To the editors.
According to Neil Tesser (Aug. 26) the Sun-Times’s Dennis (The Blasphemer) Byrne was responsible for an interruptus in the collective, multiple orgasms the media were having during the festival of lights at Wrigley Field. Byrne apparently committed the abomination of desecration in his treatment of the Tribune Co. tetragrammaton: “BEER.” And that’s what it’s all about, not baseball, not lights, but the sale of prime TV commercial time to hawk beer and anything else that can be legally touted. One TV commercial actually turns the park itself into a symbol of a brand of beer.
Byrne’s idea that the owner of a newspaper should concern itself with morality is as anachronistic as the noble quotations carved into the walls of the lobby of Tribune Tower where Byrne innocently “. . . thought the guardian of the City’s good taste and virtue was ensconced . . .”
What Tesser overlooks, in trashing Byrne’s column, is Byrne’s failure to recognize the difference between the Chicago Tribune and Tribune Company. The world’s once greatest newspaper, WGN TV and radio, and the Chicago Cubs exist only to feed money into Tribune Co.; the erstwhile Chicago Tribune exists only in Byrne’s memory.
Tesser admits “–that there’s something troubling about Harry Caray’s marriage of the ‘Bud man’ logo to his ‘Cub fan’ image–” and there is. That marriage was made higher up. Caray just chanted the litany, and it’s sad. On Feb. 28, ’88, Caray was reported by Irv Kupcinet as opposing lights for Wrigley Field. Now Caray, who only sang “Take me out to the ballgame,” joins the chorus in singing the Tribune Co. song.
If there’s any doubt about the company’s employees’ willingness to sing, see the libretto from the famous “boneheads” and “Political bums” editorial (Feb. 10, ’88) entitled “Cubs lights, political lightweights.” In that aria, Tribune editor Squires protests too much, giving more lines to a declaration of the Tribune’s independence from its company than to libeling public officials and threatening to raze Cubs Park. Squires later made an appearance in the Wall Street Journal, doing a Nashville rendition of “. . . a bunch of street gang aldermen aren’t going to intimidate US [caps mine] . . . ”
Tesser mentions the insecurities Byrne has about himself and his paper (of course vis-a-vis Tribune Co., its newspaper and its ball team) all pouring out over the great opening night rain-out ceremonies. Anyone who thought the three branches of government were of by and for the people would become insecure if he were aware of how malleable it appears under Tribune Co. pressure.
After buying the Cubs in ’81, Tribune Co. fought a four year losing battle for lights: In Springfield 1982, the legislature passed and Gov. Thompson signed legislation controlling noise pollution standards, killing night baseball at Wrigley; they lost in ’83 in the Chicago City Council; they lost all through ’85, in the Circuit Court of Cook County, in both the Illinois State Senate and House, and without a dissenting opinion the Illinois Supreme Court upheld state and city laws prohibiting Wrigley lights. Then in 1985, in a demonstration of prescience, Tribune Co. ordered Osborn Engineering Co. of Cleveland to design a lighting system for Wrigley Field.
By Feb. ’88 the somehow victorious Tribune Co. agrees to keep the Cubs at Wrigley provided their beer sales aren’t disturbed by the neighbors voting their precinct dry. Another attempt is made in April of ’88 to influence the legislature, this time to deny the residents their right to vote their own neighborhood dry.
The Apocrypha tells of Judah the (hammer) Maccabee whose victory over the Greco-Syrians is commemorated by Festival of Lights I. Speculation on how Tribune Co. bludgeoned all those branches of government into submission would be apocryphal; the means that brought Festival of Light II may never be brought to light.
If Byrne is insecure as a writer working for a newspaper competing with the Tribune, he has good reason.