One of the gems of Chicago lore is the quaint tale of how the Chicago Cubs have been a miserable baseball team for so long because of the "Billy Goat Curse". As it has been explained, the curse derived from an unhappy Greek saloon-keeper who had a pet goat in his tavern across the street from Wrigley Field. When he tried to enter the stadium with his goat during the 1945 World Series, he was turned back because the goat had an unpleasant odor. The Cubs didn't win that series and have never played in one ever since. Sam Sianis, the goat's owner, is said to have laid an eternal curse on the wretched Cubs over the incident.
Other versions of the team's woes have survived, but I like this one because it fits perfectly into the city's exceptional trail of colorful characters - whether sinister, deadly or just your average Runyonesque ward-heelers. One of the latter, a Democratic alderman, once knowingly responded to a complaint that a city project would tear up too much green space. "You can have too much grass," he said with a straight face.
Then there was alderman Mathias "Paddy" Bauer, a friend of former titanic Mayor Richard J. Daley, who declared early in his spotty political career,"Chicago ain't ready for reform".
Much of the city's political shenanigans was recorded by the late columnist Mike Royko, who rose to journlistic stardom simply by recording what the hooligans were uttering with an unusual writer's eye for detail. (During the many times that I visited the Chicago area, I looked forward to watching Columnist Irv Kupcinet on a TV show with his unique version of the English language. In one instance, in good form, he came up with the unforgettable term, "misleading nomers". Somehow it worked in the context of the Daley-controlled wards.)
Newt Gingrich never let anyone forget that President Obama was a community organizer on Chicago's South Side where Saul Alinsky held forth for many years. What he never said was that Alinsky was conservative in some respects, patriotic, ate at the best steakhouses and included a Catholic priest, businessmen and a member of the Marshall Field department store family among his many his friends. (Of course, Newt said a lot of things that weren't true.)
Deservedly, the Democrats were accused of all sorts of political mischief to sustain their hegemony over Sandburg's "Hog butcher for the world". Yet Chicago also came to be known as the "the city that works." My late father-in-law, a suburban businessman with an office in the Loop, was a Republican who praised Daley. "I've never voted for a Democrat, but if I lived in the city, I'd vote for Dick Daley," he said.
I should tell you that these vignettes of the lives and times of the impolite Chicago pols was encouraged by a recent Republican implosion that added another notch to the city's awkward political history, Meet Joe Ricketts, bloated billionaire, right-winger and founder of the on-line brokerage, TD Ameritrade. It surely ranks higher than a mere dishonorable mention. Although Ricketts is full of denials, he was nearing the moment when he would put up $10 million in an advertising assault on President Obama, described in the plan as a "metrosexual, black Abe Lincoln." (I can't imagine Billy Goat Sianis or Paddy Bauer using a word like "metrosexual," can you? In their day, it would have cost them tons of support on the street.)
The key to the attack on Obama would be the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, a dumb idea back in 2008 whose sponsors planned to stretch a few more wearying miles.
Funny, but there may be a link to the Billy Goat Curse here. The Cubs are currently in last place and in an extended losing streak. At the same time, thre NY Times" exposure of Ricketts' association with the anti-Obama preliminaries probably has set back his efforts to haul in $300 million in taxpayer money to rennovate Wrigley Field, in which the Ricketts family-owned Chicago Cubs, play - when they're up to it.
Worse yet, the mayor of Chicago is a feisty Democrat named Rahm Emanuel, former top-ranking member of the Obama team. When Ricketts called Emanuel after the Times article appeared, the mayor didn't bother to return the call.
Yep, irony of ironies, the same Joe Ricketts who also founded the Ending Spending Fund to reduce government spending.
Mitt Romney tells us to rely on the business world because they know how to do it.
On the other hand, Mike Royko might have won another Pulitzer playing with this one.