With the recent inauguration of Barack Obama, Illinois has the honor of being birthplace to one president (Ronald Reagan) and primary residence to three others who earned their political chops within our borders (Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses Grant, Obama). This is a remarkable honor, and yet I am transfixed by one detail, one fact, one smug reality.
On January 20th, 2009 the United States of America inaugurated the first black president in the +230 year history of this nation, and even more improbable, the first White Sox fan. The odds that a White Sox fan would be president are so infinitesimally small that it is quite literally incomprehensible. The odds are not quite zero, but as they say in calculus, it is a number approaching zero. Don’t believe me?
Just try these numbers on for size:
• There can’t be more than 4 million actual Sox fans and that’s probably a high estimate
• 40% of Sox fans are under 35 and not yet eligible to run for US president
• 15% of Sox fans are foreign born and not eligible to be US president
• 98% of Sox fans have the communication skills of a Streets and San foreman (sentences littered with grunts, snorts, creative curse words and semi-logical points punctuated with specks of spit arcing wildly in multiple directions. (Think Mayor Daley at any news conference))
• Of the remaining Sox Fans, approximately 0% have an outlook on life that is positive and attractive enough for a broad majority of Americans to willfully choose him (or her) as a national leader.
It is not just audacious, it defies all reason. It’s more improbable than Charlie Bucket getting the golden ticket in Willie Wonka & The Chocolate Factory with just two Wonka bar purchases!Nonetheless, the most current president of the United States is a White Sox fan, this is indisputable. But what is very, very, very disputable is the question of another local president and his MLB allegiance.
Yes, I am going to explore the issue of which baseball team Abraham Lincoln would have rooted for regardless of the fact that baseball did not even have codified rules or a professional league until a good 10-15 years after his tragic death.
The question, as posed, is which team Abraham Lincoln would root for if he was resurrected (Jesus style) and lived among us in these modern times.
Assuming he would stick to his geographic roots and live in central Illinois, the teams in the running would be the Cardinals, Sox and Cubs.
St. Louis Cardinals, case for:
Springfield is nominally Card country, it’s less than a 2 hour drive to St. Louis and the dusty farmer scene of Springfield jibes more with the dirty river town lifestyle in St. Louis.
I can’t for the life of me figure out what, if anything, the Cardinals stand for. Being bland, boring and overweight? Politely applauding Tony La Russa as he over-manages another game? Deriving your entire self worth from your proximity to Albert Pujols’ hitting prowess? Being a Cardinals fan isn’t something you consciously choose, it’s like hereditary heart disease you’re just born with it.
Plus Missouri was a slave state back in Abe’s day and Stephen Douglas carried the state in the 1860 election.
Chicago White Sox, case for:
• Abe is known to wear a black hat on occasion
• He’s also said to have been a bit moody
Intelligent, articulate and thoughtful people do not gravitate toward the ball club at 35th and Shields. Abe Lincoln presided over the bloodiest war in American history, but at heart he was a man of peace, Sox fans at heart are brawlers prone to fits of mindless violence.
Chicago Cubs, case for:
• Log Cabin = Wrigley Field
Rustic charm has universal appeal despite lack of modern comforts, equally primitive toilet system
• Boys in Blue = Chicago Cubs = Union Soldiers
The color blue resonates deeply with Lincoln as that was the color of the uniforms the Union soldiers wore
• General Ulysses S Grant = Lou Pinella
This is self-evident. Both are born leaders blessed with innate strategic brilliance despite obvious shortcomings in other areas of their lives. TFB goes so far as to say that this year’s Cubs season will be analogous to Grants battle of Shiloh; surprising, violent, huge casualties, yet ultimately victorious.
• But Most Seriously
Lincoln did not live the coddled life of privilege; his mother died when he was nine of “milk sickness” (whatever that is/was), his dear older sister Sarah died about a decade later while giving birth, his first love died of typhoid fever, his second engagement turned him down flat (ouch!), when he finally found a willing partner in Mary Todd three of their four sons died before making it out of their teens.
Even his successes had depressing results in that his very election to the office of President precipitated nearly half of the nation to secede before he was even sworn in and almost immediately called to lead the nation out of the “bloodiest war” in US history.
Lincoln was a man who knew pain and loss intimately. A man who allegedly suffered from clinical depression for most of his adult life, yet was able to get out of bed each and every morning and face the day with a new sense of hope and belief against all odds that this new day will be better than the previous.
The Cubs legacy of heart break and sorrow is trivial compared to the troubles Abraham routinely encountered throughout his life. But if there is any team with a history and a culture that Lincoln would appreciate and identify with, and a fan base so tortured yet blissfully resilient, the Cubs are the one.
-Aside #1: Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich and his Baseball sympathies are conveniently ignored in this post because the whole issue is entirely too depressing but again necessitates the Abraham Lincoln as Cubs fan argument.
-Aside #2: While researching presidents for this post I found out that Richard Nixon was a Quaker. This really challenges my preconceptions of what Quakers are all about but on another note it raises the delicious possibility of coming across a box of Quaker Oats with Nixon’s ugly mug on the front.
March 1, 2009 No Comments
Last week a flock of flying monkeys swirled up from the charred brick dungeon deep below the Tribune Tower. The menacing screech of these avian-primates sending word that the dark lord Sam Zell is one step closer to releasing our beloved franchise from his cold bony hands.
This is good news for 2 reasons:
1. The Cubs have been in ownership limbo for long enough. Everything has been in stand still mode since the Tribune buyout. Could you imagine if Lou decided he had enough of Soriano’s disappearing-reappearing bat and decided to quit? What top flight manager could the Cubs attract with such an unstable situation?
2. The Cubs were never going to win the World Series with Sam Zell as owner. Powerful forces were at work ensuring any Cubs title hopes would be thwarted. It is widely understood that any drought breaking championship win by the North sider’s would instantly ensure everybody even loosely associated with the club, from the owner down to the bathroom attendant, a place in Cub’s lore. Their own float in the parade and another line in their obituary. They would be remembered forever. But, the exact minute the Cub’s get that final out, the owners place in history set, the resale value of the franchise drops a couple hundred million!
Think about it. It’s not just the Cubs that are for sale, it’s not just Wrigley Field that is being sold, and not just 25% of Comcast sports net. What’s also being sold is the opportunity to have your name toasted in bars all over the world, to be famous, to be revered, to be immortalized. $700 million for the Cubs and Wrigley, $200 million to live forever.
You might not have realized the premium placed on this potential honor, but you can be sure anyone with a vested interest in getting the Cubs sold for the highest price realized this. The top of that list has Sam Zell’s name on it in big John Hancock size print.
Just below is Bud Selig’s name, and below that every other owner of a Major League Baseball team. (If the Cubs house goes for 900 million, all the other houses in MLB village are looking more expensive.) The people on that list are rich and more than capable of ensuring that they get richer.
So a sale to just about anyone at all would be great news. I don’t know much about Mr. Tom Ricketts and his fantastically rich family, except that they share a surname with a vitamin-D deficiency that is the scourge of many developing countries. As long as none of them are directly responsible for the creation and perpetuation of the disease then I think they’ll be fine owners.
January 26, 2009 No Comments