Friday, October 06, 2006

the music man

with the resignation of andy macfail, the cubs elevated marketing vice president john mcdonough to the role of president.

the initial opinion of this writer regarding the move was stated thusly.

this writer would like to call the events of the last day a great step forward for accountability for this ballclub, to say that they gave rare credence to those who would argue that the management really do notice what happens on the field and take it seriously. but it seems that just the opposite is the deeper message of these events -- particularly in light of the continuing presence of the incompetent boob most responsible for the ridiculous state of the team, general manager jim hendry.

without question, macfail and baker were part of the problem at clark and addison. but what the events of the day have shown, dear reader, is that they are not so much the cause of the problems as symptoms of problems that clearly persist, as the promotion of mcdonough and continuation of hendry indicate.

to be fair, mcdonough has done very little as of yet and the course of his actions will far outweigh the verbiage he spills. but the verbiage has so far been anything but consolatory.

the initial press conference began on the wrongest of wrong feet, with the new president of a 96-loss ballclub claiming his aim to be winning the world series in the next few years. this page finds it difficult to take such words as anything but either an insult to our intelligence or a statement of complete ignorance. such over-the-top chicanery may play well with the willfully naive biedermeier dullards that make up the vast majority of cubdom, but no informed and insightful analyst can look at the cubs and see anything but a very hard road over the next few years. mcdonough either isn't an informed and insightful analyst despite his position; or he believes that the fan he's speaking to is stupid enough, desperate enough or both to take him at his word no matter how ridiculous his word is.

now, perhaps it could have been argued that mcdonough was merely caught in a moment of hubris and that he would retract such words with circumspection. but that does not now seem to be the case. his first interview in the pages of the tribune revealed the depth to which salesmanship infects his soul.

Q: Did the empty seats in September jar you, and did it have any affect on the organization?

A: Yes, it did jar me. To me, when you see empty seats that are sold, which most of them I think were, it speaks to apathy and indifference that in some ways they might have given up hope, and for whatever reason they chose to do something else. That has to be changed. It will change. We talk about the unique mystique of Wrigley Field and coming to the park, and how it's an event...

When you walk in here it's like a Norman Rockwell painting, and you're just consumed with the beauty of the vista of Wrigley Field, everything that is this park. But between the bar being raised in 2003, and we didn't get there, the White Sox winning the World Series, it ratcheted it up even higher, and the expectations of our fan base is high. It should be, and I think it's a good thing, a very good thing.

Q: But not many teams go from 96 losses to a world championship in one season.

A: Right. You win 30 more games and you're back to .500. But we need to win and win consistently, and the ultimate goal through all of this is to win the World Series. We will win the World Series. I don't know when that will be. I hope it's in the very near future. But I think this fan base, they need to wrap their arms around something. This franchise is based on hope and dreams. They need to wrap their arms around something that can say, 'Look, we have to trust their mission is to win the World Series....' And it is.

and again today in the bright one, mcdonough repeats the theme.

''The immediate goal and the future goal is to win,'' McDonough said, repeating his first remarks from Sunday. ''We have to win as soon as possible. Whatever course [general manager] Jim Hendry charts, I feel strongly about it.

''It's a grandiose statement, but I think our fans need to have something to wrap their hands around. You have to give your fandom hopes and dreams.''

as has been lamented here before, the peddling of pathetic sentiment is what has broken this franchise and made it a perennial loser and the laughingstock of global sport. those who are too addled, adolescent and ill-equipped to deal with reality have given a sanctuary in wrigley field by a serpentine organization whose primary care is the extraction of money from these deluded masses -- and to hell with the winning and losing, for the team might as well be the jesse white tumblers. the actual product is merely an excuse to take surreptitious flight from the fears and responsibilities that are part and parcel to the surly humdrum of the postmodern world. the cubs have become a paragon of Entertainment, that empty bane of our choking society -- whatever might have been virtuous in their example as a timeless and spontaneous theater of the human moral condition has long since died for lack of air and light, occluded by the black and sprawling clouds of the now-ubiquitous fantasy-driven escape.

mcdonough is an entertainer, the arbiter of that lamentable death, one of the money-changers in the temple. and he is either bold enough a con or ignorant enough about it to proudly proclaim that his reign over the cubs will be the reign of hopes and dreams and fantasies and escapes. the cubs will be neither a baseball team concerned about runs scored or allowed nor a protagonist in demonstration of humble moral redemption -- but rather a sort of spectacular calliope surrounded by a hundred dancing monkeys, each shuffling to the grinder's tune and holding out their sad beggar's cup. no wonder, then, that he so easily bandies about the words 'world series' -- for to him and to the millions of lost cub fans he would connect with the concept is not a concrete goal in reality but a hazy shining dream, a brilliant imaginary carrot, an elaborate rococo divertissement, a stocking to be hung by the chimney with care -- a corner of the culture industry, a vulnerability to be exploited.

and while, with his encouragement, poor dim souls seek to invest their aimless hearts in something they vainly hope can transcend angst-filled "real" lives and impart a shadow of meaning to confused existences and finally animate gray and deadened lives, mcdonough has helped himself to their pocketbooks in exchange for the right to the opportunity.

this is such a recurrent thread in human affairs that the tale has been told a thousand times in myth and fiction. this writer thought first of professor harold hill, the vulture of midwestern small town boredom and innocence who ruthlessly conned and disillusioned children for a few dollars. of course, in the end, meredith wilson redeemed his devil by love and music -- but of course the greater literature of the age has not seen fit to, and honestly, instead rejecting the question of transcendence in universal human truth altogether for a meaner vision of relative and distorted truths and their attendant exploitations in the hands of the amoral postmodern man whose only supposed and shallow transcendence is himself and the dreams he harbors.

indeed, one is forced to wonder if the lifeless enticement of the dream hasn't become far more addictive, reliable and profitable than its vital realization ever could be -- and whether a man like mcdonough, whatever he might say, would want to risk finding out.

it seems then that, on these words, mcdonough is for all his blather disinterested in the team as a vehicle for winning or losing and instead entirely captivated by its capacity in facilitating fantasies from which he can (with some well-placed if not entirely straightforward words) reap a tidy wage. interesting rationalizations have arisen regarding why mcdonough was placed over a team despite a complete lack of vetting experience in baseball operations, and to the extent that his elevation portends the sale of the team to an owner interested in something other than hope this page certainly welcomes it. but such rationalizations, even if shown to be true in the end, do nothing to mitigate what mcdonough himself professes to be -- a purveyor of fantastic escapes, not an achiever of real goals -- as he joins a long line of ill-guided cub executives in quietly sabotaging the very hopes that they would sell to the gullible crowd.

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