About 10 or so days ago, I was able to attend a business luncheon featuring executives from the major Chicago sports franchises including the Bears, Blackhawks, White Sox, Cubs and Northwestern University. Each speaker only grazed the surface of what being in the ultra competitive industry though some were more insightful than others.
Thankfully, everyone avoided using stereotypical business and meatball pandering buzzwords like “synergy” or “Bear-Weather”; but was talked about was the drive to win, at least from most of the panel. John McDonough, president of the Blackhawks, stole the show with eloquence and candor. Brooks Boyer, VP of Marketing for the White Sox, was a close second with is salesmanship.
Those aforementioned executives distanced themselves from the pack including Tom Ricketts – new Cubs owner, Ted Phillips – president of the Bears, and Jim Phillips –Athletic Director for Northwestern University.
Jim Philips, while representing the Wildcats, wasn’t out of his league. He showed his wits and the tenacity that the industry thrives on though is hamstrung without working with a complete arsenal of profit-driving sports, commenting that only two of the 17 sports make money – those two being football and men’s basketball.
Tom Ricketts has stumbled of late as far as “winning the press conference” when it comes to his Cubs team after former manager Lou Pinella quit on the team and hung around for a month while the team plummeted out of contention in the NL Centeral. The biggest surprise for me as a White Sox fan was hearing Ricketts’ three core values for the Cubs organization: (1) winning, (2) Wrigley Field, (3) community. While the third is noble, and the first would certainly be a change from decades of incompetence, why make Wrigley Field a “core value?” What has that field given you beside a place to sell beer and sunshine, which apparently hasn’t been filled to capacity since the All-Star Break? Anyone in the game knows that the field/stadium is just a place to play. Tom, you don’t have to look any further than U.S. Cellular Field, formally historic Comiskey Park, which hasn’t been in existence for now 20 years. I wouldn’t trade the team’s World Series Championship for anything. Ask any formally long suffering Red Sox fan, would they trade Fenway for a World Series before 2004? I certainly think so. Look at the Yankees, they just built a new stadium, abandoning the “House the Ruth built” and look what they did – they won the World Series, again. Cub fans have always wanted a relatable owner, and looks like they got exactly what they wished for.
Ted Phillips was another shocker, though he was the quintessential Bears representative. And since the Bears employ the backwards practice of groupthink, I shouldn’t have been shocked. Ted was combative to say the least; all because of a Forbes article ranking the NFL franchises’ values and ended up ranked 9th in the league citing: the smallest capacity NFL stadiums, poor ownership decisions with player personnel, a lack of winning, and an inability to draft quality players. This paired with a reportedly pressure filled interview with 670 AM’s morning show made for an angry and overly candid Bears representative.
All in all, the event was professional and a unique opportunity to interact with the teams around Chicago. What everyone can take away is that winning is the best thing a serious organization can do.