As if the Cubs ownership needed another bruising. During what should have been a happy, celebrated week, there was news of the city cracking down on their free parking lot and a show-of-shows bullpen meltdown while 100 birthday candles still emitted wisps of smoke and the aroma of melted wax.
Tomorrow is another day, right? Be careful what you wish for. Waking up to the Twitterverse igniting a wildfire of Cakegate was not what any executive, especially the Rickettses, expect to have served with their Blood Marys, eggs and bacon to sop up their birthday party hangovers. But it happened, and with it, there is a bigger story.
First off, the slant I read just about everywhere made it look like it was the Cubs organization that trashed the cake. Considering the Santo signs that found their way to the dumpster and the general malaise of an annoyed fan base thirsting for anything to pile on the owners, this was the Holy Grail.
The day after the birthday. The cake celebrated all over the news. The one by Cake Boss. Photographed in a dumpster like a paparazzi catching John Travolta kissing some dude coming off his plane. It was a perfect storm.
That’s the bloodthirsty part of it. The stuff so many love to read and see. It’s salacious. It’s embarrassing. It’s sticking it to the man.
You know what it really was? A huge mistake in judgment by one (maybe more than one) person which will have ripple effects long after the sideswipe jokes at ESPN subside or the bruise heals on the Cubs franchise and ownership.
You see, Tom Ricketts is on the board of The Field Museum. As a a very cool gesture, Tom donated the cake to the museum after the ceremonies. That 100th birthday cake for that grand old lady. Crafted by that hugely famous Cake Boss guy. To a Chicago institution known for protecting artifacts. By ONE OF ITS TOP DONORS.
Supposedly, the decision to not serve the cake to people was made because it was exposed to the elements for an extended period of time. Hey, I’m with them there. Who wants the potential lawsuits for hospital stays from spoiled butter cream or biting into an empty beer can? But there is a way to handle things like this. A protocol. A respect.
And perhaps that was in place. But it didn’t work.
Somewhere between the “gee, thanks” and the “leave this for Tom” signs were placed on the sugary trophy, someone snapped pictures of what was, fewer than 24 hours earlier, a trophy celebrated by Mr. Ricketts. Of that cake. By the Cake Boss. Of that grand old lady.
And that person decided to post those pictures for all to see. They could have been personal shots shown at a bar. A local legacy. Another goat even. Instead, it spread like wildfire, causing embarrassment for not only the Cubs organization, but for the Field. Not to mention that famous Cake Boss and those who helped him craft that pastry. Of that grand old lady. For her birthday.
Think of it like getting an ugly sweater for Christmas from Aunt Emma, only for your brother to e-mail her pictures of you dropping it in the Goodwill box the following day. Hurt feelings, right? Exactly.
Well, when Aunt Emma gets hurt feelings, you get the passive-aggressive treatment. When you do the same to one of your organization’s largest contributors, of his Cake Boss cake, the day after his special day, that birthday for his grand old lady? Well the passive-aggressive may just lose the passive. How do you think things will be for the person with the Field responsible for making the annual "ask" to Ricketts? That board member. Who donated that cake from the Cake Boss? The day after her 100th birthday? His grand old park?
I ask you to take a moment, Chicago, and pull your teeth out of the bloody arm of the Cubs organization, Tom Ricketts, and the Field Museum. This is a situation with possibly a handful of fingerprints on it, be they directly or indirectly, and out of this, some people will probably be having a bad day tomorrow.
I hope they do. Just the right ones. Sadly, having worked in “fire drills” in organizations, I have seen and experienced the residual effects of similar situations. A lot of money and ego at stake. Jobs lost. Lives negatively impacted.
As a result of incredibly poor, and hopefully regretted, actions by one individual, a day that was to be so celebrated and appreciated will be connected to a few pictures of a melting effigy with stays-crunchy-in-milk light standards on a green icing field.
That cake that was donated. By the owner of the Cubs. Crafted by the Cake Boss. Of one of the most storied buildings in the history of Chicago. To another storied institution.
You see, The Field Museum and Wrigley Field are, to me, more than just buildings people visit. I am a member of, and donor to, the Field and have called Wrigley my transient's home for three decades. Each an escape. Each a romance. They and the people who work there (and help keep the lights on) are, without them knowing it, my extended family.
Mr. Ricketts, I hope and trust cooler heads will prevail. Nobody likes a party-pooper. I get that. Just don't let a couple of bad apples ruin the bunch. You have been beyond generous to the Field, which I appreciate, and I believe in what you are doing with the Cubs.
To the media and the Twitter sharks smelling blood in the water, there is a word I learned a long time ago. One which I try to apply to life every day: fairness. Give it a shot. It's not as fun as a pile-driver perhaps, but it can have better results.
I am @WilcoMeThat, and I approve this message.
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