No problem, we were told. It takes time, they said. And with Theo Epstein's track record, we all figured it'd be a no brainer. But all the business moves that were supposed to increase revenue and inflate the payroll have sprung leaks.
The Cubs’ PR moves have been as inexplicable as Dale Sveum's platoons or Kelly McGillis's status as a sex symbol. What many had thought would be a relatively painful process has been anything but.
I know that the more discerning among you understood the process going into it, but even you have had to throw up your hands at some of the pitfalls that have come up. The Cubs are heading in the right direction, but the methods used to guide them there haven't always seemed too humane.
All of which reminds me of English class in my freshman year of high school. Mr. Gappa, who was -- and still is from what I understand -- an insatiable autograph hound who owned binder upon binder of signatures from athletes, musicians, etc, had us reading Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle.
As an aside, one of our assignments was to write a letter to an athlete to request his John Hancock. I wrote to Mark Grace and actually ended up getting the card back with the autograph. I've since misplaced it.
But anyway, back to the lecture at hand. The Jungle describes the plight of immigrants living in Chicago and working in the Stockyards, which represented the absolute nadir of wage slavery and unsanitary and unsafe conditions.
Serendipitously enough, there was a meat-packing plant, Judson Pack, within sight of our school. JP was a place I had walked or driven past nearly every day for years, but had never had a reason to visit. After all, the smell radiating from the building was enough to make you hold your breath for a few hundred yards in any direction.
But even then, you’d still have some of that lingering funk in your car, some of which inevitably found a way to settle into your nostrils and quickly wear out its welcome. Still, a break from the classroom was always welcome, even if it only meant walking over to our olfactorily (yeah, I think I just made that up) oppressive neighbor.
It’s funny how quickly you get used to something stinking when you’re forced to deal with it. Story of a Cubs fan’s life, eh? Anyway, we arrived and got the nickel tour and the dog and pony show about how much more sanitary and humane the butchering process was nowadays.
Oh, and just in case the PETA or ASPCA people are reading, there weren’t really dogs or ponies there. No, Judson Pack worked strictly with cows and, I think, pigs. Maybe the occasional goat and a stray horse every once in a while. But only under cover of dark and only those that were otherwise just going to be euthanized.
All right, stay on point, chief. Right, so they told all of us wide-eyed youths about the process, how they used a captive bolt pistol (think Javier Bardem in No Country for Old Men) to quickly and painlessly prepare the bovines for butchering. Nothing like in the olden days.
Ah, the irony. Tension mounted as the students in our class pressed up against the rail next to the pen where the cow would be brought for slaughter in the name of steaks and education. Well, some of the girls in the class lingered back, their faces tinted green.
So Bessie was guided in and made to stand over the large grate of the floor drain while another worker mounted an elevated platform from which to use the pistol. Leaning closer for an even better vantage point, time slowed as the fateful cylinder was lowered to the animal’s skull.
I’ll never know whether it was stage fright or just bad timing, but the butcher was off his game that day. With a “pffft” punctuated by the whip-crack of the bolt firing, the cow fell to the ground, writhing and crying out in agony.
Many of the young women in present cried out in horror and sympathy, tears welling up and falling to the smooth concrete floor. The two white-coat-clad butchers overcame a momentary bout of paralysis and sprang into action, mercifully ending the unfortunate scene with a second shot.
Despite the ignominious start to the tour, things quickly settled down as we watched the butchers dress and break down the carcass for processing. Watching the men work with their knives was almost hypnotic, they moved with such deft skill and ease.
And while nothing could make me forget the FUBAR euthanasia, seeing the process come to fruition was enough to make me forgive it. So I guess the moral of the story is that sometimes you're going to flail a bit, maybe even in a pool of blood, bile, and feces. But you can still end up providing plenty of meat for the local grocery store.
Wait, no, that's not what I meant to say. I think what I'm driving at is that it's easy to romanticize things, to assume that it'll all be sunshine and rainbows, despite what we may know to be both logical and true.
Sometimes things take longer and are much harder and messier than we'd like for them to be. But does that mean you just abandon the task at hand? No, you forge ahead and carry out the plan.
And, slow and sloppy though it may seem, that's exactly what the Cubs are doing. I only hope the next bullet is one that propels them forward and not one that puts them out of their collective misery.
So, who wants to grab a nice, juicy burger tonight or a mid-rare steak tonight?
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