delete
From Baltimore Sun (http://articles.baltimoresun.com/1993-09-30/sports/1993273157_1_minnie-minoso-foiled-chicago-white) and every other newspaper:
"But before the game was over general manager Ron Schueler had reversed the decision. "Several players have voiced their displeasure over the signing of Minnie Minoso," he said. "The team has other things to focus on that are far more important. After talking with Minnie, we have decided he will not play."
Bitching players pressured the manager.
and Cub fans are obviously stupid to keep supporting such teamsReplyDelete
though I wouldn't call Lester a nobody
You enjoy Wagner's music yet you wrote off the Pale Hose forever because the players of 1996 were assholes? The management is the same today and the players are long gone, perhaps drinking in Wrigleyville.ReplyDelete
i believe Studs Terkel once described the Cubs as a tourist attraction rather than a baseball team.ReplyDelete
As Nicholas Cage says in Moonstruck: "I ain't no freakin' monument to justice."ReplyDelete
I think they should make the side facing the rooftops a giant jumbotron and tell them to STFU.ReplyDelete
Most sports fans seem to love beer, sunshine and socializing....so I never understood why Cubs fans get slammed for paying money to enjoy these things while soaking in the atmosphere of a lovely ballpark. Actually watching the game is an added bonus -- bad baseball can be entertaining -- but not mandatory.ReplyDelete
I agree. I live in Racine and go to a lot of Brewer games. Like Wrigley a lot of people are drinking beer and socializing. It is what baseball is all about. I think it is exaggerated about Wrigley just being a place to have a party. While I don't go to a lot of games there, when I go the fans seem to be into it when they are going good. I think Sox fans hate the Cubs more than the Cub fans hate the White Sox. It is fun rivalry but some fans really go over the top. Until inteleague play there was really no rivalry at all.Delete
You misunderstood the Court's decision. She did not say the rooftop owners hadn't shown that they were damaged. She said they hadn't shown "irreparable injury'. An irreparable injury occurs only when your damage CANNOT be compensated by money. The Judge said any injury to the owners IS compensable with money.ReplyDelete
Whether there was a breach of the contract is an open question which turns on whether the new screens constitute an "expansion" of the park.
"... to me, a sporting event is watching the superstar Bulls play ..." Gotta say, the descent from your evergreen dismissal "sports is the same thing happening over and over again" to this new definition based upon your relatively recent fascination with the Bulls is both surprising and disappointing. A run-of-the-mill, mid-season NBA game fits your original evaluation about as well as any sport. The besieged minority of folks who hold out against the ever-burgeoning sports-industrial complex in this nation need you to remain in the vanguard, Neil! To the battlements! Though your landing a completely gratuitous, off-topic hay-maker to the Sox to wrap things up was cherce, indeed. : )ReplyDelete
Hate those Repub. Ricketts.ReplyDelete