On Wrigley Field and Governments vs. Corporations

Tod Kelly

Tod is a writer from the Pacific Northwest. He is also serves as Executive Producer and host of both the 7 Deadly Sins Show at Portland's historic Mission Theatre and 7DS: Pants On Fire! at the White Eagle Hotel & Saloon. He is  a regular inactive for Marie Claire International and the Daily Beast, and is currently writing a book on the sudden rise of exorcisms in the United States. Follow him on Twitter.

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51 Responses

  1. Will Truman says:

    I dunno, does anyone on the right or left feel a whole lot of sympathy for the folks renting out property in such prime areas? I mean, they’re definitionally rich themselves, aren’t they? Or am I misunderstanding something.Report

    • But… I guess I do see your point. Some are going to be outraged at government evictions (Kelo) than private evictions, while others would take a different view. That would be more about ownership, though, I’d think. So that relationship is imperfect, too.

      I’m trying to think of a good example. What you say sounds intuitively correct, though I am having difficulty sorting out in my mind a good apples-to-apples comparison.Report

  2. For the record, here’s the article I had in mind in our discussion, and from which I was pulling my facts. Any factual errors in the above are thus the fault of Jim Caple (edited to add: it’s a 17 percent commission that the Cubs get, for what it’s worth).


    • Also, my feeling is that the issue ought to depend on how the contracts with the team and the owners are structured. If indeed they’ve got a 20 year contract, then I think the owners ought to have a right to demand compensation from the Cubs in the event that the purpose of any contracts are frustrated by the Cubs’ own actions. The owners shouldn’t necessarily be compensated for any loss of market value to the real estate, but I think liquidated damages for lost projected ticket sales over the duration of the contract would be fully appropriate.Report

      • greginak in reply to Mark Thompson says:

        Once the Cubs started to get a share of the apartment owners proceeds than it seems like that changes the calculation a bit. In general though this is just business and the apartment are likely to get boned, which is unfortunate for them but fair enough. But what is in the contracts might change it.Report

        • Kazzy in reply to greginak says:

          Oh… yea… what you guys said. Much smarter than what I said.Report

        • Mo in reply to greginak says:

          Weren’t the Cubs forced into the revenue share position because the city government wouldn’t allow them to block the property owners’ views? Had this purely been between to private organizations, the views would already be blocked. However, connected developers leaned on aldermen to force the Cubbies’ hand.Report

      • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Mark Thompson says:

        I think the fact that there is a contract changes the dynamic a bit.

        If a city held contracts with taxis, rather than just doling out permission slips to those who can pay, opening up the market would be different.Report

    • Michelle in reply to Mark Thompson says:

      Thanks for the link, Mark. I was thinking that the rooftop structures were a heck of a lot more imposing than they were the last time I saw a game in the summer of 2003. There were always folks on the rooftops but it used to be a lot more casual affair, involving folks standing around drinking beer. It now seems a lot more commercialized, which makes sense given that the building owners and Cubs management reached an agreement.

      Not quite sure how I feel about it. The building owners seems a bit like opportunistic leeches to me, sucking profit out of somebody else’s product.Report

  3. Shelley says:

    I wish the vague but bitter Tea Party intuition that “someone is trying to control us” could be moved from government to the true source of the threat: corporations.Report

  4. Kazzy says:

    Given that the Cubs currently have a business relationship with the owners (How did they get a piece of the pie???) I wonder if that incurs any obligation.

    However, I’d say my sympathy depends less on who is taking action (government vs private entity) and how I evaluate the action itself.

    Ending monopolies is a good thing. If that is done via the government or via a private entity, I’d welcome it.Report

  5. Shazbot5 says:

    “Those that complained that the Evil Corporation was hurting good, upstanding people will rally around a government body doing the same. Those that thought the financial needs of a few corporate shareholders were a justifiable enough reason to bring heavy financial losses to a few will think the Devil has come to town if those same losses are inflicted for the good of the entire city.”

    Well, there is a difference between hurting a set of people for the good of a single corporation and for the good of a while city, right?Report

    • Shazbot5 in reply to Shazbot5 says:

      Whole city.Report

    • J@m3z Aitch in reply to Shazbot5 says:

      Well, there is a difference between hurting a set of people for the good of a single corporation and for the good of a while city, right?

