Chicago Cubs move to Sinclair Broadcasting

Starting next season, all Chicago Cubs baseball games will only be televised on their exclusive Sinclair Broadcasting channel. This marks the first time that fans will need to pay to watch any games from the 2020 season and beyond. This will also be the first time since 1948 that “Chicago’s very own” local Superstation, WGN, will no longer televise any of the Cubs’ games, though they will still be carried by WGN radio.

Sinclair Broadcasting has been rightly vilified for requiring local affiliate stations to read word-for-word prepared editorials with a decidedly right-wing bias. Humorist John Oliver delivered a blistering takedown of Sinclair Broadcasting on his show Last Week Tonight.

When coupled with the recent leaking of racist and Islamophobic emails by Joe Ricketts, the patriarch of the family that owns the Cubs AND co-owner Todd Ricketts position as chief fundraiser for Donald Trumps reelection, it’s clear that the Cub’s reputation has taken a severe PR hit this off-season.

Will all be forgiven once the season begins? Will fans pony up some extra cash to see their team in action? That may depend on their performance this season.

August '69: Flying high in Chicago

""Let's play two!" -Hall-of-Famer Ernie Banks

"I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth." -John F. Kennedy 'Special Message to the Congress on Urgent National Needs' speech May 25, 1961

With those famous words, JFK issued a direct challenge to America's technical ingenuity and competitive spirit. At the time, many older folks in the crowd remembered an era when the idea of manned flight, let alone traveling to outer space was considered the stuff of science fiction. Yet on July 20th 1969, a full six months under the deadline imposed by JFK, all of America and much of the world were fixated on live TV images of astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin beamed back from the lunar surface. The seemingly impossible had been achieved.

The second part of the goal, bringing the Apollo 11 crew back safely to earth was no mean feat either, and once that was accomplished, they returned to an historic hero's welcome. Nearly a month later, on August 13th, Chicago prepared it's own ceremony for the moon walking superstars which included a huge ticker tape parade ending at the Loop's Civic Center (later renamed Daley Plaza) beneath the then two-year-old Picasso sculpture. My mom and I arrived early to snag a good view along the LaSalle Street parade route. This was the second such parade in the same day for the jet-setting astronauts. In a prophetic foreshadowing, New York City was first.

But as exciting as all of this was, it wasn't the ONLY reason for this young Chicago area boy's euphoric state throughout much of that summer of '69. While Neil and Buzz were hopping along the Sea of Tranquility and in the days that followed their return, the Chicago Cubs baseball team was building up an apparently insurmountable lead in the National League East and were well on their way to fulfilling the long-awaited promise of bring a pennant to Chicago's north side.



With a roster of unstoppable All-Stars including Ernie Banks, Ron Santo, Don Kessinger, Glen Beckert, Billy Williams, and Fergie Jenkins, they were 75-44 on August 16, up by a season high nine games over the second place New York Mets and bound for glory. I'd attended my first game the year before, and was a diehard fan by the time the '69 season began, faithfully tuning into the games announced by Jack Brickhouse (HEY HEY!) on WGN.



Meanwhile, just 90 miles away from where the Apollo 11 astronauts were hightailing it out of Manhattan bound for Chicago, a music festival billed as "An Aquarian Exposition" and more commonly known as Woodstock was just about to get under way in the tiny hamlet of White Lake. What began as a paid event ended up being free as the number of attendees grew to more than half a million. Despite some cases of drug overdose and heat stroke, the event was a largely peaceful gathering and quickly turned into a cultural phenomenon. August 17th marked the final day of the festival, and to match the "high" of the festival goers, the Cubs hit their peak two days later with a no-hitter thrown by Ken Holzman against the Atlanta Braves at Wrigley Field. The Cubs, now 8 games ahead of the second place Mets, were on top of the world. But like many hallucinogenic highs, this one ended up in a terrifying "bad trip", namely to the Mets' Shea Stadium for two games in early September. By that time their lead over the surging Mets was down to 2 games and on Sept. 9th and 10th, in the midst of a disastrous losing streak, and following a bizarre incident in which a black cat crossed behind Ron Santo standing in the on-deck circle, the Cubs dropped both games to the Mets and, despite a 1/2 game lead at that point, the writing was on the wall. The Cubs finished up the season a full 8 games out of first place and the "Miracle Mets" went on to win the 1969 World Series. In the years since then, there have been other heartbreaks and near-great teams, but the totality of the '69 Cubs collapse still goes down in the record books as their most famous downfall. Yet, as we approach the opening of the 2013 baseball season, Cub fans will once again dream the impossible dream of bringing a World Series to the North side. Hey, if we can put a man on the moon, why not?

