The Chicago Cubs and a Reflection on the World and Society Today

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

Let’s leave the current on-field performance of the Chicago Cubs in the 2016 National League Championship Series with the Los Angeles Dodgers to those communicators who get paid — and know a lot more than I do about sports — to offer commentary.

Rest assured Mr. Kaminsky, your childish actions may come back to haunt you.

Rest assured Mr. Kaminsky, your childish actions may come back to haunt you.

As of this writing, the Cubs are down two games to one, have been shut out the past two games and appear to have lost heart and how to win. But there’s a game tonight!

Anyway, this post will focus more on the state of our world and society today, rather than Chicago’s National League baseball franchise.  What prompted this post is an article from the Redeye, a free tabloid published by the Chicago Tribune Media Group and geared to the Millennial demographic.

The article centers on a “fan” of the Chicago White Sox, a Chicago area native named Frank Kaminsky, who is taking his self-professed hatred of the Cubs to an extreme, childish level. As noted in this Redeye piece published today, Mr. Kaminsky — a professional basketball player with the Charlotte Hornets — promises to wear a custom-made Cubs jersey bearing the name of a man who was never a Cubs player until the team is eliminated from the playoffs.

Providing of course, that happens.

As noted in the Redeye piece: “It’s my stance, how I feel about the Cubs this year. I don’t want them to win.” He also has launched an “attack” of sorts in the Twittersphere.

So what do Mr. Kaminsky’s actions have to do with the much larger perspective?

It’s a demonstration of a lot of things that are wrong with the world today.  Here are a few:

  • It’s Okay, No Cool, to Hate. Rarely a day goes by when we don’t hear of an atrocity in war-torn places overseas and in my home city of Chicago. To me, it’s hate that drives people to kill and hurt others. Why should hate be part of sports? Because, apparently to some, it’s appropriate and it’s become part of “cheering on” your team.
  • The “Power” of the Digital Arena. This blog, is, of course, part of modern online communications. I’ve published what I believe are informative, fair and ethical posts.  Others use the digital arena to spread lies and inflame hatred.
  • The Ability to Change the Conversation.  What’s happening in baseball today? The NLCS and the ALCS. With garbage news like Mr. Kaminsky’s rants, part of the focus of real sports news gets mixed up with nonsense that’s taking place off the field of play.
  • Continue to Bash Bartman. I can’t believe that anyone with any sense of scruples would continue to slander Steve Bartman, a fan who tried to catch a foul ball in a game 13 years ago. He did nothing wrong, but weak, petty cowards still hold him responsible for a Cubs collapse.

Cub fans and many in Chicago fly the “W” flag to promote and support the team.  So, fly the “L” flag Mr. Kaminsky, if you want.

But in my mind you’re the loser.

 

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Chicago Cubs in the 2016 Post Season: Thoughts and Observations

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

Was it somewhat scripted late last week that the 2016 Chicago Cubs “back in” to clinching the National League Central Division, then bring pandemonium to the Wrigley Field faithful the following day with a walk off win via a home run from a reliable replacement catcher?

Who knows, and at this point, who cares!

Cubs

What will the post-season hold? We’ll find out soon enough.

This forever Chicago Cubs fan — like millions of others — is thrilled the team has locked in a playoff spot with two-plus weeks of baseball left and boasts the best record in baseball.

But unlike many of my Cub fan colleagues, I’m going mute on predictions on October. But, I do have thoughts and observations to share about the season so far, and what I’ll be looking for in the post season.

So, as the legendary Cub public address announcer Pat Pieper would say, “Attention: Have your pencils and scorecards ready.”

