I take issue a little bit with this statement from a recent post, Chris: "Operating a ballclub is a business. It is not a charity or a non-profit."
I think that this statement, while true, misses something essential because it fails to portray the whole picture. A ballclub is a business, and one goal is to profit. Still, that is not the only goal, or responsibility, of the ballclub's owner. Winning is paramount, too. Most of the time, the twin goals of profit and winning are aligned: winning ballclubs generate profit, and profits help owners assemble winning ballclubs. But there are also times when actions taken purely for a profit motive do nothing to affect winning, in the short- or long-term.
Moreover, to add another important factor, the owner of a ballclub - and Wrigley Field - is also a steward, beholden in some sense to its fans, and to the team's tradition, the team's continuing legacy. At least, I believe this. And this stewardship matters to everyone who invests themselves in the team. If the bottom line is the only thing driving decisions - or even the predominant factor - that sense of stewardship can only erode, a significant loss to many who feel (rightly or wrongly) that an owner is entrusted with preserving something sacred. That's what it comes down to: whether or not it's fair, Cubs fans want (deserve?) to feel like we can trust the team's owner when it comes to everything that we care about deeply. To many, increasing advertisements at Wrigley Field feel like a violation of trust.
Of course, if the Cubs' player salary payroll were only $50M, and the team was nearly in the red every year, I think most fans would support selling ads to bump payroll up to $75M. In that scenario it's about winning. But when you can already afford a $146M payroll, and you're steadily profitable, what reason is there to trust that signs, affecting the ambience and experience, are being added for worthy reasons? (I assume the Cubs are in the black, but don't have a link handy to back that up. I also recognize that "affecting the ambience and experience" is relative to each person, but I think enough people agree that such signs are a detractor that it's a worthwhile point.)
I may write more about this, after the signs are up and we can better judge how intrusive they are, but I'm reminded of something I wrote back in 2008, when the naming rights to Wrigley Field were considered up for sale:
"Wrigley Field has come to mean much more to people than even a baseball stadium, symbolizing something mythical and nostalgic and grand. Something so inherently good that its identity cannot possibly be for sale, that we cannot possibly do anything to seriously compromise it. In a sense, I think many see Wrigley Field as a general in the battle against the downsides of Progress (capital P). In large part, I think this is because it's unique among places - even among baseball stadiums - in creating such a personal relationship with each of its visitors. Such places that invoke such genuine passion are harder and harder to come by."