This morning, ChicagoSun-Times columnist Carol Slezak joined the coterie of local people offering unsolicited advice to new Cubs owner Tom Ricketts. Among her nuggets was this paragraph:
That makes sense, I suppose -- most Cubs fans freaked out when Sam Zell talked about selling off the stadium's naming rights last year. There were campaigns and organized rallies and a whole lot of other nonsense, and people generally made much too big a deal out of a passing comment by a guy looking to squeeze every last dollar of value out of his new sell-off toy.
But with real ownership now (nearly) in place, it's possible the Cubs could decide to sell the naming rights to their charming-yet-decrepit 90 year old stadium. Would Cubs fans really be as incensed as Slezak thinks? And if they were, would that anger in any affect the Cubs' attendance, or their TV ratings, or anything? Are we supposed to believe that hundreds of thousands or millions of fans would suddenly stop caring about the Cubs because Tom Ricketts decided that "T.D. Ameritrade Park at Wrigley Field" was a financially viable option?
We say no. Sure, there would be some short-term anger. People would probably make t-shirts, or something. But after the dust settled everyone would still go to the games, everyone would still root for the Cubs, and everyone would go on like nothing important had changed, because nothing important will have changed. The name of the ballpark doesn't matter; it's the enjoyment you derive from the place when you go there. If you can't intellectually separate the two, that's your problem, not Tom Ricketts'.
It probably won't happen. If Ricketts is as sentimentally inclined toward the Cubs as local biographies make him seem, the chances seem low. But if it does, trust us, Chicago: It's not that big of a deal. You'll get over it. Baseball will still be fun, and your Cubs will always be your Cubs. Nomenclature can't affect that unless you let it.