      Is there?Report

      • Kazzy in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

        I think there is, but probably not as often or as easily as many people might assume.

        For instance, taxes “hurt” people. But all but the most ardent libertarians and/or anarchists accept at least some form of taxation.Report

      • Shazbot5 in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

        Killing 5 people to improve corporate bottom line versus killing 5 people to save the city from being destroyed, hundreds killed, thousands of lived destroyed.Report

        • J@m3z Aitch in reply to Shazbot5 says:

          Yeah, both of those happen all the time. All. The. Time.Report

          • Tod Kelly in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

            If this is the argument – the ability to use violence – then it seems only fair to note that there was a time even in our own nation’s history where corporations could and did use violence (including the taking of lives).

            The reason they do not do so now is not because of any inherent moral value in corporations, it is because of government.

            As I say, if you’re going to put corporations over government for the reason of violence, this seems only fair to note.Report

            • Kimmi in reply to Tod Kelly says:

              Multiple recorded corporations taking lives… in 3rd world countries. But still, American corporations.

              … this is above and beyond what happened because of those copper mines (aka getting the govt to intervene on corps behalf)Report

            • J@m3z Aitch in reply to Tod Kelly says:


              Yes, but unfortunately it’s much harder to put government over government.

              And I very much think that Shazbot’s example of killing five people to save thousands is very similar to the defense of torture to save lives– as morally dubious, and as pragmatically unlikely. I wonder if Shazbot would walk away from Omelas?Report

            • Roger in reply to Tod Kelly says:


              This isn’t something unique to corporations. People and groups of people exploit each other and cheat on cooperative arrangements when they can get away with it.

              One proven solution to the zero sum threat of exploitation and prisoners dilemma games is to establish an institutional threat that anyone exploiting will be punished. This is one role of government. It acts as the institution of violence necessary to get people to agree not to cheat each other.

              Government exists greatly because we do not assume anyone is an angel.Report

          • Kimmi in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

            Ah, so you’ve got experience in snuff porn companies?Report

          • Kimmi in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

            Yup. But you know, dead men tell no tales.Report

  6. lincoln's beard says:

    What about those of us who don’t view this through a right/left lens? I think there’s some value to the community in having a ballpark that’s human-scaled, that has some oddities and encrustations, that has the odd feature of some apartment buildings with a view of the field. I think that the hand-operated scoreboard and the view from the buildings across Waveland and the games during the day and all of the stuff that makes Wrigley what it is are worth preserving. Sure, those guys that own those condos and the guys that own the Cubs are all rich, and they’re all trying to make a buck. But there’s something more going on than a fight about who gets to monetize what, there’s a (to me more important) battle over whether there’s any value to preserving the ballpark and its relationship with the neighborhood. Whether there are any concerns at play other than petty disputes over making money and property rights.Report

  7. Stillwater says:

    I was living in Wrigleyville when all the discussion about lighting the stadium was going on. Cubs ownership wanted it – for obvious reasons. Wrigleyville homeowners didn’t – for not very obvious reasons. Ownership’s argument was that having lights is good for fans who actually work for a living (that’s an old joke, actually), good for revenue, and good for the athletes on the field who – at the time – had to suffer thru 82 day games in summertime Chicago weather. (Yikes!) That’s not an odds on way to win a pennant.

    THe business side of things won in the end (not completely, I think night games are still capped). But at the end of the day, the business side of baseball has to be taken into account. And I guess that’s where I come down on left-field scoreboard thing. The owner said that having an electronic scoreboard in left field will net the Cubbies 20 million a year in advertising revenue. That means better players, better facilities, a better baseball experience. (Of course, it also means more money in that dude’s pocket!)

    He didn’t threaten to take the team elsewhere, tho. He said he wants to stay at Wrigley and that he believes a compromise with Waveland Avenue building owners can be reached. And I have to admit that just saying that out loud gives me a new-found respect for baseball team owners. One I haven’t ever had before.Report

  8. Brandon Berg says:

    But replace the word “corporation” with “government, ” and everything becomes mirrored.

