Thursday, March 16, 2017

Was I bought off by the White Sox?

Perhaps I have a disclosure to make – I attended Chicago White Sox Opening Days of 1998 and 1999 courtesy of the ball club.
This particular game view from the 2016 season I paid for all by myself

My brother and I went with tickets that were provided by the team as part of an effort to try to build up more good will amongst the local news media. We sat in one of those private suites whose very existence offends some sports fans, had food and beverages brought to our seats, and to his dying day my brother, Chris, thought that the dessert cart wheeled around in the seventh inning was about the most incredible thing he ever saw in a ballpark.

I BRING THIS up because I’m still not sure what to make of the Chicago Sun-Times report Wednesday about the City Council’s board of ethics, which has made it be known that aldermen will be in big trouble if they accept freebie tickets the team was willing to provide them for Opening Day this season.

It seems that while the price of the ticket is considered minimal, when mixed in with all the luxury amenities that the team was going to provide for the aldermen, it pushes the total value above the $50 standard that they’re not supposed to accept.

I kind of like the idea that the board of ethics is trying to do something to put restrictions on all the freebies and perks that pols are offered. But this is a case where I wonder if it goes too far.

Because I’d hate to think anybody could truly be “bought off” for the price of a ballgame ticket.

ALTHOUGH I’M MORE bothered by the fear that the board of ethics is going to find a lot of chicken-little perks to complain about, while doing nothing to penalize pols who take some more serious payoffs that truly influence their government activity.

Besides, I can’t help but wonder how little good will the White Sox would be obtaining in exchange for letting a few aldermen into the ballpark on Opening Day (April 3 against the Detroit Tigers).

I certainly don’t think they gained much from letting a few reporter-types into the ballpark all those years ago. In fact, I remember the dominant theme of the stories that resulted from those Opening Days was how they had less-than-capacity crowds in attendance.

They let us in for free, and we still wound up finding ways to ding them.

IN MY CASE, I was working for United Press International back then. My then-editor and I actually wrote a column of trivial and gossipy tidbits that caught somebody’s eye.

Hence, our invitation, which my editor had no interest in using. Which is how I wound up getting both of the freebie tickets and taking my brother along.

He wasn’t a White Sox fan, but enjoyed baseball enough that the thought of a live game wasn’t repulsive to him. Particularly since he got to experience the more luxurious amenities of the ballpark now known as Guaranteed Rate Field.

But did I really do something unethical by taking a freebie pair of tickets from the team? I’m sure the board of ethics would argue I’m not an elected official, but might claim the act itself is unproper.

I JUST CAN’T help but think somebody is overthinking this issue way too much.

Although I do admire those aldermen who said they turned down a political perk and went ahead and bought their own tickets for the games on Opening Day.

Actually, the whole situation reminds me of that wisecracking joke reporter-type people often tell about bribes and people trying to influence our news coverage with little gifts.

The mark of a truly professional reporter, we’d joke, is that we take their payoff, then still manage to write something critical.


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