Skybox on Sheffield 3D rendering



This was a quick turnaround job for "Skybox on Sheffield", a recently renovated space across from Chicago Cubs' Wrigley Field baseball park. The client wanted a simplified 3D rendering of their space for their website and promotional materials.

It used to be the houses across the street from Wrigley had simple rooftops from which owners and their friends could view the game. No more. These spaces have been converted to luxurious facilities offering a first class viewing experience. The third floor has a club level with bar and plasma screen TVs and the outdoor levels have stadium seating with a grill concession and several bar areas. At my first visit there, I was impressed by the design, and the sight lines from the seats give the illusion of actually being inside the ballpark.

Does Chicago have "self-image" issues?

It doesn't seem that long ago. The night Barak Obama was elected President, Chicago enjoyed perhaps it's finest hour when all eyes were on Grant Park with the majestic skyline of the city in the background. Chicago was dazzling, and it seemed like the city was on an upward trajectory that saw no limits.

Now a couple of years later, some of that glow has worn off the Obama administration and for many, the memory of that night has faded along with it. Shortly after the election, the corruption trial of Gov. Blagojevich made headline news and wouldn't go away. At least then, all of Illinois, and not just Chicago, could share in the embarrassment.

Then there was the 2016 Summer Olympics host city bid. Even before the verdict, there was a divide between those who wanted to see Chicago once again put on the world stage and those who wanted to avoid the hassle and costs involved. But even its harshest critics' jaws dropped when Chicago was the first to be eliminated. Whatever the reasons, political of economic, many Chicagoans took it personally. Maybe they didn't really want it, but they sure didn't want to come in LAST.

And lastly, for a city that loves its sports, the Cubs, a team best known for its history as a jinxed and hapless ball club, is a bigger draw than other, better local teams, except during the occasional post-season play of the Sox, Bulls or Blackhawks. Sure, Wrigley Field is charming with those vines and all, but it's antiquated and you have to dodge the occasional falling brick. They even have a bar/cafe area behind the home plate stands, so you can drink and avoid actually watching the game.

So with all this, it's hard not to feel sometimes that Chicago may not even hold "Second City" status anymore. Does it really matter what perception the rest of the country, the world, or Chicagoans themselves hold of the city? Maybe. It rankles a bit when politicians or journalists use the term "Chicago politics as usual" as shorthand for corruption and sleaziness. Or when nation sportscasters refer to the Cubs as "lovable losers". I know that Chicago is truly a world class city, but sometimes I need to be remind myself of that and see the city from another perspective.

Chicago remains one of the most beautiful and vibrant cities in the world. The museums and restaurants and theater are second to none. Millennium Park and the new modern wing of the Art Institute are just a couple recent examples of Chicago's vibrancy and culture.Then there's Lake Michigan. This summer, I took part in my first "Bike the Drive", the annual event when Lake Shore Drive is closed to auto traffic for a morning and bicyclists can ride the entire length of the city from northside to southside and back. It was a perfect day and the skyline and the lake looked magnificent. As a lifelong Chicagoan, I know the winters can be harsh and the summers unbearably hot at times, but I also know that view along the lakefront is as beautiful a sight as you'll see anywhere.

When all is said and done, under "heir apparent" mayor Rahm Emanuel, the city probably won't shake it's political reputation anytime soon, and "manager apparent" Ryne Sandberg may not turn the Cub's World Series chances around. But maybe it's time to celebrate the outstanding things Chicago does have to offer and spread the word.

I'd be interested to hear what perceptions others have of Chicago; from native Chicagoans, those who have visited, and those who have never been.