Tom Ricketts Doesn’t See How Disconnected He Really is from Cubs Fanbase



Chicago Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts, along with his sister Laura, were the first guests to come on stage for Ryan Dempster’s session at the 35th annual Cubs Convention Friday night, an endeavor that appears in the form of a late night talk show.

Ricketts’ intro and exit music was, wait for it, “Sly and the Family Stone’s “Everyday People.” You know this classic 1970s soul tune by its very familiar refrain: “Iiiiiiiiiiiiii am every-day people!” Yes, billionaires! So like us! We can relate to having a family business……..which Charles Schwab buys for $26 billion!

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It wasn’t the first time this evening that Ricketts conveyed just how unaware he is of the current temperature of the Cubs fan base. During the opening ceremonies, he was booed vociferously; as was his mentioning of the new Marquee Network.

Ricketts then committed the cardinal sin of engaging a hostile audience by trying to sway them over to his point of point of view. It’s just digging deeper into a hole that you’re already in. Granted there are no good options for how to respond to the boo birds, but the best recourse is to at least say “I get why you’re upset….” before just launching into “you’re wrong because XYZ.”

Instead of just taking the L, Ricketts attempted to convert the audience into seeing this new business endeavor in the same vein that he does. He told the Cubs Con audience they won’t be booing Marquee Network a year from now. It was the classic, “you’d love it if you just gave it a chance and took the time to get to know it.”

The fact that Ricketts thought this approach could work is troublesome. It only reinforces the commonly held stereotype of 1-percenters everywhere: they’re surrounded by only sycophants and yes men, and thus, they’re badly out of touch.

Like it’s almost not his fault; almost.

Remember Ricketts IS a Cubs fan at heart, even though none of us are now currently convinced he’s legitimately trying to build a team that could win the NL Central this season.

WGN, the last network in America that still broadcasted MLB, NBA and NHL games on free TV, saw their 72-year run with the Cubs come to an end last fall.

Now Cubs fans will have to pay more money, via cable carriage fees, to see their team play on TV, and Ricketts thought he could somehow go in front of the Sheraton Grand Chicago audience tonight and convince them that this development is a GOOD thing for the consumer?

How tone deaf is that?

Ricketts may have met with his wife in the bleachers at Wrigley Field, just like eBay was founded by a couple trying to re-sell Pez dispensers and yeah, Wal-Mart began as a Ben Franklin style five-and-dime in Bentonville, Arkansas, but eventually the large scale of free market capitalism eats everything in its path.

And now it’s 2020 and life is complicated, and your average baseball fan is a lot smarter than you think he/she is and you don’t give them credit enough for understanding these complications. 35 years ago, the Cubs Convention, a three day long infomercial for the brand and the upcoming season, worked a lot better than it does today.

Sure, we still love escaping the atrocious winter weather to think about baseball and spring/summer for a weekend, and that is pleasant enough, but the corporatism of big business sports these days does not warm the soul; at all.

Ricketts would have been best served by having someone else kick-start the opening ceremonies at Cubs Con 2020.

Overall, his appearances tonight were very reminiscent of how Sean Hannity (a man who shares the extremist right political leanings of both the Ricketts family and Marquee Network’s controlling partner Sinclair Broadcasting) described a one Donald J. Trump: “a blue collar billionaire.”

Jon Stewart, upon hearing that misnomer, had the perfect response: “that’s not a thing.”   

And neither is the concept of Cubs fans believing Marquee Network is on their side.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports, which is partnered with News NowBanks, the author of “No,  I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” regularly appears on WGN CLTV and co-hosts the “Let’s Get Weird, Sports” podcast on SB Nation

You can follow Banks, a former writer for NBC and Chicago on Twitter here and his cat on Instagram at this link.

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  1. Laura is his sister.

  2. Kathleen Mathews says

    Perfectly stated!

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