The Chicago Cubs Don’t Owe You Anything

The Chicago Cubs Don’t Owe You Anything

Everyone knows that the Cubs haven’t won a World Series in a long, long time. 

In fact, the 1908 horse died a long time ago, yet continues to receive frequent beatings from fans and detractors alike.  And, lacking in originality though it may be, the latter group does have a pretty fair claim to this dig.  After all, haters gon’ hate.

But please, for the love of all that is Holy Cow, stop with the “my father died waiting on the Cubs to win and now I’m 50 and I’m tired of it” business.  Or the “I’ll show them; I’m not buying any tickets this year.”  Because guess what: Tom Ricketts and the Chicago Cubs don’t owe you a damn thing.

Maybe it’s because the ballpark is an anachronism, sprouting up out of the closely-packed condos and businesses that grow on it like lichen, a bricks-and-ivy beacon to a bygone time.  Or maybe it’s because WGN made the Cubs so approachable with their daily broadcasts, pitching you Tru-Link fence, Empire carpet, and Old Style beer between innings.

Whatever the reason, fans have long felt an intrinsic tie to the team that goes beyond rational thought.  But make no mistake: the Cubs are a business. 

No one purchases a professional sports franchise as an altruistic act, their only motivation to bring a title to their loving fanbase.  Perhaps one day UNICEF will get into the sports ownership business, but until then Tom Ricketts is the man to see.

It’s funny that so many want to take Ricketts to task over his spendthrift ways, claiming that his greed will be the team’s downfall.  Perhaps they’d rather have the Tribune Co. back in control.  No, as I noted in an earlier post, it’s not Ricketts’ failure to spend that’s the problem, it's his failure to act.

But all that aside, the Chicago Cubs are going to move forward.  They’ll do it with or without a jumbotron in left.  They’ll do whether the games are broadcast on WGN or the Cubs Network.  And they might even do it by moving to a brand-new, publicly financed stadium in (gasp!) a suburb.

Because as much as you, your father, or your father’s father might have cheered for the team and as much time, effort, and money as you have spent supporting it, the Cubs are under no sworn obligation to provide you with some sort of proof that it was all worth it.

So even though Tom Ricketts does serve as sort of a de facto sovereign, there’s really no social contract in place here.  I wonder what Hobbes, or even Inspectah Deck (whose technique of speech is deep, like Leviathan), would have to say on this topic.

I can’t really speak for either of those two great men, but I can say that Tom Ricketts owes it to himself to run his business in the most profitable manner.  And, no, that does not mean a low payroll and fights with the neighbors.  Putting a winner, a big winner, in Wrigley Field would mean an incredible windfall.

And even though neither you nor I deserve a winner, that’s exactly what we’ll get if the Cubs are successful with the plan they’ve been following these past few long years.


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  • A little dose of reality is needed once in awhile whether you're up for it or not, you're thoughts are right on Evan. Got to fess up I have used the " my dad and I'm over 60 " thing before, not believeing in my own mind that the Cubs and whomever owned them at the time really owed the fans, I think I 've felt a bit deserving at times, not sure why, natural reaction? I am so on board with the way Ricketts and Co. are doing the rebuild, needed to be done long ago and I really do have confidence it's all going to play out real well for the future, the man has to run his business for the bottom line first, the rest will fall in place, a large portion of Cubs fans are like alot of our kids/grandkids, I want it now!. It's coming, for real this time, it's coming. Great article Evan, like your style man.

  • In reply to daddyo:

    Thanks Daddyo, really like Evans style too.

  • In reply to Tom Loxas:

    As well as yours Tom, I's a litle slow getting over to Cubs Insider, glad I did, enjoyed you're takes / insights over on Cubs Den. I like, keep it going.

  • In reply to daddyo:

    Thanks so much. Loved my time at Den. Wanted to branch out to other sports. Now back to my real love and I like this team of writers. More to come. Hope everyone has time for both spots.

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    In reply to daddyo:

    Thanks, I appreciate that. At the end of the day, I like what's going on and I think it'll work.

  • Very different than his Magic 8 Ball piece a few weeks back, but I agree it's important to remember that this is a big business we have all chosen to romanticize as a family we're all part of. Reality doesn't always taste good, but Cubs fans need a dose every now and then.

