Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Cubs and The City

I became a Cubs fan because my father was a Cubs fan. As a boy, I would hurry home from school to catch the end of games on WGN and then go out in the yard and replay what I had just seen by turning the picnic table on it's end and endlessly throwing a rubber ball against until I heard my father pulling in the driveway and I would have to return the picnic table to it's intended use.

I grew up believing in a sports team. I grew up believing that the owners, players and managers truly wanted to win for their fans and played for the love of the game. Boy was I naive. The truth about professional sports is that it is a business, nothing more, nothing less. For all the lore and storybook magic that authors want to assign it, professional baseball is grown men dressed up in costumes, performing for money and being paid by a corporation to make money for it.

If the fans show up, as the Cub fans do year after year, there is no incentive to improve the product. The Cubs' ownership makes only the changes they feel are necessary to generate enough interest to keep the fans duped and coming out. They run the corporation the way good businessmen/women should run a corporation, to benefit and profit the shareholders. Why pay a player ten million when you can pay another player five million and pocket the difference? The players put forth the effort necessary to preserve their professional status and to keep getting paid. It is no mystery that players in the final year of their contract seem to always have "career" years. It is also no secret that when you sign a player to a guaranteed contract for multiple years you can expect that player to underperform and pocket the cash.

I don't begrudge players getting whatever compensation they can. They are the elite at what they do. When teams fail to achieve, as the Cubs have mastered, it is the fans fault. I haven't paid to see a major league baseball game in many years. I refuse to reward mediocrity and give my money to some corporations shareholders who sell an inferior product.

The midwest was once described as the place where settlers, settled because they were too scared to go west and too tired to return east. This is relective in many of the things one sees in Chicago. The sports teams seem to fear success yet relsh mediocrity. The politicians are allowed to steal from the people because the people are too afraid to challenge them or too tired of the endemic greed and scandalous activity to do anything about it. They have their guaranteed contracts. Other cities build beautiful stadiums, Chicago builds architectural nightmares and passes off a crumbling ballpark as "quaint" because nobody cares.

Mediocrity is everywhere in Chicago, from the lame effort to bid the Olympics to the goofy "off broadway" theater that is sold, to the wasted landscape of the lakefront. It wouldn't matter except for the fact that maybe we deserve better. Maybe there should be better schools and city services. Maybe there should be a real effort to curb gun violence, street gangs and drugs in the inner city. Yet, like Cub fans, the people just keep coming out and supporting the same mediocrity. People die, kids get cheated by the school system and the shareholders/politicians are the only ones that profit.

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