Like My Tomato Plants, The Chicago Cubs Are Still Alive

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

tomatoes

Look close. There are some tomatoes still growing in my backyard this last day of October. For some inexplicable reason, I’m equating late season tomatoes to the Cubs’ hopes of winning the next two games in Cleveland.

Like the four tomato plants still yielding fruit on this last day of October 2016, my beloved Chicago Cubs are still in the chase to win the World Series of baseball.

Okay, I admit that’s a goofy, wacky, somewhat nonsensical mixed metaphor.  But it’s the best I can do after a wild, emotionally-charged weekend following the Cubs versus Indians via television, radio and handheld device.

Yes, the Cubs played their last home games of 2016 and head east and — hopefully — will return as World Series champions.

While I didn’t get to attend a playoff game at Wrigley Field, I of course watched, listened and read all things Cubs.

However, now that the action has shifted to Progressive Field in Cleveland, there are a few things about following the Cubs World Series quest I will not miss:

  1. Flashes of John Cusack, Eddie Vedder, Bill Murray and other celebrity Cub fans on the TV screen during games. Heck, I just read that Lady Gaga was at the game last night! Who cares? Not me.
  2. Seeing images of that frumpy — unquestionably rich — guy in the pink cap and green shirt with the awesome first row seats right behind home plate. Who is this guy and why doesn’t he stand up and root for the Cubs once in a while?
  3. Reading reports about bars in “Wrigleyville” (silly name, if you ask me) charging $250 or so to watch a game. Oh yes, you get beer and hot dogs. Can you say, “take advantage of the situation.”

So, why draft this post?  Well, we’ve failed to attract any more trick or treaters this Halloween night, and I need something Cubs related to do.

But on second thought, my analogy between tomatoes in November and the Cubs in the World Series does have merit. I don’t recall ever having a tomato yield in the 11th month of the year. And, to my knowledge, the Cubs have never won a game in November.

So there: As long as there are tomatoes still struggling to grow and ripen, the Cubs have a chance to win two more games in 2016.

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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.

PR Game Plan to Help Chicago Cubs

By Edward M. Bury, APR, aka the PRDude

The headline from an article in today’s online Chicago Tribune was as resounding as a tape-measure home run:  “Cubs striking out in PR fight over Wrigley plan. ” For the record, the print edition of the Tribune featured a different headline for the same piece: “Cubs swinging away in Wrigley plan PR fight.”

Regardless, the news from both mediums is the same: The Chicago Cubs are embroiled in some kind of problem, and regardless of the nature of the problem, it somehow involves public relations.  As a loyal and life-long Cubs fan and public relations professional, I’d like to help.

On the surface, this entire scenario is strange because the 2011 Major League Baseball season is around six months away, and no one in the Cubs front office — as far as I know — is under indictment.  The only inebriated people staggering around the intersection of Clark and Addison these day are the denizens who frequent the many bars nearby; so the PR issue can’t be tied to a contest on the field, someone in the front office or overly zealous and overly served baseball fans.

Upon reading the piece, I learned the fully story. The issue  is tied to what makes the world go round. And, that, of course is money.

Here’s what’s going on: The new owners of the Chicago Cubs, the Ricketts family, are asking for a loan from the state of Illinois to pay for some  improvements to the venerable Wrigley Field. These improvement include making sure what was once known as the Upper Deck (now billed and sold as Upper Level and Terrace Reserved) does not come crashing down on those sitting the Field Box seats.  Actually, they’re asking for a lot of money — $300 million in the form of bonds from the State of Illinois — to complete proposed renovations.

The near-century-old ballpark needs renovations that will cost an estimated $300 million.

Terms of the bond proposal are the stuff only guys in gray suits can decipher, but the owners want to repay the bonds through future amusement tax revenues paid by Cub fans who purchase tickets . And, one more thing: They’re seeking money from a state that is facing a $14 billion budget crisis.

As the Tribune reports: “The team’s proposal is complicated, and that’s part of Ricketts’ public-relations problem.”  Excuse me, but I think this really is more of a financial problem.

But as the PRDude, a Cub fan who saw Ernie Bank play and remember ticket prices of 90 cents — yes, 90 cents — in the bleachers, I’m here to offer effective public relations counsel.  Here are two definitive, attainable objectives with the goal of keeping the Cubs financially viable until they win a World Series or Chicago elects a Republican mayor:

1. Increase awareness by 50 percent by year-end 2011 among season ticket holders that the price of their treasured seats will continue to escalate for the foreseeable future.

