Bill Knight column for Thursday, Friday or Saturday, Oct. 20, 21 or 22, 2016
True, players are mostly millionaires working for billionaires, but they have feelings and opinions, and they’re closer to fans than owners.
Purdue professor Harry Targ wrote, “There is a kind of spiritual connection between the Cubs, working-class Chicago, and all the down-and-out men and women who have struggled to survive and in the face of economic catastrophe continue to struggle to achieve well-being for themselves and their loved ones.”
The Cubs’ makeup may mean some questions. What do Hispanic Cubs such as Baez, Chapman, Contreras, Montero and Soler think of Donald Trump? Do Lester and Rizzo, cancer survivors, think it’s acceptable that Trump ridicules the disabled? What do Fowler or Heyward think of Trump’s condescending comments about African-Americans? How do Texas good ol’ boy John Lackey or Wounded Warriors program supporter Jake Arrieta feel when Trump criticizes military veterans?
Cubs’ assistant general manager Shiraz Rehman is a Muslim, and Ben Zobrist the son of a pastor and husband of a Christian singer; their feelings about Trump and religion would be interesting. And would Bryant or Almora, each newly married, let Trump anywhere near their wives or any woman?
Of course, they have other challenges to focus on as a team, and manager Joe Maddon has helped them become a team, a unified group of varied individuals with a common purpose. Further, Cub fans come in all shades. Democratic consultant David Axelrod and Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder, actor Bill Murray and comic Stephen Colbert are some of the many progressive faces at Wrigley. On the other hand, conservative columnist George Will is a die-hard fan, and Ronald Reagan got his start doing play by play on Iowa radio, recreating action from ticker-tape updates.
And the elephant in the room is the Ricketts family that owns the club. Most of them support Trump, and a few have contributed millions to the GOP. Patriarch Joe and wife Marilyn aren’t on the board, but the TD Ameritrade founders this election cycle donated more than $8 million to Republican candidates, the GOP, Political Action Committees and other GOP-allied groups, according to federal data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics (CPR), and endorsed Trump last month (after backing Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker during the primaries). Son Pete, Republican governor of Nebraska, endorsed Trump in May, and son Todd Ricketts (who previously donated to Mitt Romney and Illinois politicians Bobby Schilling and Adam Kinzinger) predicted a Trump victory at a Bolingbrook fundraiser last month and has raised tens of millions of dollars of pro-Trump groups, according to Politico.
Meanwhile, however, daughter Laura – who’s on the board of Lambda Legal, which advocates for LBGTQ rights – supported Obama and backs Clinton, and Tom – arguably the face of Cubs ownership – is pretty neutral, having contributed merely to MLB political efforts in 2012, CPR said. And, in the front office, President Theo Epstein attended a “Lawyers for Hillary Clinton” event last month, voiced his support for the Democrat, and made a contribution.
Perhaps the ballplayers, stars who earned their fame, are skeptical of superficial celebrities like Trump.
Author Howard Senzel (“Baseball and the Cold War”) wrote, “There was a time, long ago, when history itself consisted of the tales of heroic deeds. Usually about warriors, these were tales of heroism, rather than gossip about heroes. These tales were yardsticks against which ordinary people could measure their own lives. Now history is about institutions, and processes, and forces. And our heroes are heroes just because they have emerged from anonymity into the public arena. Visibility is enough, nowadays.”
Maybe it’s not enough, finally. In 1920, The Nation magazine wrote, “We do not trust cashiers half so much, or diplomats, or policemen or physicians, as we trust an outfielder or shortstop.”
Indeed, many of us would rather live in a nation made up of a fun-loving, talented patchwork-quilt society like the Cubs team.
A team, with a common purpose.
[PICTURED: The Ricketts at Wrigley, left to right -- Laura, Joe, Marlene, Todd, Tom and Pete, from deadspin.com.]