  • In reply to North Side Irish:

    Yes, I think Ricketts unfairly carries the burden of years past. He basically came in, gave the current regime a chance, and moved forward with what he thought the org needed, an enema.

    It just happens to be more painful due to the long suffering. Lets face it though, not many have been waiting 100 years. Ive been a fan since 81 and have seen some mild success.

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    In reply to North Side Irish:

    Thank you. I like being diverse with what I write about, and how. Goofy, biting, rambling...angry. This was a little more of the latter maybe.

  • Interesting article, and I think there are a lot of Cubs fans who would be well-served to read this. However I wouldn't go as far as you did.

    The Cubs don't owe the fans anything... but the fans don't owe the Cubs anything, either. They don't owe Ricketts any goodwill, and they don't owe any attendance to the games. The Cubs can keep the crappy teams for now with the promise of future success and a plan in place to hint at that success. But if it doesn't come to fruition, attendance and fan interest will absolutely suffer.

    It ultimately comes down to what you said in the end of your article. Fortunately for Cubs fans, what is generally a positive for them (team success) will help put money into the Ricketts' pockets.

  • Good points all, Matt. Article was a bit all over the place
    (Paraphrasing: "Detractors have a fair claim to the dig. But haters goin' to hate.")

    What now?? Is it a fair point, or are they haters? Haters are generally not fair, so it's hard to follow the point of view, there). It was also a little obvious, IMHO, especially: "And even though neither you nor I deserve a winner, that’s exactly what we’ll get if the Cubs are successful with the plan they’ve been following…" Well, yes, that is true. They'll win if the plan is successful. And, they'll probably NOT win if the plan ISN'T successful. And speaking for me, I don't want them to win to show me proof "it was all worth it." I want them to win for the same reason fans want their teams to win. We like our teams and we've rooted hard for a long time and winning is fun. So, even if Ricketts doesn't owe it to us, it's still ok to be hungry for a winner. Finally, bonding with them over television is not revolutionary or unique to the Cubs (you forgot to mention MURPH and the 76 station commercials). In fact, it's pretty typical as people often watch television and then bond with their teams. Not a far out concept and not an anomaly for one to want one's team to succeed, for whatever the reasons.

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    In reply to kissitgoodbye:

    If you think this is all over the place, you have obviously not read much of my work. However, the part about the dig was referencing fans, then detractors. The latter group, however unoriginal, is correct in "hatin'" on fans. Your criticism is duly noted and appreciated. Can't always get sunshine and rainbows blown up your butt.

  • In reply to Evan Altman:

    No, I've read your work. It's good. This piece, not as much. But in fairness to you, I couldn't do your job as well as you! And about WGN having a bigger reach, of course I DO know that -- just saying it's not unusual, no matter the size of an audience reached, for TV to be the prime driver in creating an attachment for fans.

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    In reply to kissitgoodbye:

    Your honesty is appreciated. I know that people don't always agree with me, but I do try to at least be entertaining or thought-provoking.

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    In reply to kissitgoodbye:

    Also, certainly true about TV, but WGN and the Cubs had a larger reach than local stations, which put them in more homes and grew a "home" crowd well beyond Chicago.

  • Completely agree with what Matt said, "The Cubs don't owe the fans anything... but the fans don't owe the Cubs anything, either. They don't owe Ricketts any goodwill, and they don't owe any attendance to the games." I like the plan that's in place for the Cubs future but until the money reaches the standings, we don't have to let up any pressure and say "you do you boo boo". We've waited a long time and I think its fine to act like they owe us, their deeply-invested fanbase, a winning team if we really do truly want to win. Will it change what management does? Likely no. But we still have to expect success and keep the critical pressure on. Of course, they are under no sworn obligation as a business to bring us into a world series but it is expected and, as a fan base, we have to at least believe that management is working hard to pay us back for decades or, yes, even entire lifetimes gone by of investment.

  • Though I do disagree in a sense, I do have to commend you on having the boldness to write this article. Many writers around the country would be nervous writing this to their local fanbases but you are telling CUBS fans they aren't owed anything. Its hard to write something like this without readers questioning how much you've invested over the years and accusing you of being an average Wrigleyville yuppy "fan". I'll assume you are a very loyal long-term fan, yet I know others will assume they have invested much more reading this.

