Fan who would be king
Bleacher bum Mark Cuban had a blast rooting for the Cubs on Monday night. If he was as popular in the suites as he was in the seats, he could own the place
September 18, 2007
BY JAY MARIOTTI
He probably has a better shot of winning ''Dancing With The Stars'' while doing the funky chicken, or the Bud Selig Macarena, than he does of owning the Cubs. But Mark Cuban was in the ballpark anyway Monday night, screaming and shaking with all the other loons, watching in his old-time Cubs jersey as the team he's trying to buy pulled off a ninth-inning, grandstand-rattling comeback victory.
''What a [bleeping] game,'' Cuban e-mailed from somewhere in Wrigleyville after the 7-6 classic, which kept the Cubs a game ahead of Milwaukee in what has become a hot, little race in a lukewarm division.
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Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban (in Cubs jersey) celebrates with Cubs fans in the right-field bleachers on Monday night.
For the record, Cuban didn't storm the field to confront an umpire or lean into the dugout to advise Lou Piniella. Nor did he race out and jump into the moving pile of Cubs at second base after Mark DeRosa's game-winning hit, which followed a leadoff walk to Ryan Theriot, a single by Derrek Lee and a slicing triple to the wall by Aramis Ramirez that eluded the diving lunge of Cincinnati center fielder Norris Hopper. But I'm sure he wanted to. And we can assume he was the only billionaire/prospective owner partying among the masses, enjoying a meaningful autumn at Wrigley.
''Its a blast,'' Cuban e-mailed in the first inning, much too busy for apostrophes.
And where was he sitting? Please don't say a corporate suite.
''Right-field bleachers,'' he e-mailed in the fourth, after Cliff Floyd and DeRosa hit back-to-back homers to give the Cubs a 3-1 lead.
Were the fans mobbing him, urging him to buy the Cubs and save them from the Tribune Co. clones threatening to buy them?
''Just having fun,'' he e-mailed in the fifth, after the Reds scored three runs to take a 4-3 lead off the maddening Rich Hill.
I looked through the binoculars and couldn't find him. I asked an usher about his whereabouts, only to get a dumbfounded look. So I shot another e-mail: Which is more likely to happen, him winning ''Dancing With The Stars'' or buying the Cubs?
''Me hitting a home run,'' he responded in the sixth, after Hopper leaped and smacked against the ivy to make a sensational catch on a Ramirez blast.
A good luck charm?
And how passionately was he rooting for the home team? ''All of us have Cubbies jerseys on,'' he wrote, after the Reds had taken the lead in the sixth and $136 million baserunner Alfonso Soriano was thrown out at third on a groundball to short.
There is nothing like the seventh-inning stretch, as we've seen with Eddie Vedder and John Cusack, to make the inconspicuous celebrity stand out in the crowd. Ten rows above the UnderArmour logo on the wall, there was the would-be next owner, in his vintage jersey, singing and raising his fist and high-fiving two of his best friends, then posing for pictures with fans. Has Dennis FitzSimons, the faceless CEO behind the Tribune Co., ever sat in right field? Cuban, the Internet billionaire, would rather be a fan than a suit.
''U spying on me?'' he wrote in the eighth, just before the great rally.
Here we thought Cuban was just Bartman with a private plane, the black cat with a posse. Seems he's a good-luck charm. Maybe he should stick around. Better, maybe they should let him buy the team.
How interesting he would appear on a day the Los Angeles Times reported that Tribune Co. -- the Times is owned by the Tribsters, friends -- may break off its sports-related assets to maximize value in the Tower's Great Garage Sale. That means the Cubs would be offered separately in a package with Wrigley Field, land around the ancient ballpark and a 25 percent share of the local Comcast SportsNet operation, slightly improving chances that Selig will keep his grimy little nose away from the sale and not hand-deliver the franchise to a local clout group headed by his buddy, John Canning, an 11 percent owner of the very Brewers who are battling the Cubs. That is the underlying conflict of interest in this Interstate 94 scrum between a large American city and a little town with no discernible skyline or relevance, other than cheese, sausage and Selig's frozen custard stand.