I have a simple philosophy. I keep my political leanings and my entertainment choices separate. It's cleaner that way. Everyone should do this. If you don't, liberals would never be able to watch golf. Conservatives only music choices would be listening to Ted Nugent and Kid Rock. Their television would be tuned in to "Charles In Charge" 24/7. Who needs that.
When it comes to sports, baseball is at the top of my list. All the others are a distant second. I've been a Chicago Cubs fan for close to sixty years. It hasn't been easy. There's been a lot of losing. The Cubs didn't even sniff the post-season for the first twenty-five years of my fandom. When they finally started winning on an occasional basis, they couldn't get through the playoff maze. They found the most painful way to lose big games. I've walked out of stadiums, after a Cubs loss, seeing fans in tears. It's been decades of heartbreaks.
But now we seem to be in a golden era of Cubs baseball. They've been in the playoffs the last four seasons. They've won a few first round series and in 2016 had the ultimate breakthrough by winning their first World Series championship since 1908. Their core players are still young and productive. They're set up for success on the baseball field for the next few years.
It's off the field where the issues take place.
The Ricketts family bought the team in 2009. At that time, most of us were familiar with their politics. They've been involved in Republican/right-wing causes for years. I can deal with that. As long as they kept their political views and ownership of the team separate, I'm good. Besides, it's not like the previous owners, The Tribune and Wrigley, were any different with their political beliefs. The Cubs just went from one conservative to another to another.
It started to turn bad in 2016. The Cubs were having a historical season. A big arm out of the bullpen could put them over the top. It could lead to a championship. The Cubs went all-in. They traded for Aroldis Chapman, the best relief pitcher in baseball. The issue was Chapman had his own issues.
Before the season, Chapman was involved in a domestic violence incident. He was accused of choking his girlfriend and firing eight shots from a gun. He was suspended for the first thirty games of the 2016 season. His trade to the Cubs was controversial. A lot of fans felt that they would rather lose without him than win with him as a part of the team. Aroldis Chapman played a major role in winning that championship. Mixed feelings?
At the same time, the nation was dealing with the presidential election. The Ricketts family was giving money to Republican candidates. At first, it seemed as the only one not getting Ricketts cash was Donald Trump. Trump called them out. He made threats saying that he might have things on the Ricketts that would embarrass them. Eventually, donations were made to the Trump campaign.
The Cubs won the World Series on November 2, 2016. We had less than a week to celebrate before Donald Trump won the election to become President of the United States. It was close to my breaking point as a Cubs fan. Yeah, intellectually, I know there's not a real connection between the election results and the Cubs baseball team but all I felt was Fuck Trump, Fuck Ricketts, Fuck Cubs.
That lasted until April 2017. I was back!
Let's fast forward to the 2018 season. It was a bad year. For me, it started on opening day. The original opener was snowed out. I had a free ticket for the make-up opener and off I went to Wrigley Field....in thirty degree temperature...with about ten thousand other fans...all of us nuts enough to brave the bitter cold weather.
As the game went on, I noticed vendors selling hot chocolate. The cost was ten dollars. Yep, ten bucks for a small cup of lukewarm water with some flavored powder. I looked at the cost of the my game ticket. It was $150.00. These guys get bug bucks for the game and then they want to nickel and dime you. Why not try to make your experience better? Why not show some gratitude to their loyal fans who braves the horrendous conditions to support their team? Yeah, just another Fuck Cubs moment and it got worse. Much worse.
The season moves ahead. The Cubs are playing well. They're leading the National League in wins, but the feeling is they need another big bat in the lineup. The team makes a trade for Washington Nationals infielder, Daniel Murphy. He's been a good player through the years. He was one of the reasons the Mets beat the Cubs in 2015 to win the National League pennant. Besides baseball, Murphy is known for his homophobia. When Billy Bean, who is a baseball ambassador for inclusion, visited the Mets, in 2015, Murphy made this statement, "I do disagree with the fact that Billy is a homosexual. That doesn’t mean I can’t still invest in him and get to know him. You can still accept them but I do disagree with the lifestyle, 100%."
His views are more than a bit problematic considering the Cubs play in the Lakeview area of Chicago. A big section of the LGTBQ community is right next door to the ball park. Good job alienating a large portion of your fan base. The good news is Murphy was just temporarily employed by the north side baseball team. He'll be playing in 2019 for the Rockies. We'll see how his views play in Denver.
Next came Addison Russell. Another case of domestic violence. Accusations of physical and mental abuse from his ex-wife. Often these episodes occurred in front of their young child. Russell was placed on administrative leave for the last two weeks of the 2018 season. He'll be suspended for the first twenty-eight games of 2019. That's not enough for a lot of CubsNation. They wanted Russell to be released. They never want to see Russell play another game in a Cubs uniform.
The Cubs dug in. They dug in deep...again. Supposedly Russell is working a program, which includes therapy, to work on his issues. He'll be trying to make himself into a better adult and regain the trust of management, his teammates and the fans. It's asking a lot of everyone involved. Nothing is guaranteed. Russell has some time to make this work since he won't be eligible to play until May. Addison Russell has reported early to spring training in Arizona. It may seem like a good thing but every time we see him taking batting practice or working out at shortstop, it's another reminder of all his issues. It's not a good picture.
When you combine all the above items with the team's collapse at the end of the season, 2018 left a bad taste with all Cubs fans. Yeah, but 2019 will be better, won't it?
The team itself has done little to nothing to make itself better for the upcoming season. While most fans expected the Cubs to be a major player for Bryce Harper and other free agents, their biggest acquisition has been infielder Daniel Descalso. The word on the street is budgetary restrictions from up top. Guess they need more money to give to their political causes.
Next, was a series of text messages to Joe Ricketts, the head of the family. The messages were offensive "jokes" towards Muslims. That led to Cubs officials saying that Joe has nothing to with the day to day operation of the ball club. That may be true, but it was Joe's money that led to the purchase of the team.
Islamphobia, Homophobia and acceptance of domestic violence. Have we had enough? What could possibly be next?
Wednesday, the Cubs announced the launch of their long awaited sports network. It will be ready for the start of the 2020 season. They will be teaming up with Sinclair Broadcasting to form the Marquee Sports Network. Twenty-four hours of sports. All Cubs games will be broadcast over the network. No more free games on local channels WGN or WLS. This will end a more than seventy year partnership between the Cubs and good ole channel 9.
It's the partnership with Sinclair that's problematic. The network is known for it's radical far-right conservative views. They're deeper up Trump's ass than Fox News. Their newscasts features editorials by Boris Epshteyn, a former spokesperson for Trump during the 2016 campaign. Last April, they had all of their local news anchors give the same robot-like spiel, warning about mainstream media bias and fake news. Hundreds of news people talked about personal bias and how it was bad for democracy.
I realize that the Cubs will be in a different division of Sinclair and will be teaming up with them for distribution purposes. Chances are good that we won't hear Len Kasper talking politics during the seventh inning stretch or watching Boris hosting the pre-game show. But, this is going to be a big money making endeavor for both organizations. Sinclair will be able to funnel their profits into their news group where they can continue to sprout their bigoted and hateful views.
How much more can a fan take? I'm told I should go over to the south side and become a White Sox fan. Hmmm...I hear Jerry Reinsdorf is also working on a project with Sinclair, so that won't work for me. I guess I'm going to stick it out with the Cubs. I've put up with a lot over sixty years, so I'm not turning in my fan club card just yet. I know there will more to come. When it does, I'll be ready with another sixteen hundred word diatribe.
The good news is baseball is coming soon. The home opener is April 8th. Does anyone know where I can get a hot chocolate for less than $10?
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