  • Madden Post Game Analysis. Yes, he does wacky things like make players dress in goofy outfits for road games and has brought in a magician as a strategy to build camaraderie and ease tensions during the 162-game season. But the true genius of  Manager Joe Madden comes out in his post game commentaries. He’s eloquent, imminently quotable and always on target regarding what just transpired on the field. Win or lose, players know Joe already is thinking about how to get the best of his squad the next time the ump yells, “Play Ball!”
  • Best Off-Season Move. The big contract to outfield star Jason Heyward? The late season signing of fireball closer Aroldis Chapman? Yes, both are integral to the team’s success to date, and both will be vital cogs in the post season. But my vote goes to the versatile Ben Zobrist.  (Did you know he was born in Eureka, Illinois?) His stats are not off the charts, but in an 11-year pro baseball career, he has put up impressive numbers when at the plate and he plays solid infield and outfield positions. And, he played for the 2015 World Series winning Kansas City Royals, so he knows what it takes to play in crucial games in October. Sometimes, it’s the guy who isn’t in the headlines who makes the most impact.
  • Who I’d Like to Meet for a Beer. A tough choice, so I’ll pick two: David Ross and Dexter
    True, the Cubs have not sucked this season.

    True, the Cubs have not sucked this season.

    Fowler. Not much in depth analysis or statistics here, but I like a guy who’s cool with the nickname of “Grandpa Rossi.” And whether he smacks a lead off homer or grounds into a double play, Fowler gives it his all and looks like he’s having a good time. Shout out to Grandpa and Dex: I’ll always make time for a beer with you guys.

  • From a Public Relations Perspective. Yes, I had to sneak in a thought on the brand that Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have built under the Ricketts family ownership.  (Actually, I tackled public relations and the Cubs in this 2013 post regarding plans to rebuild Wrigley Field.) The 2016 team has — fortunately — generated headlines for its performance on the field, rather than off the field. Yes, there have been injuries and that losing streak before the All Star break.  And, oh yea, the Tommy LaStella meltdown. But all season there has been an absence of scandal and unnecessary drama. This squad contains players who are unselfish and only focus on winning, not personal stats. In a more colloquial perspective, the Cubs have received “good PR” all season because ownership and management put together a group of winners, not whiners.

In just more than an hour, the Cubs will take the field at Wrigley to conclude the weekend series with the Brewers. After yesterday’s “hangover” blowout loss, perhaps Madden’s guys will get back on track.

One milestone down.  Three to go.

 

 

Chicago Cubs, Last Day Regular Season, Thoughts

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

On this cool, dreary, cloudy October 4, a day more akin to November, it’s warm, bright and sunny in Cubdom.

Cubs

The guys with this emblem on their jerseys will play in the post season. Bu for how long?

Yes, it’s the last day of the Major League baseball regular season, and my Chicago Cubs — actually everyone’s Chicago Cubs — will be playing a meaningful game later this week.

Counting the hours, no minutes, until the first pitch Wednesday, against the very dangerous and talented Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park, where my Chicago Cubs will be playing a wild card, single elimination game in order to advance to the National League playoffs.

Well, let’s check that: Last night’s shutout win added more thrills to the 2015 season; the Cubs may host the Pirates at Wrigley Field with a win today.

As a lifelong and long-suffering Cubs fan, of course I’m thrilled my Chicago Cubs are in the post season.  And, while I won’t make a prediction, I will share these thoughts.

An artist's rendering of proposed renovations to the venerable Wrigley Field.

Later today, we’ll know if the Cubs will play the October 7 Wild Card game at Wrigley Field.

On the Field Headlines Are Best. Throughout this glorious season, one where the Cubs provided tremendous baseball drama, that drama was confined to the field of play. I can’t recall news reports of Cub players or management making headlines for what took place off the field.  (Well, unless you count the litigation with the property owners on Waveland and Sheffield avenues.) In short, skipper Joe Madden and his boys behaved themselves, keeping the focus on baseball and not antics that could get them in trouble.

Treating Baseball as It Should Be: A Game.  Years ago I read an article that included a line that stated: “The umpire yells ‘Play Ball’ at the start of a game, not ‘Work Ball.'” My 2015 Chicago Cubs know how to enjoy the game of baseball, but they do so in a workmanlike way. Scenes in the dugout show a team that’s relaxed but focused, and seemingly unaffected by a bad loss or bad call from umps. These guys are having fun, which much of the time leads to winning.

Little Things Lead to Big Wins. Visit this page from Major League Baseball for official stats. But some casual observations of my Cubs reveal a team that rarely got beat when failing to execute  fundamentals: Hitting the cutoff man, hitting behind the runner, laying down the bunt, putting the ball in play, turning the easy double play.  These little things have paid big dividends for the 2015 squad, setting them apart from many, many Cub squads of past seasons.

