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:

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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!

 

 

 

Dear Chicago Tribune: Since You Won’t Publish My Letter, I Will

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

Perhaps it’s time The PRDude blog was branded with a tagline. What do you think of this one:  “Staunch Defender of the Public Relations Profession.”

Regular follows may recall that I’ve addressed situations where the PR profession was bashed, slandered and subjected to libelous prose.  To defend public relations, I used this digital pulpit to challenge the wrong-doers and set the record straight.

In late May it happened again.

The Chicago Tribune, a newspaper I read daily and still support with a home delivery subscription, published a piece in the Sports section that grabbed my attention for two reasons:

1. It concerned the Chicago Cubs and management’s clumsy efforts to get city approval to revitalize venerable Wrigley Field.

2. It connected what I maintain was a management decision to poor public relations counsel.

So I dashed off a Letter to the Editors on May 30.

They haven’t published it, so I will:

Dear Editors:

tribuneAs a public relations professional, I take great offense in the subheadline, “Emanuel embarrasses franchise’s inept PR team,” which accompanied the May 30 column by David Haugh on the efforts by the Chicago Cubs to get approval for modernizing Wrigley Field.

Public relations counsel, whether in-house or contracted, are charged with developing and executing communications programs built upon research driven by sound strategies and measurable results. These actions must be — or certainly should be — approved by management.

Did the headline writer and Mr. Haugh know for a fact that it was the “Cubs’ corporate PR team” that made the decision to charge ahead with plans for a new bullpen and other improvements before conferring with the Mayor’s office? Or, is it possible that the management of the Cubs insisted on unveiling the news?

Admittedly, the Cubs are in need of serious damage control given the circumstances surrounding their plans and efforts to bring their landmark ballpark into the modern age. But it’s troubling that the team’s public relations staff gets lambasted for decisions that may have been beyond their purview.

Sincerely,

Edward M. Bury

It’s this type of inaccuracy about the profession that all of us who are serious PR practitioners need to address quickly and forcefully.  For the record, I would include a link to Mr. Hough’s complete column, but I can’t find it online.

Rest assured, I’ll keep an eye out for future written or verbal barbs slung at public relations and address them whenever I can.  If you’re serious about public relations, serious about its value in modern society, serious about accuracy, perhaps you will too.

* * *

So, now you’re asking: “Back it up, PRDude. Demonstrate how you’ve defended public relations.”  Here are two examples.

1. In a January 2013 post, I fired a shot across the bow of a well-known essayist who mixed up public relations and social media.

2. Back in 2010, I questioned a writer — yes from the Chicago Tribune — who mixed in public relations counsel with the legal counsel defending a man who once was governor of Illinois.

 

 

Okay Mr. Ricketts: I Want to Buy a Piece of the Chicago Cubs

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

News last week from the corner of Clark and Addison streets made big headlines here and across the nation.  Unfortunately, the headlines didn’t boast of a dramatic win by the team that plays baseball in the park at that fabled Chicago intersection.

416x31_partyofthecenturyThe news in question: The Ricketts Family, owners of the Chicago Cubs, are contemplating selling minority shares of the ball club.  The extra dollars, or hundreds of millions of dollars actually, would be earmarked for fixing up venerable Wrigley Field, now in its 100th year.

Note to company Chairman Tom Ricketts: Count The PRDude in on this deal. My confirmed contribution amount is below.

$5.

I know, that’s not much.  Won’t buy a beer at the ballpark, much less a CubsFrosty Malt if those delicious frozen confections are still sold by vendors.

But, I have added value as a minority investor: I am the PRDude after all and a well-known blogger; and I’m an Accredited public relations professional.

My skills as a seasoned communicator — and long-standing, long-suffering — Chicago Cubs fan most surely will come into value, if not this season then in the years to come.

Like all chronic Cubs fans, my century — make that millennium — would be made if the team won the World Series.  And, like all chronic Cubs fans, I’ll cheer and root through another disappointing season, which 2014 is turning out to be.

(As of this writing, the Cubs are in last place with a 2-5 record; but they are ahead of the Pirates at the moment.)

WrigleyShould the Ricketts family secure the funding they need to rebuild Wrigley, with my $5 included, I would be an ideal fan/investor/counselor to handle communications for the renovation work.  Most of my PR career was representing real estate concerns or associations, I’ve been to the park hundreds of times since the mid 1960s and I have handled a crisis or two.

For credibility, I’ll wear my vintage 1984 Cubs cap and APR  pin during gatherings with the media.  Could any big shot investor bring that kind of credibility?

So what do you say, Mr. Ricketts?  Do we have a deal?  Tell you what: I’ll up the ante to the amount below.

$10.

What else has the PRDude had to say about the Cubs?  Here are two posts.

A PR Game Plan from 2010 and a post from last year on a concerted “public relations push.

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.

Reasons to be Cheerful, Parts 1, 2, 3 …

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

4, 5, 6.

And perhaps more reasons, many more.

As I continue with my next challenge — finding that next great job in public relations (and/or a similar communications position) — I decided to spend a few minutes on this glorious spring Sunday in Chicago taking stock of life as of today.

I was inspired by a song from the 1980s (remember that decade?) from a U.K. band called Ian Dury and The Blockheads.  The song in question is entitled Reasons to be Cheerful. It’s kind of a sing-song composition featuring a rapid-fire recitation by Mr. Dury of a few dozen, well, reasons to be cheerful.  One could make an argument that Mr. Dury may have had some influence on the many forms of rap and hip hop, but that’s the subject for another day and time.

The late Ian Dury, British band leader, artist and cultural icon.

The late Ian Dury, British band leader, artist and cultural icon.

Mr. Dury, who fronted the band, certainly lived life on his own terms.  This is illustrated by the image that accompanies this post.  The Blockheads are probably best known for a tune — Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll — that encapsulated reasons lots of people were cheerful in the 1980s, and probably are still today.

(NOTE: The PRDude is not endorsing or offering any commentary on sex, drugs or rock and roll at this time.  Remember: This is a blog about public relations and “other stuff.”)

Back to reasons to be cheerful, here are some to share:

1. Support from Friends: Since I began my current search for a new position, I’ve received dozens of messages and calls from old friends, new friends, online friends and family offering support and encouragement.

2. Project Work: In the past few weeks, I’ve landed some terrific writing assignments, including a major article on commercial real estate and assisting an organization develop and execute an effective social media strategy.

3. APR Training: Through my involvement with PRSA Chicago, I and a colleague are nurturing three local public relations colleagues on the process required to earn the Accreditation in Public Relations.  We’ve held four classes and our candidates are really grasping what strategic public relations is all about.

4. Blood Pressure Drop. With more time to focus on my future and relax, my blood pressure has dropped to a “normal” 120 over 80.  Plus, I’ve started to exercise more and cook healthy meals most nights for Susan and I.

5. New Web Site Project: You heard it here first:  I’m in the process of launching a new web site that will let me pursue two of my passions: Online communications and enjoying a particular beverage that will remain nameless at the moment. Work is underway, and I’m projecting a late June unveiling. Stay tuned.

6. The Future: I’m optimistic about my future, the future of my city and our nation’s future. (As for my beloved Chicago Cubs, I’d say “wait until next year AND the year after that.”)  The Labor Department just released a favorable jobs report. While Chicago still has many problems, I think we’re becoming more aware of ways to solve them.  And, I sense that the President and Congress are ignoring the extremist views from both the right and left and want to meet on common ground.

I could add more, but six is plenty for now.

As for reasons not to be cheerful, I can’t think of any. How about you?

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.