January 4, 2011
The annual, brilliant coastal images emanating from Pebble Beach, one of America's natural treasures, provided a salve to tired winter eyes and souls over the past weekend, reminding us that we are indeed closing in on the vernal equinox. And then there is also that other sporting reminder that spring's promise of rebirth is close at hand - of course I'm speaking of the start of spring training this week. Perhaps the romanticizing of baseball's return is overdone - and truthfully it is - but for those residing in cold weather climes it still means a lot and serves as tangible proof that longer days are upon us.
So in the spirit of the reappearance of our national pastime, the new management of the Chicago Cubs has decided upon a bizarre gesture. They felt that the most suitable way to endear themselves to the relentlessly loyal Cubbie Blue faithful during these continuing troubled economic times that we inhabit is to take on the role of scalpers.
Yes, the Cubs are now in the business of officially scalping their own tickets. Their cynical and contemptible new policy gives their fans a chance to purchase advance sale tickets for regular season games this week for a limited time, but with a 20% Scalping Tax added on. And the owners of the most storied Chicago franchise haven't neglected their corporate duties - if one pays with a MasterCard, it's only a 15% fee.
Now, if the Cubs were offering a discount of 5% for MasterCard holders for regularly priced tickets, that's one thing. But to partner with a corporate behemoth in the name of underhanded pseudo-benevolence is utterly deplorable.
The view from the Cubs - and even from a larger-than-one-might-think percentage of their fans - is that this will help some who are left out of the ticket loop and are forced to pay even higher prices through scalpers at the last minute during the regular season.
Yet this reasoning is beyond hypocritical. If the Cubs - or any other sports and entertainment entities for that matter - were sincere in their desire to crack down on the influence of scalpers, then they'd build in guidelines to prevent it. Maybe have a lottery via regular mail only with a strict ticket minimum. Have part of the lottery televised the old-fashioned way, with a big wheel containing thousands of envelopes of the lucky ticket holders. This way it would prevent the sinister, Internet-jamming methods that ticket agencies utilize to secure their exponential share of tickets. And if this method sounds pathetically outdated, I'm sure there are myriad other ways to help the average fan gain entry to games without going the route of ticket companies.
For baseball purists, the Cubs have always represented a beacon of piety (however misinformed that impression may be). This has almost everything to do with their glorious park located in a vibrant part of the city and the incredibly ardent, lovable and steadfast legions of their fans (though I'm sure those on the other side of Chicago and downstate towards St. Louis would take great issue with this assessment) who fill Wrigley to capacity nearly every game. This move by management tarnishes this good feeling a bit.
The brief announcement of this new policy and partnership with Master Card was actually a bit longer and betrayed the true feelings of management. I was lucky to get a hold of a copy. The following is the original press statement that had to be edited by Cubs officials before its release to the public. I know a North Side snob-hating, South Side-residing White Sox fan by the name of Barack Obama who was able to procure me a copy.
Dear Cubs Fan:
Are you sick of being the bridesmaid, residing in the Second City (well we're actually the Third behind LA and we're about to be Fourth with Houston closing in fast ...) and always in the position of apologizing for our losing ways and feeling hermetically sealed in the heart wrenching narrative that is our fate as Wrigley denizens?
Are you tired of New York always winning and getting all the attention? Wouldn't you like us to be more like the Bronx Bombers? Isn't our overly-sentimizelaied ivy-colored-walls lore just a wimpy way of saying we're losers?
Well fear not, our humble Midwesterners! We - the new Cubs management - vow to be mired in playing second (or fifth in the division) no more! Remember when I said back in an October interview that, "You don't buy sports teams just because you're looking at the investment side of it. We're fans, too. And we feel the pain of the fans; we understand the magic that is Wrigley." Well I mean it.
We've looked to the East and have finally learned the nature of things from Yankees, Inc. Though we can't match their glorious $2,000 ticket prices, we will never waver in our attempt to duplicate their brilliant ways. So therefore, we are reaching out the best way we can - by offering our stalwart followers a chance to buy tickets at a cost just 20% above the listed price! I know you're thinking, this can't be true ... it's actually slightly cheaper than other scalpers! But it is.
And for you who choose to pay with MasterCard, we'll drop the price an additional 5%. Yes, you heard correctly, there's only a 15% markup for you lucky MasterCard holders. Corporate sponsorship is truly serving the public interest like never before. Who says that anti-Wall Street sentiment can't be overcome?
Act fast because our stealth policy of obliterating goodwill in this recession is only available for a few more days.
Welcome to the new Cubs of 2010!
PS ... now if we could just completely get rid of those annoying non-prime time day games once and for all ...