    Is that actually true?Report

  9. Roger says:

    I agree that the tribes both recognize and are bothered more by harms that came from their nemesis (big corporations or big government). It validates our worldview.

    My interest in the issue is centered partially in my explorations into the topic of HARM. There are classes of harm which do not require direct injury of any type. This class includes the issue of harm by opportunity lost.

    When Brad married Angelina, he did all the other hetero males a harm. We lost the opportunity to marry Angelina. When I choose Pepsi rather than Coke, Coke lost an opportunity. Indeed, every human on earth lost the opportunity to sell me a tasty beverage. When Google hires someone else other than me, or “lets me go” and replaces me with a better employee, I am indirectly harmed by the lost opportunity. They didn’t actually do anything to me. They just didn’t agree to do something with me that I hoped they would. I lost an opportunity for a cooperative, positive sum interaction.

    And that is the crux of this class of harm. The loss of a potential, or expected positive sum interaction is a class of harm. We naturally and rationally try to reduce these types of harms to ourselves. One way to do so is restrict others freedom so they have to cooperate with us, or are more likely to. We eliminate competitors via entrance barriers, or we raise the minimum wage to eliminate a less skilled person’s ability to compete with us on price. But this introduces a new class of harm– harm due to rule changes. But once rules are changed, changing them back ( making them more fair?) once again causes a type of harm — harm via loss of prior privilege.

    To summarize, we have a nested set of “tricky harms”:
    1) Harms caused by lost opportunity (they hired him, not me)
    2) harms caused by any net loss in fairness as it affects future opportunity (entrance barrier placed on me that prohibits me from offering cab service)
    3) and any loss in previous privilege as it affects our future opportunities ( the harm to the existing privileged cab drivers when they lose the entrance barrier).

    I think we need to understand these and the dynamics that play out as we create fair rules of interaction.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Roger says:

      I’m going to riff off your opening statement instead of the rest of your post here, even though I think you make some really good points there.

      But you opened with: “I agree that the tribes both recognize and are bothered more by harms that came from their nemesis (big corporations or big government). It validates our worldview.”

      For me, it’s not big corporations or big government that bother me as much as it is abuse of power. To this end, I am probably slightly more bothered by government because of the unique relationship they have with power, but will also oppose corporations abusing power, especially if it is ill-gotten power.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to Kazzy says:

        But people have more power over government through the democratic process and protest. It’s very hard, long, and boring work but it is possible to address the abuses of government. In contrast, my toolkit in dealing with the abuses of corporations are much more limited. I can protest against pollution or abuse of employees as much ad I want but corporations usually only change their ways under government order.Report

        • Kazzy in reply to LeeEsq says:

          A fair counterpoint. In an ideal market, you would be empowered to change the behavior of corporations by entering the market yourself. But, yea, well, ideals and all that…

          Thing is, I don’t have a problem with employing the power of the government to curtail certain types of harm perpetrated by corporations.Report

          • Citizen in reply to Kazzy says:

            History shows the pendulum of power swings back and forth between the corporations and governments until those who want and can abuse, do.Report

        • Roger in reply to LeeEsq says:

          “But people have more power over government through the democratic process and protest. It’s very hard, long, and boring work but it is possible to address the abuses of government. In contrast, my toolkit in dealing with the abuses of corporations are much more limited. I can protest against pollution or abuse of employees as much ad I want but corporations usually only change their ways under government order.”

          I believe you are missing some of the dynamic.  You can influence government to the extent that you can get a majority of people to go along with you.  You can influence the corporation by not shopping there.  In other words, every vote counts in markets, not just those marginal votes taking you into a majority.  

          Brands are extremely important to corporations. Every sale counts, and if a corporation takes actions that destroy the brand, consumers can (in most relatively free markets) switch to a superior brand.  Indeed, other corporations are sitting there looking for opportunities, and will actively advertise their superiority.

