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Tommy Woo-Woo stopped by Marquee
What does a disheveled version of the Cubs' chairman look like? We found out.
Marquee has a nightly show named Cubs 360. It’s a panel show, which they continue to bog down with people we really don’t care to hear from like Pete McMurray, but no Harry Caray’s bartenders yet. Anyway, on Monday night, a shiftless drifter wandered in front of a web cam, and no, wait, it’s one of the owners of the Cubs—or, at least, one of the kids of the guy who paid all the money for them. It’s Tom Ricketts.
Before we get to the Ricketts interview, though, the show’s host, Cole Wright is running down a list of the the things Cubs Charities is doing during the pandemic. One of the things is they have reopened Hotel Zachary to house healthcare workers. Some third-shift trauma nurse is going to get a pretty big surprise when they get a “bill” for their complimentary stay and are charged $37.50 for a half ounce of mango chutney that they accidentally nudged four centimeters inside the mini bar.
Anyway, despite the fact that tonight’s panel includes a very orange Bruce Levine, and Taylor McGregor, Cole and Len Kasper are going to handle the hard-hitting interview with a bearded, slovenly dressed Ricketts. The beard does nothing to dispel the notion that he looks like an equally creepy Ted Cruz, and the refusal to button any of the top three buttons on his wrinkled dress shirt are giving off a very real Doc Antle vibe, and when Tommy runs down his Netflix queue at the end, maybe there’s something to that.
Cole Wright: Let’s welcome in a man who changed the entire culture on the north side of Chicago…
Wait, Joe’s here!? Great!
CW: It’s Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts.
CW: What’s been the biggest challenge, not just for you, but for the Cubs organization during this pandemic?
Mostly trying to figure out how to explain social distancing to Todd. “Remember when the process server tried to give you that envelope from the tax assessment office? You have to do what you did then, except with everyone.”
TR: What everyone’s going through, which is managing the uncertainty of the situation. We don’t have a lot of clarity of what’s going to happen over the next few weeks, or few months, as it’s been changing on a regular basis. So it’s hard to make good decisions in an environment like that.
“But then, we have yet to find an environment where we do make good decisions. Maybe we need less gravity, like on Mars?”
Len Kasper: I want to compliment you on our commitment to the beard, unfortunately a commitment I have been unable to keep during the shutdown.
We’ve seen beards of bees that look more comfortable than whatever that thing Tom is sporting is. He looks like Kenny Rogers just lost a Nair-filled balloon fight to Dottie West.
LK: Beyond health and testing—and I know there are a million details to work out—in your mind what’s the kind of biggest logistical hurdle to get past as we look towards a potential season here in 2020?
TR: Safety first, the safety of the players, and the safety of the people who need to be at the ballpark to assist the players, to get the season going is number one.
Wow, that actually seems genuinely caring. Not even a single mention of…
How the model works financially will be another challenge.
Oh, there it is. Never mind.
I think the one that is also out there, that is potentially very challenging is making sure that the protocols and medical safeguards that we have in place at each of the places we intend to play work for the local governments.
“We’re very excited about continuing our great family relationship with local government by giving bags of money to anybody who will run for alderman against Tom Tunney.”
Whether the local governor, or local mayor, obviously everyone’s had their own standards. Some states are doing some things, others are doing other things. I think that will be a challenge that I don’t think a lot of people truly appreciate. But I know that the league and the commissioner have already reached out to places that we’d like to play to let them know that we’re creating protocols that should keep players and all personnel safe.
“We’re all so excited about working with the Democratic mayor of Chicago and Governor of Illinois. Well, at least Laura probably gave them both some money.”
LK: You mentioned the mayor and the governor, they both seem to be very supportive of the idea of having baseball not only in 2020, but played at Wrigley Field and Guaranteed Rate Field. What’s the dialogue been like with them and how frequently are you in contact with them?
TR: Well, personally, I’ve had a couple of calls with each the mayor and the governor early on in the process. I haven’t talked to them directly, as of late, our staffs are in contact on a regular basis.
It’s mostly just Crane trying to convince them to call Comcast and threaten to fine them for depriving the good people of the city and state of exciting programming like whatever the Red Bull Air Racing thing is.
