Friday, March 14, 2008

Sorry, but I'd blather not

Joining in Tribune Co. bashing won't solve the real problem

March 14, 2008

Boy, is it fun to hate Tribune Co. and its new owner these days.

But let me be the first at the Sun-Times to submit that maybe, just maybe, it's all a trifle over the top -- our (meaning all things Sun-Times) endless bashing of anything having to do with ''the Tower,'' the Cubs' sale, Wrigley Field improvements, naming rights for anything located anywhere near Addison and Clark, Sam Zell, anybody who might buy the Cubs or my favorite hoo-ha creation of scorn, ''Tribsters.''

It's good to have enemies.

But there are probably as many workers at our competitor's newspaper who are just as worried about the future of their journalistic enterprise -- and their jobs -- as there are here at Planet Sun-Times.

Maybe we Sun-Timers wouldn't be so sensitive if our previous owner hadn't just gone off to prison for 6½ years for robbing us blind.

Conrad Black's kind of stealing and cruelty tends to focus a worker's attention.

But on what?

Who is the real enemy?

Is it somebody like, for instance, Tribune executive Crane Kenney?

The guy gets his name ridiculed so much that it's reasonable to ask if critics would be so ferociously demeaning with, say, a Lamar Jackson or a Jose Perez or a Ming Lee.

That's the way of the world

We are 100 percent correct to detest the concept of public taxes going to help the rebuilding of Wrigley or anything else involved with the Cubs that will mean profit for anyone involved in the club's sale, promotion or game distribution.

We are consumers, not sheep.

But Sam Zell is a money guy.

Which is why he ended up with the Cubs and the newspaper empire.

Criticizing Zell for being mercenary is like criticizing a catfish for having slime.

It's not Zell's fault his last name doesn't rhyme with heck.

Yet in this 100th year of the Cubs' futility, what we all are being distracted by is the capitalistic world we live in.

We forget that conscience-free profiteers such as Zell see their chances in America and, by God, they take 'em.

As Ted Turner once put it, ''That's the American way -- stopped only by the Justice Department.''

This Cubbie storm really is about powerlessness. Our powerlessness.

It's about the way regular people, who love our city's sports for the competition and entertainment, sense always that people like Big Jim Thompson and Rod Blagojevich and Richard Daley and all the gazillionaire wheeler-dealers in the private sector will take us for everything we've got because we are too busy working and paying bills and getting by to be overseers of their influence-peddling and money-grubbing.

Why doesn't Wrigley Co. chairman Bill Wrigley Jr. simply get in a back room with Zell, arm-wrestle a bit and pay a reasonable price to have ''Wrigley'' be the name of the Cubs' park forever?

Why doesn't the 66-year-old Zell realize you can't take it with you and that leaving a great legacy for Chicago might make St. Peter happier than a whomping pile of gold?

You know why.

Because this is what these creatures do.

This is how our beloved market works.

To rail against it when it doesn't suit us, when it affects our fantasy vision of angels in the outfield, seems somehow twisted.

Stop whining, do something

I love the struggle against fat cats, but I wonder about the insight, the technique.

No matter what critics say, no matter how angry we get, more than 3 million paying people will stream into that little ballpark this season to cheer for the Cubs.

The current Newsweek deplores Zell's desire to sell naming rights to Wrigley Field, saying of the new owner, ''Whatta bum.''

You can almost hear Zell going, ''Ow!''


What I would love to see is not constant whining after the fact, but an honest-to-God fan uprising that tells these moguls they can mess with a lot of things, but not the teams we love.

Maybe the start of that would come with realizing major-league owners are already members of an untouchable monopoly -- a 32-team, competition-free empire exempt from certain U.S. antitrust laws.

And that no matter how much we scream, we are not.

That would be a start.

No comments: