Blackhawks Confidential

Bill Wirtz follows Earl Woods and speaks to Rocky from grave: also about hookers and money

In heaven, they asked Bill Wirtz if he would be the next father to step to the big microphone in the clouds and cut a haunting, resonant commercial for his son. They liked the concept of a sequel to Tiger looking like he had lost his new, best porn friend and was in danger of bleating tears bigger than golf balls any second while he listened to dear old dad's philosophic ruminations on the examined life.

The divine powers-that-be wanted a continuation of all the buzz they got by making Earl Woods available for the folks at Nike to probe into Tiger's oversexed psyche before playing The Masters. Not even in the grave can you escape the smothering need to assuage guilt at all costs and make a buck in the meantime.

Of course, you know how Bill Wirtz is about TV. Dead or alive, Dollar Bill (a name he actually warmed to, the same as Machine Gun Kelly) wanted to be assured that no TV commercial would be available in the Chicago market, not without severe penalty for copyright infringement. Heaven doesn't have any lawyers, but Wirtz leased some from hell for the negotiations and put them up at the heavenly Bismarck Hotel.

After a few Dewars and water and a couple packs of cigarettes, because this is heaven remember where you only die once, Wirtz softened his stance and was willing to impart some stentorian, sage advice from his past life as an errant human, same way Earl did, and take part in the new unreality series "Voices From Beyond."

"I want to find out what your thinking was...what your feelings are...and did you learn anything?" Earl lectured in stern parental questioning.

Well, please let me answer. Tiger learned that getting laid three, four times a day is pretty fun. Until your wife finds out she is not part of this three-ring circus and pulls down the big top right on your head. Then you find a threesome isn't as nifty as it used to be and you're sorry for having fun.

Personally, I think Tiger always has been well represented by that Nike lifestyle and a mantra of Just Do It, but you always need new marketing campaigns to enable guys like John McDonough to pay the mortgage and therefore we have Just Do It And Don't Get Caught as the new catch phrase with Tiger and Earl co-starring, neither one able to get it up at the moment the way they'd like.

Can Bill's message top Earl's? I think so, because it's more direct and universal and impactful to the Chicago audience.

And so Rocky, without further adieu, here are some words from your father to live by as you prepare for your franchise's long overdue bid for the Stanley Cup, some guidance straight from that yawning goalmouth out there past the Milky Way, where Cristobal Huet might as well be the gatekeeper because everybody gets by.

Cue the Rocky closeup, looking dour and mournful as if he has just been informed that Judge and Dolph has run out of its supplies of Jack Daniels, Grey Goose and Jameson and no more will be produced, the end of this world's most natural and important resources as we know it.

"Prostitutes do not engage in sex for sensual pleasure," Wirtz booms in his smoky frog-throated manner, aggressive and punching like the boxer he used to. "They do it for money. And you're doing this for money."

Just like Earl wasn't talking to or about Tiger when his words were swiped from a previous interview, Wirtz's words are also extracted, drawn from a 2005 interview with Chicago broadcaster Mark Suppelsa, who had agreed not to ask Wirtz about his restrictive home TV policy and yet did so anyway at the end of the discussion and felt the Wirtz wrath.

But I think it would be well to remember with all that high tone language to come about the need to win a championship for Chicago and validate the new love affair between players and fans, management and fans, Ice Girls and fans, Ice Girls and Patrick Kane...well, I better stop before we come to Tiger, Kane, Michael Jordan and Ice Girls in bed together...the Hawks are trying to win the Cup for a lot of reasons and one of the big ones, like always, is the money.

No one expects the Hawks to lose to Nashville in the first round that opens Friday in Chicago. But what if they did? How would fans stomach that recent announcement that United Center prices on average will increase 20 per cent next season and that the most inexpensive ticket will jump from $12 to $20?

You get what you pay for, and nobody is going to kick if they have to pay for a share of a Stanley Cup championship. But who wants to pay more for a first-round loss to the Predators or a second-round defeat to whomever? I would guess no one and Rocky's ass is on the firing line like his old man's used to be, because The Great One in Chicago sports has asked his fans to ante up before knowing if this team is worth it in the long run.

