There’s a sucker born every minute, and they all grow up to be Cub fans.
The Cubs are, famously, the least successful sports franchise in America. They haven’t won a World Series since 1908, the longest drought of any major professional sports franchise. The White Sox win championships, as do the Blackhawks and the Bulls, but the Cubs? Nada.
It does not appear possible to make the Cubs win more. Up until 2007, they were run by John McDonough, widely respected as one of the best sports executives in America. When he left the Cubs in 2007, McDonough went to the Blackhawks, who just won their second Stanley Cup in four years after forty years of ineptitude. Even the great John McDonough couldn’t help the Cubs, although while he was there they did win five division titles and one wild card berth.
It does, however, appear possible to make them win less.
In 2009, the Cubs were bought by Tom Ricketts, son of the billionaire founder of TD Ameritrade. He came in with great fanfare, professing his love of the team and promising he’d bring a winner to Chicago.
He’s done abysmally. In the four years before he bought the team, they’ve had a winning percentage of .423, almost a hundred points below the four years before that, .512. In 2012, he managed to get attendance down below 3 million, something that hadn’t happened since 2003. And he’s infuriated the notoriously loyal Cubs fans, who year after year pay one of the highest ticket prices in baseball to fill Wrigley Field, by threatening to move the team to the suburbs if they don’t let him erect megatron scoreboards in the outfield. Right, like the reason you’re losing money is because you don’t have scoreboards. The problem is this team is terrible, riddled with unlikable players and coaches, and there is a limit even to the almost infinite loyalty of the Cubs faithful.
The interesting question of course, is why does Ricketts suck so bad?
The most likely reason seems to be that he’s just not very smart. Surely, anyone who wants to move from Wrigley Field to Rosemont (basically, O’Hare Airport) isn’t going to be picking up any Nobel Prizes any time soon. Even though the University of Chicago, my alma mater I’m ashamed to say, gave him a Distinguished Alumni Award a few years ago, looking at his career you have to wonder if that was the result of his career accomplishments or because he begged Daddy to fork over a big endowment. (His siblings appear equally inept, e.g., losing a Senate campaign, etc.)
But the real question is why in the hell did he think he could do this? I mean, if John “The Best Sports Executive Alive” McDonough can’t do it, why in the world would Tommy think he could?
The answer, of course, is the SPS. Small Pond Syndrome. Yes, Tommy, you were a big fish in Omaha, but Omaha just ain’t a very big pond. To hell with not being ready for Broadway, Ricketts comes from a place with a population smaller than Staten Island. Just because you’re hot shit in Omaha doesn’t mean you’re ready for the big time. The world is full of guys who hit the cover off the ball in Single A and never touched a big league curve ball. Statistically, it’s 100 times harder to make the U.S. Olympic team than it is the New Zealand team.
And now here you are, having spent almost a billion dollars of Daddy’s money, doing something that no one has done in a hundred years—making Cubs fans give up hope.
Welcome to the big time, Tommy.