I'm surprised that for all the attention paid to Zell's comments about selling naming rights, there is very little discussion of the political leverage Cubs fans throughout Chicago and Illinois currently have.
Its true, as Zell says, that Wrigley is "his asset" and without our own ownership interest we can't really stop him from selling the naming rights to it. But our elected leaders in State and City government absolutely can do something about it. Zell is practically begging them to purchase the stadium because the state can obtain tax-free financing, and can therefore afford to pay Zell a higher price. His analysts tell him that if he sells the stadium to a private buyer he'll get a lower return. Zell is also going to need City and State cooperation for any plan to remake or remodel Wrigley Field because of its historical landmark designation, a designation intended for just this sort of use. The cooperation of City and State officials is necessary to either of those ends; if they withhold it, the value of Zell's "asset" falls.
With that in mind, its remarkable that at the same time Zell is courting the Governor, the Mayor and hundreds of legislators, he manages to upset an untold number of their constituents. How many people would be sufficiently offended by the renaming of Wrigley Field to vote against the politicians who let it happen? Thousands? Certainly. Tens of thousands? Probably. Zell might not care what we think, but he should, because the politicians he needs to persuade will absolutely care if there are thousands of Cubs fans calling for their heads.
So, instead of focusing energy on polls that ask whether Cubs fans would go to games at a re-named Wrigley Field (they will), like the Sun Times is asking, someone should be posing the question: Would you vote to re-elect a politician who struck a deal with Sam Zell while turning a blind eye to his intention to re-name Wrigley Field? The answer to THAT poll, I think, would be a resounding "no." That's leverage, and its where we should focus our energies. If you start a "Save Wrigley" petition, make sure it lands on the desk of every politician whose consent is necessary for Zell to maximize the price for his "asset."
Would you vote to re-elect a politician who had the opportunity to insist that Wrigley Field keep its current name, but did nothing about it?
Yes (16 votes)
No (38 votes)
54 total votes