Friday, July 13, 2007

Between blowing through screen doors as though I were the Kool-Aid man and waging one-man wars against Cambridge, Brookline and Connecticut, I have found myself too busy over the last two weeks to criticize some of the old familiar enemies of this space. For too long, Bill Simmons, Dan Shaughnessy and Mark Cuban have been able to vomit up ignorance into the punch bowl we all share whilst the general populace is all too willing to call it alphabet soup and move on. Believe it or not, despite what that last sentence and my track record would have you believe, I'm not drunk. It's just a complicated paraphrase of a great line from an episode of NewsRadio.

Tonight, it's time to criticize the Benefactor one more time. I never got around to saying this at the time he elected to tell the world about his colonoscopy (as I was disappointed in the complete lack of discretion on his part), but I found it surprising. Not just the over-sharing, but for what the doctors apparently didn't find. I would have bet good money (Hell, I would have bet internal organs and wound up in a bathtub full of ice down a kidney) that the doctors would have found Mark Cuban's head right there in his colon. Alas, the search continues.

The reason I feel compelled to criticize the Benefactor tonight is simple. Mark Cuban has submitted an application to Major League Baseball for the right to bid on the Chicago Cubs. No matter what anyone tells you about Persian restaurants and excessive heat, that rumor is what made all those people sick at the Taste of Chicago festival the other day.

The city of Chicago is the second-best city in the world, right behind Boston. I like the Bears. Antoine Walker is from Chicago. Hell, I even like the Cubs. To me, the Cubs represent everything that the Red Sox never were. The Cubs and their fans dealt with losing longer than Red Sox Nation, and they deal with it still. But they bear it with class and dignity. The Boston Red Sox and their fans have yet to bear anything with class or dignity.

One never hears Cubs fans raise a cheer of "Cardinals Suck" the way Red Sox fans chant "Yankees Suck" at the drop of a hat. Cubs fans don't resent the fact that the Cardinals have been more successful than their team. Instead, they pity Cardinals fans for being from Missouri. Chicagoans know that St. Louis has a brewery and an arch and little else on which to hang its hat. I admire Cubs fans for that.

The last thing the fans in Chicago need is for Mark Cuban to purchase the Cubs. Can you imagine how he would comport himself on a stage as big as that? He very likely would morph into Commodus from Gladiator and show up at Wrigley in that white suit of armor that Commodus wore to the arena in the film's final scene. 81 times a year, Wrigley would become a zoo, a place to see and be seen rather than a place to watch a game. Basically, it would become Fenway West.

Furthermore, I don't view the Mavericks as an NBA success story. It is undeniable that Dallas was a doormat before Cuban purchased the team. Now the road to the NBA title goes through, or more precisely over, the Mavericks. However, in professional sports, second place is king of the losers. And the Mavs haven't won it all. Nor do they show any sign that they will any time soon. The Benefactor has yet to address his team's fatal flaws, and it looks like another great regular season and abrupt exit from the playoffs is in the cards.

Even after every dollar spent and improvement made, the Mavericks really aren't a marquee franchise. Admittedly, they should take consolation from the fact that the four time champion Spurs aren't one either. The NBA lives and dies in New York, Boston, Chicago and LA. The Mavericks and Spurs could win the next 74 NBA titles between them and never produce a moment like Hondo's steal (or Bird's) or Reed gimping out to play against Wilt. It just won't happen.

But somehow through all of that Mark Cuban has earned the right to purchase a Major League baseball icon? Dallas is a third-rate city. It has Nieman Marcus and the Cowboys and some oil companies growing fat off gouging the rest of us. Chicago is a whole different animal. If he buys the Cubs he has to win or face a media storm not seen since Jay Mariotti was a child.

Let's say the Benefactor buys the Cubs and turns them into a perennial playoff team, but never wins it all. Obviously it won't taint his legacy, since Mark Cuban, for all his wealth and prominence, doesn't have a legacy. It will, however, be a big disaster for a fan base that has suffered enough.

The one comforting factor in all of this is that there is no way the Cubs will sell for less than $700 million. That means the Benefactor would either have to put nearly half of his net worth on the line or build a consortium to purchase the team. I can't see a consortium putting up with his grandstanding nonsense, so this may all have been a false alarm. Let's hope.

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