So the pressure is on. The Hawks have to live up to Rocky's acknowledgement that even love affairs have a price. And if your team doesn't put out, it is not long until they are calling you a hooker and other unsavory epithets that Rocky quite smartly sidestepped by junking his dad's longstanding belief in no home TV. Dear old dad, though, was called much worse than a hooker and wll knows how fans and media can turn at the least little slump, like never sniffing a championship.

I suspect Rocky still wonders what his dad would make of what's happened to the Hawks since he took charge and reversed some entrenched Wirtz policies. Even his brother, Peter, decided to go a different direction rather to stay on and assist Rocky in dismantling some of his dad's business precepts, further proof that the accident of being brothers isn't the same as being friends and confidantes.

Since the Hawks have progressed and generally won under Rocky's tutelage, he has been praised far and wide and can do no wrong. His open door policy for ex-Hawks has engendered a new era of good feeling, as opposed to his father, who also had the stubborn, edgy nature of a boxer and could cling to grudges like valentines.

I personally suspect Bill would be a bit put off by the public acclaim. While he enjoyed winning as much as the next impresario did, he also practiced a cool and distant reserve in personality that bordered on seclusion. He didn't really want his ivory tower mobbed by the masses, unless they were buying tickets.

Applause and overt attention, which this current front office seems to seek and curry in abundance, would have made Bill Wirtz just a wee bit uncomfortable. He preferred the focus be on his athletes, not him, and said so many times.

"People should read Jonathan Fielding, Alice in Wonderland about the lilliputians and bobbinacks," Wirtz steamed at Suppelsa. "You take little situations and blow them up with your media...They're innuendoes...Those things are unfair.

" Your profession has the ability to take and--for exaggeration and effect--blow things out of proportion."

For Wirtz, press and prostitutes has more in common than the letter p.

Wirtz mixed Jonathan Swift (Gulliver's Travels) with Henry Fielding (Tom Jones) and for the record the teams were the Lilliputians vs. Brobdingnag. But I'll give him a pass, because who's the last sports impresario you know that made reference to Swift or Fielding or Lilliputians?

No need getting into Alice in Wonderland, since Lewis Carroll never played in the NHL, either.

That was multi-faceted cultural mixologist Bill Wirtz, though, a man in full and definitely a man that deserved more respect than he got, because he made some ill-conceived business judgments.

Listen, there is no denying Rocky his due. He has made overdue decisions to move the Hawks into the 21st century. No one can argue with success, not even voices from beyond.

"I'm not an insecure man," Bill Wirtz also told Suppelsa when asked how he should be remembered. "I don't have to go out and pay for advertising and get articles and (say) "here, I've given so much to charity." I like to be private."

A private man in a public business doesn't compute very well. And while I'm not certain how much of Bill Wirtz's stubborn side has worn off in heaven, I do know he's still loyal enough to family and friends to grudgingly compliment Rocky for this job well done.

Rocky can take that to the bank. Being his own man was important to Bill and even 'ol grandpappy Arthur, another hard-bitten biscuit who battled the fickle public here and there. They surely understand Rocky having to be his own man in his own time.

Of course, Bill Wirtz could want Bobby Hull kicked immediately out of the suites at the UC, thrown out the door by security. But heaven doesn't cure all grudges. Bill and Bobby. St. Michael and Satan. You just have to enjoy some battles for eternity.

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3 Comments

fattybeef said:

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I thought Jmack said no price increases?

Sucks for guys like me, but as long as they win its not like theyre not going to sell out. Its the swank ass thing to do. You see just as many 4 inch heels and bad blazers there as hockey sweaters (not that Im opposed to ladies in heels but not really old time hockey)

Dave Morris said:

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Mike, this is the best article by you that I have read since I started following your column.

Wow.

Thanks.

Jerry Kayne said:

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Dollar Bill took a lot of heat for a few old school decisions. Besides the one that TV/talkies would never catch on, another of those was his blind loyalty. He gave Pully the reigns and never could take them away. Bill wanted the fans to come back but wouldn't give them what they wanted without explanation. And Pully had trouble getting into the 20th century.

And MickeyD's first act of marketing was change the annual slogan. It would have fit the shirtless boys in the limo. "Red Rising!"

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