Cubs need an outspoken Maverick like Mark Cuban
RICK TELANDER firstname.lastname@example.org June 14, 2011 10:44PM
Triumphant Mavericks owner Mark Cuban could have changed the Cubs’ losing culture. | LM Otero~AP
Updated: September 21, 2011 12:33AM
Along with LeBron James earning ridicule and Dirk Nowitzki earning
redemption, something else was earned when the Dallas Mavericks beat the Miami Heat for the 2011 NBA championship.
Mark Cuban became a winner.
Until earning that Larry O’Brien Trophy, Cuban was really only a brilliant businessman, frenzied sports fan and restless, mouthy guy from Pittsburgh whose first house in Dallas was so huge and empty that he Rollerbladed through it.
Now there’s this seal of endorsement upon him, and the world had better take notice. Especially the folks here in Chicago who could have had Cuban as the owner of the Cubs. Remember that? Do you? Or has the memory carefully been blotted from your mind, for self-preservation.
Cuban was all in, back when bids were being accepted for the Cubs around 2006 and 2007. We’d see him at Wrigley Field even earlier than that, bopping around, wearing a T-shirt and jeans, one time displaying some newfangled TV thing in the press area, a hi-def sports broadcast system on a big screen, which he was promoting and, of course, would never catch on.
You see, Cuban has never been stopped, let alone really slowed in his pursuit of fun and winning and . . . everything. The more than $2 million in fines he has received from the NBA for ‘‘bad’’ behavior — i.e., speaking his unfiltered mind a la Ozzie Guillen?
“Who lives their lives worried about what someone else thinks?” Cuban once told us sports scribes. “Before you guys were writing about me in the sports page, people were calling me crazy in the computer industry. People were calling me crazy in the systems- integration industry. People said I was lucky. . . . The more people think I’m crazy and out of my mind, typically, the better I do.”
Crazy like a fox
And now we must ponder: Is it really so crazy to cater to your fans and upgrade facilities and be accessible and Internet-thinking and also lavish amenities on your players, treating them like the fierce entertainment stars they are?
But Cuban was not going to be allowed into baseball. By that, I mean commissioner Bud Selig and his old boys, who included White sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, were never going to let him in. Nobody’s rocking our antique boat!
So we have the Rickets family as Cubs owners, as solid and staid as a roomful of maple furniture.
Looking back — ah, hindsight! — who else but a ‘‘crazy man’’ could change the overwhelming culture of Cubdom?
Craziness and creativity — are they all that different? Especially when you succeed?
I remember when Cuban went on ‘‘Dancing With the Stars.’’ There were those of us — me, for sure — who thought, ‘‘What is with this nutball?’’ and simultaneously, ‘‘Will he next be eating spiders with Patti Blagojevich?’’
But research shows that Cuban had a clue about dancing (even if he and Bristol Palin stick in my memory as being as elegant as masons). Indeed, Cuban used to give dance lessons while an undergrad at Indiana University — to make money, of course. And those cha-cha steps evolved into Cuban hosting massive disco parties at the cavernous Bloomington (Ind.) National Guard Armory. And making even more money.
I remember one day at Wrigley asking Cuban not long after the tech-stock meltdown of 2001 about when it would be safe to buy stocks again. Just for kicks.
‘‘Never,’’ he replied instantly. Wish I’d listened.
The guy is different, sharp. Maybe obnoxious to some, but he’s unfettered by old rules. And just like George Steinbrenner and Charlie Finley, he’s a sports owner who isn’t afraid to do whatever he thinks might work to his advantage. And, if you don’t break the rules, isn’t that what competition is all about?
The guy recently lay in his bed with the O’Brien Trophy and smiled, he has tweeted us. And he paid for a crazy victory party on South Beach, inviting the Heat players to mingle with his winners. And he says championship rings are so yesterday, he’s getting his guys something new. Jewel-infested disco balls?
Accessibility is Cuban’s bylaw.
So I e-mailed him.
RT: Are the Cubs still in your sights?
MC: No, why would you ask?
RT: Well, things aren’t going so well here. And you seem to have a touch. And why not expand past basketball? And maybe we take back all the things we (I) said about ‘‘What has he ever won?’’
MC: Don’t think the team is for sale.
RT: If it were?
MC: No. But I’m always curious.
Us, we’re just wistful.