I think that both our mayor and governor have done a good job of staying on top of the situation. Both are sports fans and both are committed to getting games up and running again this year. So, it’s kind of in our court to come up with a strategy and a process that gets them comfortable. And then, we’ll be back in front of them at some point, hopefully, and I’ve got a feeling that they’ll be able to work with us, and I’m optimistic that we’ll all move forward together at some point here soon.
“Have I mentioned we pay the highest amusement tax in the city? I have? Repeatedly? Well, we do. And good luck collecting that if the only things sitting in the bleachers are the seagulls and Al Yellon.”
CW: When it comes to getting back to baseball we’ve seen so many different proposals in place, we’ve seen the Arizona model; Arizona and Florida; Arizona, Florida and Texas; plus playing at your own home stadium with three different divisions. So, in your eyes, what’s the best proposal?
TR: The best proposal is the one that gets us back on the field. The commissioner has said that nothing is really off the table per se, so we have to be flexible and open minded to anything that the league and the player’s union come up with. But that said, I want to be a Wrigley, I want to be playing at our park. Even if we can’t have fans, at least, for the time being, it would be great to be back home. Hopefully the proposal along those lines will surface and be the one that works for everybody.
“I’m sure it’s just a coincidence that I agreed to record this interview with you the day I knew all the owners were going to approve a proposal that the players are going to hate. This is in no way me trying to influence all eight of the viewers to judge the players as shiftless bums who really just want more money and are only acting like they are afraid of contracting a mildly deadly virus that can turn your lungs to glass and send blood clots all over your body. No sir, I’d never do that.”
CW: Tom you told us you’ve become an expert in Zoom meetings, at vMix, Hangout, all of the above, so when it comes to that, how much have you been able to keep in touch with David Ross and his staff during the shutdown?
TR: I haven’t talked to Ross in a couple of weeks. We were on a call a little while ago.
“It was just a chance for me to tell him to hang in there and not worry that while the season’s on hold he’s not being paid and his kids don’t have health care.”
But honestly, there isn’t that much to update anyone on. Everyone is kind of hunkered down, just like everyone else, sheltering and doing their own thing. So, I haven’t talked to Ross too much. I have reached out to KB when he had his baby last month, and sent a quick text to Rizzo congratulating him on all of his great charitable efforts and a few other things like that. But generally speaking, not a lot of contact with the players and coaches.
“We’re not allowed to make any personnel moves or contract moves during the pandemic hiatus, or otherwise I’d be heavily involved with making sure our best players are all re-signed to long term contracts. Giving them the security they crave in uncertain times like these and helping to extend our window of championship contention for several more more years.
Hah, just kidding. Dad says we don’t have any money.”
LK: Tom, I find myself getting kind of emotional at times, right. You have to fight that, right, because as you said there are a lot of very strict things that we have to get through step by step before we get to the point of having a baseball season. But how much do you have fight those emotions, especially on the nice days? When it’s 65 and sunny here in Chicago and you envision a Cubs-Cardinals game at the ballpark?
TR: Fortunately, there’s only been a couple of nice days this spring, seems like. This last week we had a couple of days.
Hoo boy, weather jokes. Look at Tom going after Ryan Dempster’s job as the chucklemaster.
But, like everyone else, I have good mornings and bad mornings, optimistic days and pessimistic days, but I still have the app on my calendar every day. Nationals at Cubs, it tells me the game that we should be playing, so it gets hard some days. But like I said, where there’s a will there’s a way, if we keep looking for solutions and keep working with the league and the players, we’ll find something that will at least get us baseball this summer.
“On my good mornings, I sit on our third story balcony drinking iced coffee, stroking my beard and day trading all of the 3M surgical masks from Omaha that Pete is hiding in our basement. On the bad days I have to Zoom with Todd’s kids and explain to them that he owns the Cubs, too.”
CW: Tom, we know you’re a die hard fan. You used to have an apartment right over Sports Corner, the guy selling peanuts used to wake you up in the morning.
Excuse me while I try not to get vomit in your e-mail inbox. Is this new? Has a new ghostwriter punched up the Tom Ricketts Cubs’ fan origin story to go beyond pretending to meet his wife in the bleachers? Now he was living over Sports Corner with Conan O’Brien and Bob Odenkirk for a whole summer in the ‘90s, too?