My Cubs today have as many wins this year as they had losses in  seasons not too long ago. In around an hour from now, they’ll take the field for their final regular season game against the Brewers in Milwaukee.

It means something, because the Cubs may get home-field advantage and host the Wild Card game.

Regardless of where the game is held, after the ump yells “Play Ball,” I’ll be watching, waiting and hoping.

***

But wait! There’s more from the PRDude on the Chicago Cubs:

An Opening Day Thought: What Does Hate Have To Do With Baseball?

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

This is more than a typical Sunday here in Chicago. Yes, of course, it’s Easter Sunday, and I wish all a blessed Easter — regardless of your beliefs.

It’s also Opening Day — make that Opening Night — for the Chicago Cubs, those beloved boys of summer.

Today marks the first time the Cubs will play the first home baseball game of the season at seemingly perennially under construction Wrigley Field at night.  And, the foe is that seemingly always successful team who play in a city 300 miles southwest — the St. Louis Cardinals.

CardinalsOr as some — fans, newspaper sports writers and broadcast media — define them, “the hated St. Louis Cardinals.”

For some untold, inexplicable reason, Cub followers and others around the baseball and sports world, “hate” the Cardinals.

I’ve read the “hated Cardinals” phrase frequently in recent print reports about the Cubs’ chances in the 2015 season in columns on progress during spring training games. In fact, in a Chicago Tribune sports article published in late March of this year on the Cubs/Cardinals rivalry, Cubs GM Theo Epstein was quoted as saying: “I’m a Cub, so I have to hate the Cardinals.”Cubs

Note to Theo and every other Cub fan: I’ve been a Cubs fan as long as I can remember. Perhaps there was a time when I “hated” the Cardinals, especially when they routinely walloped the Cubs season after season.

(I guess the same comparison can be made by Chicago Bears fans when referencing the Green Bay Packers.)

But given the state of the world today, when true hatred drives men, and increasingly women, to unspeakable horrors against their fellow man, I’m past expressing hatred for a baseball team that competes against the team I root for.  I hope sports writers, TV commentators and fans of all sports will learn to dispense with using the word “hated” or its derivatives when talking about sporting competition.

After all, it’s supposed to be a game, not a war.

The Cubs will take the field a few minutes from now. I hope they wallop the Cardinals.

Play ball!

 

 

 

Another Perspective on the Chicago Cubs’ “Public Relations Push”

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

Headlines that include “public relations” or “PR” usually grab my attention. When the headline includes a reference to public relations and the Chicago Cubs, it’s like someone grabbed me by the lapels and said, “Read, then offer some insight.”

That brings us to today’s post.  In the May 15 issue of The Chicago Tribune — which I read “old school” or in print form — I was drawn to a sidebar piece that referenced public relations.  The sidebar accompanied a larger story, part  of the newspaper’s ongoing coverage of efforts by the billionaire Ricketts family to raise money for two iconic assets: The Chicago Cubs Major League Baseball team, and the place they play baseball, the nearly century-old Wrigley Field.

An artist's rendering of proposed renovations to the venerable Wrigley Field.

An artist’s rendering of proposed renovations to the venerable Wrigley Field.

Back in 2010, the Ricketts were hoping to use state funds to help pay for $300 million in renovations to the Friendly Confines.   That development sparked another so-called “public relations” effort, one The PRDude chronicled in this post.

These days, the Ricketts are pushing for plans to fix up the old ballpark in large part by getting approval for much more advertising signage, a proposal that owners of nearby rooftop adult playgrounds claim is the same as a bean ball to their revenue streams.  Read more in this Trib article.

But it was the sidebar, the one with “PR effort” in the headline, that has prompted this discussion.

restore-wrigleyThe piece, written by business reporter Ameet Sachdev, states: “The Cubs have stepped up a public relations campaign to build support for Wrigley Field renovations …”   The renovations are need to preserve the venerable park and modernize it. The plan includes an online petition on this web site where fans (or anyone with a computer, I guess) can endorse renovation plans that will be realized by revenue from increased signage, as well as more night games and a 6,000 square-foot video screen.  The Cubs also enlisted “a consulting firm” (not identified) to conduct research from area residents to gauge their support for proposed renovations.

