April 10, 2007

Reich Will Save The Franchise

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Just like in nature, the springtime marks a transition period for sports.
We have to say goodbye to the promise of March Madness and games at Lynah Rink which have gotten us through the cold winter months. Meanwhile, as the NBA and NHL finally reach their postseasons, professional basketball and hockey fans momentarily awake to the excitement of playoffs, before realizing they’re just as drawn out as the regular season. However, above all else, the concurrent budding of a new baseball season completes spring’s promise of a fresh start.
This spring, however, has brought the announcement of one additional transition that should concern everyone — well, at least everyone from the Northside of Chicago. Last week, the Tribune Co., in conjunction with its sale to billionaire Sam Zell, announced that it plans to sell the Chicago Cubs.
With sales estimates hovering around the $600 million dollar level, several high-profile names, including several long-time Cubs fans are rumored to have interest. The list includes entrepreneur and “animated” Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, comedian Bill Murray and former Arizona Diamondbacks owner Jerry Colangelo.
Just one year shy of reaching the century mark in their wait for a World Series title, many Cubs fans will gladly welcome the ownership of Cuban or Colangelo. Shown by his leadership of the Mavericks, Cuban is not only willing, but has the pockets deep enough to do what it takes to get a championship. Meanwhile, after leading the Diamondbacks to a title in the unforgettable 2001 World Series, Colangelo has all the motivation and experience needed to duplicate the feat with his hometown Cubbies.
On the other hand, who wouldn’t enjoy having the hilarious Murray — a native of Chicago’s Northern suburbs — as the public face of the franchise. Can’t you imagine him reprising his role of Karl, the gopher-obsessed groundskeeper from Caddyshack as he makes cameo appearances on the field with the grounds crew before and during games?
Nevertheless, even with all the advantages these prospective buyers could bring, there is still one person who can do a better job — someone who will not rest until the Cubs win the World Series, while simultaneously protecting the purity of the franchise and sanctity of Wrigley Field.
Thus, I would like to announce that upon my (hopeful) graduation on May 27, I intend to pursue ownership of the Chicago Cubs.
Isn’t it immediately after college when you’re supposes to do what you’ve always wanted to do? Then this should come as no shock. For the past two years, my career aspiration has been clearly listed under the “Future Plans” category of my student employee profile on The Carol Tatkon Center website: “I want to find something I enjoy that will also allow me to make enough money to buy the Chicago Cubs.”
So, I skipped the part where I need to make the $600 million to complete the purchase, but who knows when Cubs will next be up for sale.
According to my calculations, I need to work just a tad more that 66 million hours, or 7,610 years, at my current salary to come up with that kind of cash. Wow — I had no idea that my future plans would take that much work, but I guess there’s no getting out of it now.
Seriously, though, I had no real concept of how much it cost to buy a professional sports franchise until I spent a few hours the other day trying to think of a way to come up with $600 million — I’ve been sick with mono, so I’ve had plenty of time to work on this fantasy.
The best plan I could come up with was pleading to my fellow Cornell students to buy into my dream. After running the numbers, though, even this idea wouldn’t get me very far. Think of it this way — even if every one of the 13,515 undergraduates at Cornell contributed all their tuition and scholarship money for the year, our pooled resources would be less than two-thirds of the asking price for the Cubs.
Maybe, though, the SAFC would help out if I applied for funds as the “Own the Chicago Cubs” club. Glancing at its website, there appear to be no major qualms with getting funds for Cornell’s newest entrepreneurship organization.
Of course, there are some smaller issues, but it seems like nothing we couldn’t work around. For instance, the SAFC is not allowed to fund any games held over breaks, creating some serious scheduling issues. Also, since all reimbursed travel must be to and from Ithaca, the Cubs would have to get used to connecting in and out of Tompkins County Airport on each road trip.
Even if the SAFC doesn’t come through for us, the University as a whole might be willing to help out. Cornell has already raised $1.2 billion toward the $4 billion goal in its current capital campaign — it should have plenty of extra money to kick around. And, assuming the Cubs are sold for about $600 million, the franchise has exhibited close to a 14 percent rate of return since its purchase for $20.5 billion in 1981 by the Tribune Co. That’s not too shabby for a secure long-term investment for our institution.
Further, just think of the learning opportunities for students that owning a major league baseball team provides. ILR students could apply lessons from Negotiations by hammering out the details in Carlos Zambrano’s upcoming long-term contract. Meanwhile, architects could propose designs for Wrigley Field renovations, while Hotelies and AEM students improve the quality and marketing of on-site concessions.
Additionally, while TXA majors might offer some new uniform choices, undergraduates studying foreign languages could spend time abroad scouting foreign prospects. Even math students could get in on the act, conceptualizing new statistics to predict player performance. Not least of all, Engineers could also easily contribute from putting their material science knowledge to use by inventing better equipment to formulating performance enhancing “supplements.” Undeniably, these opportunities and experiences would be vast and meaningful.
So, Cornell, I leave it up to you. Invest in my dream of owning the Chicago Cubs — think of it as a graduation present — and I promise I will not let you down. Plus, just imagine the parties we’ll have when the Cubbies finally win the World Series.