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BASEBALL AND POLITICS: Not So Strange Bedfellows

Sunday night during Game 5 of the World Series, President Trump was booed and jeered as he was shown on the Jumbotron. Depending on what your own personal politics are, it was either Democracy in the purest form of vox populi, or a terrible display of disrespect to the man and/or the office. Potato/optoat.

The next day, Trump came to Chicago where he attended a fundraising luncheon hosted by Todd Ricketts, who is part of the Cubs’ ownership group along with his father and siblings, all of whom are politically active.

Now here’s where at least one person is thinking “STICK TO SPORTS”. Unfortunately, sports and politics are (and always have been) inextricably entwined.

Famous sports person not sticking to sports.

The Cubs’ management have both ends of the spectrum covered by themselves. You have Laura Ricketts and Theo Epstein (both of whom were at the David Ross press conference, which not so coincidentally was right around the same time as Trump’s fundraiser) supporting candidates on the left (Including Epstein being seen wearing a “Resist” baseball cap), while Todd Ricketts is in the Trump administration and brother Pete is the Governnor of Nebraska, and their father Joe has been a large contributor to Republican candidates. Having both ends of the political spectrum is what’s known as “Good Business”.

The simple fact is, to paraphrase Waylon Jennings, it doesn’t matter who is in City Hall, baseball is still the king. The Cubs can’t change a light bulb without Tom Tunney holding a press conference. The White Sox play their games in a stadium that was built as a gift from Jim Thompson to Jerry Reinsdorf. Hell, Sox Park sits adjacent to the Dan Ryan Expressway, which was Daley I’s not -too-subtle way of making sure Bridgeport stayed white and Bronzeville stayed black. But we can talk about race later – and that will also be sticking to sports.

When Barack Obama was President, that’s when athletes began using championship visits to the White House as a way to make political statements. It will happen from here on out, as every politician has at least 40% of the populace who doesn’t like them, regardless of job performance. And each and every time it happens, you can count on two things – people who like the occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania calling the non-attendee’s patriotism and/or team spirit into question, while those who aren’t fans of the person in the Oval Office will paint that person as a hero. Personally, I’d love someone to not go and say they’re too drunk to go, just because nobody would know how to process it.

Personally, I could not imagine the uproar if a baseball team actually did “stick to sports”. The National Anthem being played prior to ballgames actually began not as a prelude to games, but during the 7th inning stretch of the 1918 World Series. In fact, Cub games didn’t have it as a regular start to every ballgame until the 1960s. On Sundays, ballgames feature “God Bless America”. At least there the Cubs streamline it so you get both songs at once, beginning with “God” and ending with “Breave”. And there are other “patriotic” times during a game that also seem to coincide with huge crushes or people hitting the Sloan troughs at Wrigley.

But back to the main crux of what I’m talking about here – Sports and politics. Or politicians. The Ricketts family just spent a fortune refurbishing Wrigley Field, right? But they also got a sweet handout in the form of a tax credit for refurbishing a landmark – which they happen to own – which would help them generate more revenue.

So basically, when you go to a baseball game in Chicago, you’re sitting in a park paid for in one way or another by tax dollars, and it’s all from the largesse of politicians from both sides of the aisle.

Tip O’Neill was absolutely right when he said, “All politics is local”.

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