On the surface, I applaud the Ricketts family for the petition program, for initiating a survey and for hiring communications consultants.  This falls under primary research, and solid research drives all effective public relations programs — or any initiative that starts with a sound strategy.

But let’s not lose sight of what’s really happening here:  The Ricketts family made its fortune through smart business decisions.  A crumbling ball park with outdated amenities can only attract fans — even Cub fans — for so much longer.  The team is employing public relations strategies and tactics to help build awareness and acceptance for the need to get approval for its revenue-generating proposals.

Do you really think they’re number 1 goal is to preserve the league’s second oldest ballpark?  Or, to preserve the “Wrigley Field experience?”   I think it’s to make money.

There’s nothing wrong with making money.  And, there’s nothing wrong with employing sound, ethical public relations practices to realize that goal.

A (Somewhat) Subtle Switch & Reflections on the Chicago Cubs True Leader

By Edward M. Bury, APR, aka the PRDude

My loyal readers — you’re out there, aren’t you? — have probably wondered what happened to the PRDude.  No posts for weeks, none so far this month.  Did he run out of opinions and ideas? Did he just give up blogging? Did he abandon public relations?

The answers: No, no, and no.

There are two reasons why I’ve been remiss in adding posts to my blog:

  1. I’ve been busy with my “real” job. As chronicled in my October 17 post, I landed an outstanding new full-time position.  The past seven weeks have been enlightening and fulfilling, and to some extent challenging and exhausting — all in a good way.  I hit the ground running.  This left little time to conceive ideas and post them here.
  2. I found it’s really hard to develop and execute ideas based on my new theme, “The Lighter Side of Public Relations, Marketing & Communications.”  It ain’t easy trying to be funny.  My deepest respect to Mark Twain, who pioneered humorous prose, and more modern masters like the late Art Buchwald and P.J. O’Rourke, who have kept the craft alive and well.

The Classic Mark Twain -- Looking East.


The Pensive Art Buchwald.

The Jester, P.J. O'Rourke.

So, I’ve decided to augment the theme of this blog with “other stuff.”  Very obtuse, I know.  But I’ll try to offer perspectives on politics (can’t wait f0r the retrial of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich to start next year) and popular culture (there will always be Lady Gaga, the Situation and Real Housewives to tackle).

This is a fine segue into thoughts on the late Ron Santo, former Chicago Cubs legendary third baseman, radio baseball color commentator, perennial shutout from the Baseball Hall of Fame and champion for raising money and awareness for research into juvenile diabetes.

Ron Santo, Iconic Chicago Cubs Third Baseman, at Wrigley Field.

Mr. Santo died December 2 from cancer. But he battled diabetes and other health problems all his life with the same ferocity as an at bat against a mean hurler like Don Drysdale or Bob Gibson.  Sportswriters have offered lots of words on Santo as a player, broadcaster and human being. He’s been heralded for his outstanding statistics on the field of play, for playing pro ball for 15 years with diabetes, for his scrappy, combative at times attitude on and off the field, and for his heartfelt, if at times loony, commentary in the WGN-AM radio booth.
As a North Side Chicago kid and life-long Cubs fan, I followed Santo his entire career (except for his final season with the White Sox; but that’s another topic).  I have memories of rooting for Santo and the Cubs at games played only in sunshine at Wrigley Field during the 1960s, when 12,000 was a big crowd.
One thing stood out: Ron Santo was a leader.  In fact, he was the last true leader the Chicago Cubs have had between the baselines.
He was not afraid to stand down a fellow player, an umpire, the manager or an opposing pitcher.  And, as I’ve learned, from another perspective, Santo was the guy you wanted to watch your back.  Along with the Gold Gloves (five), batting average (.277), hits (2,254), homers (342) and RBIs (1,331), Ron Santo knew a team — like a company, a cause, a country — needs a leader, one who can make a decision and live with the consequences.
Santo was a character who had a lot of character.  Perhaps the keepers of the Baseball Hall of Fame will now finally recognize that and enshrine Santo in Cooperstown posthumously.  True, Santo never led the Chicago Cubs to the World Series, or even the post season.  But he won just about every day of his life.