Baseball, Sports

Wrigley Field Beset By Wealthy Man Looking For A Handout

On Tuesday, I wrote about my own student loan debt. And how someone needs to do something quick about it before it, and things, get out of control. It took a great deal of personal responsibility on my part to own up to the fact that the government needs to bail me out. While I agonized over the decision of whether to come out against my own financial ruin, I eventually decided that if I could save one student from a lifetime of crippling debt, one adult from poverty, one person from pawning off their Billy Ripken f**kface baseball card just to buy eggs, well… I hope that one person is me.

In related news of Randian pluck and rugged individualism, America’s baseball teams have been swallowed whole by a hungry horde of destitute billionaires. The latest in this very proud lot is the Ricketts family, who bravely spent close to a billion dollars of someone else’s money to buy the Chicago Cubs. This week brought news that the clan may move the Cubs out of Wrigley Field, their home and frat boy toilet for close to one hundred years. And why is such an iconic urinal being threatened?

Because the owners of the Cubs don’t have as much money as they pretend to have. And because someone must pay. And that someone is someone else.

Let’s play two…


It’s probably important to start at the beginning. For this story, that beginning is the Ricketts family purchase of the Cubs. The finances, not so different from how I funded my Northwestern Law education, are described here:

Under the plan by which family patriarch Joe Ricketts agreed to commit liquidated TD Ameritrade stock, his four children, led by Tom, paid $171 million and financed the remaining $674 million of the purchase price through outside private-company investors, bank loans and a family trust. A $175 million portion of it is due for payoff or refinancing in October.

While some have called the Ricketts’ financing of the $845 million purchase “novel” and “creative” in published reports, others call it a “mess.”

Even two years ago, a source with direct knowledge of the paperwork told the Sun-Times it would prevent the Cubs from spending significantly on the big-league product for several years. That prediction has coincided with an austerity-based rebuilding program.

Austerity is the asshole word of the moment. At any rate, it’s clear that the Ricketts family did not have enough money to buy the Cubs when they bought them. But they would have enough money after they squeezed everything of value out of the team. I read Barbarians at the Gate once and I think this is what that book and Pretty Woman were about. I think. Something something something Michael Milken something something hooker with a heart of gold.

Anyway, it’s these creative accountants who have now come to the city of Chicago with a plan. The plan involves upsetting every custom and quirk that makes the Cubs even remotely interesting. Specifically, it involves an enormous scoreboard. Phase 1: Gaudy scoreboard. Phase 2: ???? Phase 3: Profit.

The only problem with this plan is that it would require city approval and might also involve breaking a contract with neighbors who sell rooftop tickets to watch Cubs games. Here’s the nub of the legal matter:

Ricketts said the Cubs tried to “minimize” the impact on the rooftops with these designs and didn’t sound at all concerned about a possible legal fight. The team filed development plans with the city on Wednesday, officially beginning what will be a series of public hearings, zoning negotiations and neighborhood meetings.

Beth Murphy – the owner of Murphy’s Bleachers and spokesperson for the Wrigleyville Rooftops Association – didn’t get a sneak peek and seemed to be still processing her first looks at the renderings. A reporter asked if her group is still considering a lawsuit.

“I know you all want me to say that,” Murphy said. “We have work to do with the Cubs. We haven’t had a seat at the table and we haven’t had legal representation.”

And progress, as it were, is on the march.

I’m sure the Ricketts family means well. Anyone staring down the barrel of massive debt is willing to do just about anything to ameliorate the situation. Whether the lawsuit is instigated by the Wrigleyville Rooftops Association or Sallie Mae is a distinction without a difference.

Pausing my totally earnest one-man solidarity movement with fake billionaires for a moment, I will say that Major League Baseball would be wise to require future owners to be actual billionaires. They’ve already seen a storied franchise like the Dodgers get stripped for parts before being mercifully sold. And the pitiful Marlins have once and for all put the lie to public financing for sports parks by brazenly selling off assets as soon as they secured their shiny new stadium.

But this is perhaps too much to ask. The Ricketts family may not have asked for loan forgiveness, but I forgive them anyway. If anything, I feel an especial bond with Cubs fans of late. Just recently, when Sallie Mae asked me when they might be getting a payment from me, I bravely responded in the only way I knew how: “Wait ’til next year.”


* Last year’s leading rusher for LSU was arrested for allegedly punching a man in the side of the head. I have him mocked somewhere in the middle of the first round, in case you’re wondering.

* Two Jets players were cut after being arrested for pot possession after being caught smoking in a parked car. Every single friend of mine busted for pot has been busted while in a car. I’m completely serious. Stay away from cars, kids.

* While rubbing may be racing, fighting is apparently frowned upon? When the hillbillies have forsaken violence, it’s proper to ask: Is nothing sacred?

Undercurrent of Cubs’ rebuilding is baseball’s heaviest debt [Chicago Sun-Times]
Playing hardball, Ricketts threatens to move Cubs out of Wrigley [CSN Chicago]

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