Published September 19, 2012
Just say it: "I am a Cubs fan and a Bud man and a Republican."
Joe Ricketts, patriarch of the family that owns the Chicago Cubs, risks inextricably linking the biggest losers in baseball with the GOP.
If you are a Republican, think of it this way: The Cubs haven't won a World Series in well over 100 years. It is difficult to name any other major professional sports team in North America that has missed out on a championship for this long. The so-called "Loveable Losers" may sell plenty of sports merchandise and fill seats at Wrigley Field, but they do not dominate their sport.
If you are a Democrat--and Chicago, mind you, is a Democrat-dominated city in a bluer than blue state--think of it this way: First this team was famously cursed by a goat, and now it's cursed by an elephant.
How would you like seeing the "Budweiser Bleachers" filled with obstructionists who try to filibuster every home run by an opposing team? Instead of paying attention to the finer points of the game, some of these fans might shout out plans to deny abortions to raped women and or scream shadowy theories as to whether President Obama--who launched his political career in the Windy City--has a birth certificate.
A recent Supreme Court decision allowing corporations and their billionaire owners to spend unlimited amounts of money on political advertising is bad enough for democracy. But it may be even worse for baseball. There is a reason we have professional sports in America: So people of different races, religions, creeds, backgrounds and, yes, even sexual orientations, can get together and not have to talk about politics.
As a nation, we are divided almost evenly along party lines--and these parties are often defined by their most extreme elements. Sports, quite thankfully, help keep our continent from splitting into a battlefield of warring tribes. But if every professional team owner did what Mr. Ricketts plans to do, Americans would begin to hate sports as much as they hate Congress.
The inescapable fact is, by giving money to the Chicago Cubs, fans are giving money to Mr. Ricketts, who in turn will give it to Republicans. If you are a Democrat, why show up for a game? And if you are a Republican, why do you want to keep watching your team lose?
Mr. Ricketts, who founded what became online brokerage TD Ameritrade (AMTD), now runs his own super PAC, or political action committee, which he calls the Ending Spending Action Fund. He plans to spend $10 million on ads supporting Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and another $2 million on ads backing GOP congressional candidates. "Yes, this game is brought to you today by right-wingers."
Earlier this year, the 71-year-old political meddler was in the news for considering ads featuring President Obama's former pastor, the ever-controversial Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Chicago's mayor, and former Obama chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, called the plan insulting and made sure he was seen at a Chicago White Sox game.
If you are for the middle class, do you really have to go to a Sox game? And if you are a disciple of Ayn Rand, are you supposed to cheer for the perennially losing Cubs?
The next thing you know, sports announcers are going to start using political analogies: "Hey, that Hail Mary Pass was better than a TARP bailout."
This is as nutty as Mr. Ricketts complaining about government deficits while his family lobbies for tax breaks to renovate Wrigley Field. His Ending Spending campaign, if it is to be taken seriously, should begin with the Cubs. Renovate your own damn baseball diamond. It's your business. Build it yourself.
The Cubs may be the worst pick any Republican has made since Sarah Palin.
It would seem Mr. Ricketts is laying a curse on a team that is already cursed. In 1945, a Chicago tavern owner named Sam Sianis was ejected from the World Series for bringing his good-luck charm to the game--which happened to be a relatively non-partisan goat. The Cubs lost to the Detroit Tigers, and the so-called Billy Goat Curse has kept the Cubs from even playing in the World Series ever since.
Mixing the absurdities of sports with the absurdities politics will only lead to more absurd decision-making for our nation. Gay Marriage? Depends who wins the Stanley Cup. War with Iran? I don't know. How are the Lakers doing this year? Should we keep lowering taxes for the rich? Not if an old American Football League team wins the Super Bowl, which supposedly presages a downturn in the stock market.
Oh, and how are we going to finally fix our unemployment problem? Whatever you do, America, please don't link the proposed solution to the Cubs. We'll just have to extend unemployment benefits for another 100 years.
(Al's Emporium, written by Dow Jones Newswires columnist Al Lewis, offers commentary and analysis on a wide range of business subjects through an unconventional perspective. Contact Al at email@example.com or tellittoal.com)