Below is today’s column in USA Today. Aidan and I had a ball in Chicago from going to Hot Doug’s for hot dogs to Ed Debevik’s for hamburgers (and seeing our favorite waiter “Biscuit.). I even went into my old school Joseph Brennemann Elementary on Clarendon. But the highlight was taking Aidan to his first game at Wrigley, a major rite of passage for any Chicago native or Chicago progeny.
Last Friday, I sat with my 11-year-old son, Aidan, for more than three hours in a steady downpour of cold rain while being whipped by gusts of wind. We were shivering and soaked — and absolutely satisfied. We were in Wrigley field, the cultural and spiritual touchstone of the Chicago North Side. Yet, all was not well at Wrigley. The fans were not grumbling about the weather or the developing loss to the Cincinnati Reds. Rather they are glaring upward at the dry, remote skybox of Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts and his entourage. Last week, Ricketts threatened to move the Cubs out of Wrigley unless he gets his way in changing the look of Wrigley Field.
Ricketts grew up in Omaha and lives in the tiny Chicago suburb of Wilmette. He did not apparently know that the one thing you should never do is threaten fans who have lived under a curse for 68 years and never … ever … mess with Wrigley.
Ricketts is demanding a 6,000-square foot video board atop the left-field wall and four new signs ringing the outfield. He warned that if the Cubs “cannot get approval for this plan and our signage plans are blocked, we will then consider moving.”
For the record, the Chicago Cubs is ranked as the most profitable baseball team in America, and yet Ricketts felt it was necessary to threaten the city with killing this cherished landmark.
There is a name for what Ricketts did before the City Club: blasphemy. There are only two sins on the North Side. You cannot blaspheme the Cubs, and you cannot commit apostasy (by rooting for the White Sox). I admit that I would regret seeing the classic lines of Wrigley ruined by huge signs and boards. I grew up in this stadium and like many have a huge attachment to it. (Our family home is near Wrigley, and I used to hang outside as a kid with a transmitter radio to catch balls flying out of the park by hitters such as Ernie Banks and Billy Williams.)
Most people assumed Ricketts was bluffing. Wrigley is a major reason that this is the most profitable club; it sure isn’t the Cubs’ record. Without Wrigley, Ricketts would be left with one of the worst performing teams and some modern monstrosity stadium named after Old Spice or ThighMaster.
So don’t threaten us, Mr. Ricketts. We are fans of the oldest professional team in North American sports — any sport. We were there in 1932 when Ruth called the shot over the center field bleachers. We were there when the billy goat was thrown out of the stadium in the 1945 World Series and left us cursed for eternity. When you were working on your first Ameritrade, we were there in the rain-soaked, wind-whipped bleachers eating semicooked hot dogs and drinking warm Old Style beers.
You want a giant scoreboard, let’s talk about it. But don’t try to stare down fans who have been looking into a cursed goat’s eyes for seven decades. If Tommy wants his sign, Tommy needs to play nice.
Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University, is a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors.
May 9, 2013