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    In reply to OffTheIvy:

    Also, thanks on the comment about boldness. I'd like to think I have bigger balls than Tom Ricketts, a statement that will make more sense if you read one of my earlier posts.

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    You know what happens when you assume, right? My kids names are Addison and Ryne and I have Eamus Catuli tattooed on my leg. Those things alone don't make me a fan, but I think the post I'm working on expresses things well.

  • >>Dan wrote: Whatever the reason, fans have long felt an intrinsic tie to the team that goes beyond rational thought.<<

    What you described is emotion. Good businesses and their marketing create physical (bricks and ivy), rational, and emotional connections (ties) with their customers — in the case of the sport of baseball, fans.

    While you are absolutely correct that the Rickettses don't have to listen to their customers (fans) about how to run their business they do have to listen to them in some ways to continue maintaining the bonds they've created over the past 50+ years.

    However, it's nice to see someone write this in 'ink' because you are absolutely correct. But, I wouldn't say that the Rickettses or the Cubs have been spendthrifts. Not when they've spent money on building new Dominican training facilities and build a state-of-the-art spring training and minor league facilities in Arizona — and draft and international signings.

    They've put their money where they felt they would get the greatest bang for their buck. Currently, that's not on the major league roster. Nor, should it be when the plan all the long was to build a competitive team through the draft.

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    Excellent points. While it may not have been inferred blatantly, this directed mainly at the fans who can't forest for trees. Thank you for reading and commenting, but I must have been really forgettable, as you called me Dan.

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    In reply to Evan Altman:

    Wow, Evan, nice grammar.

  • In reply to Evan Altman:

    Sorry Evan for the mess up and calling you Dan. Not sure how I got Dan. My bad.

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    In reply to JeffK:

    It's okay, Mike, we all screw up. Heck, just read my earlier reply. In fairness, I was boarding a flight as I was typing, but still. I'm just glad you read it and then cared enough to comment. Thank you.

  • Pheww...I am glad I assumed correctly then! I have no doubt others will assify themselves though after reading this article (partly, due to the edginess). Those are really great names by the way!

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    In reply to OffTheIvy:

    Thanks, and there are plenty assified folks out there.

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    I agree. The Cubs don't owe the fans anything. I also think the fans don't owe the Cubs a damn thing, either.

    So when the Cubs said they would not contend until 2014, then 2015, then 2016 (and it will eventually be 2018), I wondered why fans continued to go to the games.

    I first followed the Cubs in 1969. By 1977, I realized they would never win it all in my lifetime.

    I still went when it looked like the team was trying. But that hasn't been the case for several years and won't be the case for several more.

    Until then, I'll spend my summers watching other teams more worthy of my time.

  • I think in his heart Tom Riicketts is one of us. He lived in the neighborhood and met his wife in the bleachers. He's still a businessman, but with a connection.

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    In reply to 44slug:

    Exactly. In his dual role as fan and owner, he wants to do what is best. And what is best in the long run is to field a consistently-competitive team. Thanks for reading.

  • First, Chicago needs the Cubs more than the Cubs need Chicago. Second, I don’t agree that the Cubs don’t owe “us” anything—otherwise Cubs wouldn’t be in Chicago and Ricketts wouldn’t be worried about his money.

    Fact, Ricketts is just another “fan” that happened to have enough money to get into the business of baseball. That only qualifies him to spend his money.

    The problem is that when he spends his money he is also anticipating that we’ll reciprocate—that means he owes us a product!

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    In reply to Lawscout:

    I don't think he owes you a product. But if he wants your continued business, it's in his best interest to give you a good one. A server in a restaurant doesn't owe me good service, but it's in his/her best interest to provide it. I feel like a lot (not all) of fans have gotten to a point where they've got a sense of entitlement. Those are the people to whom this is aimed. And, as with anything I write, I am talking to myself as much as I am to others. Sure, I want a lot of people to read it, but I write to convince myself or to chastise myself. In my bio, I wrote that I'm a self-loathing Cubs apologist. As such, I vacillate between negative and positive as it relates to the team.

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