2. Increase acceptance by 100 percent among all baseball fans from the 2011 season until the Cubs win a World Series that every trip to Wrigley Field is an historic event:  Witnessing the athletic competition of the professional sports franchise with the longest consecutive streak of not winning the ultimate championship.

Best of success to the Ricketts family in their quest to secure the funding needed to keep Wrigley Field open for another generation or two of fans who continue to have faith that “this year will be the year.”  Or, maybe next year. Providing of course, the old Upper Deck stay where it’s suppose to be.

Snapdragons in November, Part IV

What’s a sure sign of spring?  The start of the baseball season.

Today is opening day for Major League Baseball and my beloved Chicago Cubs are already taking it on the chin in Atlanta.   As any baseball fan knows, the Cubs have had their share of public relations nightmares, due in large part to a century and a year drought in winning the World Series.  Ah, but maybe this year.

Regardless, despite the absence of winning the big one, inept play on the field, boneheaded front office decisions and some purported curse caused by a goat, the Cubs remain one of the best brands in all sports.  Sold out crowds at Wrigley Field and lucrative TV contracts attest to that.   Hey, I’d take a public relations job with the Cubs, if for the sake of getting into the ballpark to see a game now and then.

But, for you loyal readers, enough talk of the Cubs.  Here’s the fourth and final installment in my work of fiction, “Snapdragons in November.” Thanks to all who’ve read it; I’d welcome any comments.

The door opened and he could smell the cleansing rain for a moment. A couple, mid-twenties, somewhat reserved and looking slightly rumpled in their torn dark denims and faded leather jackets, took seats to his right. They studied the food menu – burgers, sandwiches and wings, mainly — for what was a long time and scanned the chalkboard that listed the dozens of beers available. He tried to listen to their conversation and heard the guy offer thoughts as why the pale ale was a better choice than the kolsch. The girl, almost pretty in a gaunt way, listened intently.  For some reason, he liked these two. They probably are artists, or want to be artists, but have to work at some crap retail job to afford a one-bedroom flat in one of the buildings that line this once working-class neighborhood on the upswing.  They had conviction, even in ordering a beer and food from a bar menu.

He wanted to talk to them, and find out more about their lives and what brought them together and to Wellington’s on that early Sunday evening in late fall.  He wondered: What will their conversation be about a year, five years from now? Will they find a common bond built upon something so everyday like what kind of beer to drink?  He sort of envied them. Together, life was unfolding and could take any direction they pursued.

Finishing his fifth Metropolitan, he gestured to Sam for a check. “Hey good lookin’. What’s the damage today?” he asked. “It’s time I started dinner. Otherwise I might get to like this place and stay here all night.”

“Don’t wear out your welcome,” she said. “You could walk out of here for sixteen.”

“I always knew you were a cheap date,” he said, leaving a $20 bill and some singles on the bar. “When’s your swan song shift?”

“Oh, you mean when’s my last shift here?”
“Uh huh.”

“Next Sunday.”

“Well, I’ll plan on being here and plan on being thirsty.”

“It’ll be a little emotional, you know?  I’ve been in Chicago for four years, and I’ve been here three years. Tried to make it work here, but I’ve got to put down new roots where I think they’ll have a better chance to grow. Sometimes, you gotta take that first new step.”

“And, I’m ready to step out and navigate my way home. Goodbye for now, California girl. You ain’t seen the last of me,” he said, pushing open the heavy door.

Damn the rain, he thought, walking at a deliberate pace home. Like the old lady said, it washes the bad crap away.  So what if he got wet.  So what if he stayed at Wellington’s longer than he planned.  So what if dinner would be ready a little later.  So what.

He knew she was not home when he unlocked the back door.  The lights were off and the shades were not drawn. The house was dark inside save for the yellow glow from the street lights. It looked warm, welcoming.  And there, on the kitchen counter, were the snapdragons.  She neatly pruned away the nearly dead leaves and blossoms to create a small beautiful monument to the end of a long, long season.  Little bursts of color in a vase against the black counter top.

There was no note, but he knew where she went, off to buy her milk and probably lots more stuff they didn’t need.  Her unpredictable spirit.  That’s part of what defined her, part of what made him fall in love those seemingly simple years and years ago.  There was goodness in her soul, and perhaps he was too inflexible to recognize this.  Perhaps he had better reap whatever good things – big and small – he could gather.

Keeping his wet jacket on, he went back outside in the rain to wait for her to return. He would inspect every car that drove up their street, toward the home they built together, and hope the next car would be her’s. He would rush to help her carry the groceries they didn’t need. He didn’t care how long he had to stand in the rain.

The End