So when it comes to missing the game, how much do you miss it as a fan, and what’s the first thing you are really looking forward to once the game resumes?
TR: Aside from the game action itself. What I do at games is walk around talk to people.
We know how much you love to talk to the fans, especially on stage at the Cubs Convention with your siblings.
So, if we do get back and we have no fans it’s going to be pretty different for me. That’s kind of what I miss the most. I like interacting with people at the games, and going around and seeing people in different sections that I know…
OK, just wait for it. This amazing segue just hangs out there like David Phelps flipped it up in a 3-1 count. You won’t believe it when you see it. But it’s real, and it’s magnificent.
…and bumping into team partners, or whoever.
Ahh, yes. Nothing is more relatable to your fans than causally mentioning that the thing you miss most about the games is “bumping into team partners, or whoever.” “Why Crane, look who it is! It’s the Sloans and the Wintrusts! It’s so nice to see them. You know we just ran into the State Farms over by the bison dogs and they were saying how it’s been ages since we all got together down at the 1914 Club to enjoy some beef Welington Castillo sliders and some Johnny Walker Ecru!”
So, I just like being there and being social. It’s gonna be very different if we do get back and have no fans, it’ll be a different game experience for me. But, I just want to see the action on the field again, see the players again, and feel like it’s summer.
Same, Tom. We all just want to feel like it’s summer, and be reminded that fans don’t strike out at Gold Coast Bank.
LK: Everyone agrees, any sort of Major League Baseball we’re all in on, but, we all have our opinions. Some opinions matter more than others. Your opinion matters more than mine on this stuff. But, are you of the mindset of try some crazy stuff? Seven inning doubleheaders, 12 inning tie, runner at second base in the tenth, computerized strike zone, universal DH, there are all these interesting ideas. Are you of the mindset of let’s try some stuff in a unique year or try to keep the game looking as similar as it normally does?
TR: I’m in the camp of let’s try some stuff.
A guy dressed like that should not ever start a sentence with, “I’m in the camp of let’s try some stuff.” That sentence, said by somebody wearing a shirt that way, has never not ended with his partner locking themself in the bathroom.
I think that there are some ways that we can tighten up the game a little bit, a little more action, maybe a little less time, and this would be a great season to take a look at some of those different ideas. I don’t know if that’s what the league is going to end up doing. I know that there are people at the league that are open minded to that. So, yeah, we’ll see. It’s going to be kind of a different season to begin with. Why not try a few different things and see how it all plays?
“You wanna go nuts? Let’s go nuts! First team to six runs wins! Catchers don’t wear masks they were those old fashioned scuba diving helmets like in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea! Nobody with any kind of virus can play all season—sorry Ryan Braun—safety first. If a game is tied after ten innings it’s settled with a pantsless mascot race. If that’s a tie then we go to a sudden death Harry Caray impression contest! I’m glad you asked, I’ve got a million of them!”
CW: We couldn’t get you out of here before we hit you with a hard hitting question, and during the shutdown—its been almost two months now—have you developed any new hobbies? Watched any good TV shows?
TR: I can’t say I’ve learned a language or developed any new hobbies or anything bit like that. It has been great, you guys have done a great job of keeping Marquee with some relevant sports programming.
I think that’s definitive proof that Tom’s house no longer gets DirecTV.
My other sports fixes, watching the Jordan series has been good, it’s kind of like watching home movies, because you remember all of those games from when you were younger.
“It’s also basically a step by step guide on how to break up a beloved core of great players and infuriate your fans while still making money hand over fist for decades! Oh man, what a great show!”
Actually, Netflix has a couple of shows, like the F1 show, and the show on Sunderland, the European soccer club. I’ve kind of gotten a little bit of sports out of that.
Clearly, Tom listens to the Pointless Exercise podcast. I recommended Sunderland ‘Til I Die a few weeks ago.
It’s also great that he likes the show and is oblivious to the fact that the overmatched owner and communications VP from season two are basically just British him and Crane.
Otherwise I’m just doing the other stuff that everyone else is, Tiger King, Ozark and the like.
CW: There you have it, Tiger King fan number one, Tom Ricketts.
You know, if baseball doesn’t get back soon Tom’s look is going to deteriorate to this.