Writing in Huffington Post, Robert Reich explores the power billionaires like the Koch brothers and the Ricketts family, former owners of TD Ameritrade, current owners of a team I root for, the Chicago Cubs. Reich lays out the different ways these super rich families have used their wealth to influence politics. While Reich cites a Democratic billionaire and middle-of-the-road Michael Bloomberg as non-Republican super PAC bosses, most of the action is conservative. And it is anti-worker.
Rather than look at this as a conservative/liberal issue, it would be better to think about the growing influence of neoliberal ideology, which unites people like Democratic Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his former boss, Republican candidate for Governor of Illinois Bruce Rauner. Neoliberals believe that the public sector is always superior to the private. They also hate unions the way Joe McCarthy hated communists. These groups control the money, which means they control the media, which – as McLuhan taught – is the “message.” Most Americans distrust unions because they have heard the same propaganda for over 30 years. It’s gotten so bad that 35% of Americans are against raising the minimum wage. I wonder what percent would agree with reversal of the 13th Amendment?
I often cite Seth Godin, who’s one of my favorite writers and thinkers. In his book, The Dip¸ Godin explores how winners know how to quit the things that hold them back from moving forward. The New Yorker has published a short essay by Adrian Cardenas, who last played in the Chicago Cubs organization. He played in 45 games for the Cubs in 2012. Cardenas is eloquent in explaining why he left the big leagues to focus on being a student.
I was especially impressed by his confession that money took away from the joy of the game. That’s a hard confession to make. Most of us would kill to make the minimum big league salary. Baseball as a business was not what Cardenas, a student at New York University, wanted. Leaving the sport is his first step to a new life. May he find happiness.
[“Sabbath” is this blog’s Sunday feature on topics beyond the world of jobs and careers.]
Reality Hits Home
Today I’m going to my last baseball game of this season. The Cubs will host the Atlanta Braves at Wrigley Field. It’s been a great year for the Braves, who are one of the best teams in either league. The Cubs, however, are a different story. They’re rebuilding, which means they’ve traded off experienced players in the hope of developing through youth. We’ll see about that strategy.
I love baseball. It’s the spring and summer game. Baseball is the sport that has spawned the greatest mythologies and most memorable statistics. However, as the season comes to an end, we realize that cold and darkness are coming. The World Series is called the Fall Classic, but many of its games are often played on 40 degree days with rain and sleet, another sign of winter’s arrival.
The end of a season also brings reflection on the season that has been. After the Cubs traded several experienced players, the team’s fans started to focus on those players that should be future stars. Two of them, Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo, had miserable years, both after signing long term contracts. Castro has had two good years previous to this one. He even led the league in most hits. Rizzo had a great second half last year, showing both power and the ability to hit for average. This year both players underperformed. Similarly, the projected staff ace Jeff Samardzija was erratic. Some starts were very good, but in others he seemed to be throwing batting practice.
These are reasons for concern, maybe even despair. The great thing about baseball is that spring training starts in the dead of winter. While it’s cold and dark during February in Chicago, the Cubs will head to Arizona to start the 2014 season, a new slate. However this year ended, we fans will look for signs of a better future. And that’s the magic of baseball. Every season begins with hope.
[On Sundays, this blogs explores a diverse topics beyond the world in “Sabbath,” a title inspired by the similarly titled poems of Wendell Berry.]
Here Comes the Sun
Yesterday was a great day. For the first time in several months, I put aside my winter coat for a much lighter jacket. Yesterday and today, the sun has been out and so are people, who have clogged sidewalks in my neighborhood. Spring is here – finally!
Where last winter was unusually mild, this winter was average in its temperatures, cold but not too cold. This year’s winter, like an unwanted guest, would not go away. We had no warm, sunny March days. Tomorrow, April 1, which is opening day here in Chicago for our American League team, will go back to being cold, but that is just the way April tends to be: a few good days, a few bad days, and a few really cold, gray, rainy days that almost make one wish for the dry, sunny cold of February. The real good news is that Spring is here and the worst is over. It will be five or six weeks before we get to the next stage of the season: complaining about how hot it is.
Today is also Easter, a day of hope and change. I’m not religious, but I do enjoy seeing people going to and from church. This holiday invites bright colors and an equally light spirit. For those of us who follow a more secular bent, it’s the start of the summer game, a new baseball season. The teams I root for most, the Indians and the Cubs probably are not going to be contenders. However, the joy of spring brings hope for a miracle. Fans, like church goers, are people of faith, especially those who root for the Cubs, a team that hasn’t won a World Series in more than 100 years.
A few blocks from my office, two new businesses are opening, which follows a national trend for an improved economy. 2008 taught us that anything can happen in a large, complicated economy, but recent news has been more upbeat. Hopefully summer will bring more jobs, higher home prices, and businesses that are making money. I’m a little worried that we are seeing a new real estate bubble, but that worry is tempered by warm weather and bright sun. Tomorrow’s problems will come tomorrow. Today is a good time to smile.
Enjoy this fine day and those that will follow. I’ll close with a few words from Wendell Berry’s 1982 Sabbath poem III:
The flock, barn-weary, comes to it again,
New to the lambs, a place their mothers know,
Welcoming, bright, and savory in its green,
So fully does the time recover it.
Nibbles of pleasure go all over it.