          I spent many hours of my life (years?) stuck in executive boardrooms talking about how we protect our brand. Consumers rule in markets, and companies that lose sight of that are soon scraps for the dingo dogs. Report

          • LeeEsq in reply to Roger says:

            I’m sorry I can’t really buy this. I can’t think of any historical or current example where a corporation willingly agreed to treat the environment better or deal with workers more fairly or build safer products simply because of market pressure or to protect the brand. Corporations and indivdual business people have opposed environmental regulations, workplace safety regulations, unionization, and product safety regulation hook, line, and singer. They have hid scientific evidence that their products were harmful to the public, I’m thinking asbestos and tobacco, and opposed warning labels. In general, corporations only acted better because of fear of government regulation or because of government regulation.

            Corporations care about the bottom line and the bottom line is that pollution, lack of workplace safety, a non-unionized workforce, and lack of product safety regulations increase profits. Public ignorance of the harmful effects of certain products increase profits.Report

            • J@m3z Aitch in reply to LeeEsq says:

              And a pissed off public hurts the bottom line, too. But you won’t see any examples so long as you’re persuaded they don’t exist.Report

            • Roger in reply to LeeEsq says:


              We may be talking past each other a bit. I am not arguing for no regulation. I agree that some issues like pollution are often handled effectively by regulation.

              To be explicit my argument was that we can affect corporate behavior. We influence what products they sell. We influence their revenues and profits by our purchases and opinions. If you believe that no company has made product improvements or changed work processes absent government influence, then James is right, there is no room for conversation.Report

        • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to LeeEsq says:

          Except you can sue a corporation. Suing a government is a whole lot more difficult.Report

        • J@m3z Aitch in reply to LeeEsq says:

          But people have more power over government through the democratic process and protest

          I strongly disagree. People can exert both voice and exit against corporations very effectively, and because of the profit motive corporations find it difficult to be non-responsive. Because of international barriers to entry, as well as cost barriers to exit in the local level, and also the ineffectiveness of simply not voting, exerting exit against government tends to be difficult, leaving only voice. And voice is effective only if you have enough voices to potentially shift the majority, whereas with corporations you need only enough voices to hurt the bottom line. There is also the problem of coupled issues in politics, where as angry as a voter may be at Party X about an issue, he still supports the party far more than party Y on a whole host of other issues, making it rational for him to stick with them, and diminishing the force of his protest. In addition to that, corporations are more subject to lawsuits than governments.

          I’m not saying it’s easy to influence a corporation or impossible to influence government. But your claim that we have more power over government seems doubtful to me.Report

      • Roger in reply to Kazzy says:


        You are not very tribal. An admirable and all too rare quality.Report

        • Kazzy in reply to Roger says:

          I guess I should get my armband tattoo removed then, eh?

          A fun game I like to play is, when I hear a headline, try to immediately determine which side is going to take which position. Try it… you’ll quickly realize there are a great number of situations that don’t fit neatly into the traditional boxes we tend to put people in. Furthermore, you often see strange bedfellows made… or at least the potential for such. But none of the crusaders ever realize this. Even if their motives are different, you can often see people from opposite sides of the aisle seeking the same ends. But they’ll never, ever align because, well, tribalism.

          For instance, kids and the media is a fascinating topic. There is a certain segment of the left that is very skeptical of kids taking in media… the parents who don’t let their kids watch any TV. But you also have a certain segment of the right that is very critical of the media, often using kids as their rallying cry… they oppose sex and violence because they think it makes kids sexual or violent. But these two groups will never align themselves with one another. BUT THEN you also have a segment of the left that are real free speech advocates and who are very socially liberal and don’t really care about their kids and media. BUT BUT THEN THEN you have a segment of the right that thinks blaming the media is avoiding personal responsibility and is PC censorship. But THOSE two sides will never align either.

          And none will even acknowledge that the issue is more fractured than they realize or that their tribes aren’t necessarily serving their best interests because this issue cuts vertically instead of horizontally or vice versa.

          So, yea, it’s a fun game… “Liberals will hate it because of this! But, oh, oh, conservatives will hate it because of this! But they can’t agree with the liberals so they’ll take this pro position! Meanwhile, the liberals will twist themselves into knots to avoid looking as if they’ve taken this traditionally conservative angle.”Report

          • Roger in reply to Kazzy says:

            The other fun thing to do is to get immediate feedback from partisans when an issue first hits. You get their true reaction. Then watch how the talking heads spin the issue and distribute their talking points to the folks. Suddenly, the flock gets back in line.Report