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Not My Job: We Quiz The Owner Of The Chicago Cubs On Victory Parades

PETER SAGAL, HOST:

In Chicago now, nobody loves anything as much as they love the Cubs. For over a century, it has been America's longest-lasting dysfunctional relationship.

BILL KURTIS: In September, just as the Cubs were about to start their playoff run, we spoke to the team's principal owner, who, at the time, still had hope that his heart would not be broken this time.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

SAGAL: Just so we understand the story, for many years, the Cubs was owned by the Tribune Company, publishers of the Chicago Tribune. And you and your family decided to buy it. And why the Cubs, 'cause you couldn't afford a winning team?

(LAUGHTER)

TOM RICKETTS: (Laughter) No, no - the Cubs are really close to our heart. I mean, we're all - all my siblings and I are big Cubs fans. And there was really no other sports team we cared about.

SAGAL: So you're from Nebraska, we know. But you've always been a Cubs fan. We understand you even met your wife at Wrigley Field, is that right?

RICKETTS: That's 100 percent true. We used to sit in the center field…

SAGAL: Yeah.

RICKETTS: …Bleachers, pretty much every Saturday and Sunday all through the summers. And I was at a game one afternoon, and we were just sitting next to some girls who were talking about Omaha because they went to college there.

SAGAL: Yeah.

RICKETTS: And, actually, we used to sit in the same spot in center field every game because before the tyranny of the two-beer limit, you could buy as many beers as you wanted. So we would send one guy down with all the money, and he could hand them straight up to us in center field.

SAGAL: I'm sorry, just to interrupt.

AMY DICKINSON: Strategy.

SAGAL: Did you just refer to the two-beer limit?

RICKETTS: Yeah.

SAGAL: What you mean by that is you can buy two beers at once when you go to the stand…

RICKETTS: Right, correct, correct.

SAGAL: And…

ADAM BURKE: Per person, actually. Yes.

SAGAL: …I can't help but note that you actually own the team.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: If you wanted to do away with that ridiculous rule, you could you could wave your scepter and it would be.

BURKE: Over the years, how many drunk Cubs fans have there been who've yelled at a vendor - oh, yeah, well one of these days, I'm going to own this place, and...

(LAUGHTER)

RICKETTS: Actually, in my business school application...

SAGAL: Yeah.

RICKETTS: ...It asked for your dream job.

SAGAL: Yeah.

RICKETTS: And I wrote down owning a Major League Baseball team like the Cubs.

DICKINSON: No.

RICKETTS: True story, by the way.

DICKINSON: Oh, wow.

BURKE: Well, which one did you want to own?

(LAUGHTER)

RICKETTS: Well, at the time we lived above the Sports Corner bar right across the street from the ballpark, so was kind of (unintelligible).

PETER GROSZ: You lived above the Sports Corner between the L and Sheffield.

RICKETTS: Yeah, Sheffield and Madison.

GROSZ: I had improv team rehearsals there for, like, three years or something like that - not in your apartment but at the...

(LAUGHTER)

GROSZ: ...Sports Corner.

BURKE: Wait, so you bought the Cubs just 'cause it was a convenient commute?

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Here's the thing I don't understand. I love baseball. I would love to be a team owner maybe someday if this public radio thing gets it…

BURKE: Takes off.

SAGAL: …But I'm just trying to imagine you. You're living in Wrigleyville, and for those who have never been to a Cubs game, they're great. It's a great field. But after the game, the neighborhood is filled for hours and hours with the most obnoxious drunk people. And you're like, I want this.

RICKETTS: Those are not obnoxious drunk people. Those are passionate fans.

SAGAL: There you go.

DICKINSON: Yeah.

SAGAL: Well done.

(APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: When I was a kid, my dream job was to play baseball. Did you have that dream? Did you want to be a player at some point in time?

RICKETTS: Yeah, absolutely, absolutely, as a kid and then, you know how it goes. You get to be 12 or 13 and some of the other kids get bigger and hairier and next thing you know you're captain of the debate team.

SAGAL: Yeah.

(LAUGHTER)

RICKETTS: You just got to play the cards you're dealt.

SAGAL: This is public radio. We know about that.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: I do want to ask you about your interactions with fans because Chicago has a pretty rabid fan base. Have you - you must have had at least the occasional moment in time where you were...

RICKETTS: No, honestly - 100 percent honest, like, I walk through the park just about every single game, and I've had almost no issues with people.

SAGAL: Really?

RICKETTS: There's a few people that, you know, once in a while they just misunderstand something about, like, why they can't hear the radio in the bathroom or why beer costs nine bucks or something like that. But the - you know, generally, it's been great.

SAGAL: Why does beer cost $9?

(LAUGHTER)

RICKETTS: Why does a starting pitcher cost $25 million?

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: I guess that's a better question.

(APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: Tom Ricketts, we are so delighted to talk to you. We have asked you here to play a game we're calling…

KURTIS: Wave to the Left, Wave to the Right and Don't Fall Off the Float.

SAGAL: So you are the owner of the Chicago Cubs. And since we wanted to ask you about something you don't know anything about, we thought we'd ask you about celebratory parades.

(LAUGHTER)

DICKINSON: Oh.

(APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: Answer two of these three questions correctly, you'll win our prize for one of our listeners - Carl Kasell's voice on their voice mail. Bill, who is Tom Ricketts playing for?

KURTIS: Thomas Foster of Minneapolis, Minn.

SAGAL: All right, here's your first question.

RICKETTS: Yeah.

SAGAL: You may be familiar with the Stanley Cup. That's a championship that has been won numerous times in recent years by a team here in Chicago. One of the great things about the cup is that the winning players on each hockey team that wins it gets to take it home. In 2008, a Red Wings player did what with it? A - he pawned to buy a really sweet new Fender electric bass; B - he put his baby daughter inside it where she promptly pooped; or C - he filled it full of Red Bull, drank the whole thing and was then hospitalized for taurine poisoning.

RICKETTS: Wow, you know, I imagine that number three's happened more than once, so I'm going to go with B.

SAGAL: You're going to go with B, the daughter. That's exactly what happened.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL, APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: He had a baby daughter, put her in the cup, she immediately did what babies do and don't worry. He says he had it cleaned. All right, that's very good. Just weeks ago, sprinter Usain Bolt was celebrating his win in the 100 meters at the world championships with his victory lap around the stadium when what happened? A - a photographer plowed into him, knocking him flat with his Segway; B - a little bottle of steroids fell out of his pocket or C - he stopped halfway around, calmly vomited, then kept going.

RICKETTS: I think Bolt's too cool to throw up. I'm going to take A.

SAGAL: You're going to take A, he was knocked over by a Segway?

RICKETTS: Yeah.

SAGAL: You're right.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

SAGAL: OK, here's your last question. We'll see if you can go for perfect. In 2002, the town of Lauderhill, Fla., held a Martin Luther King, Jr., celebration. They didn't entirely nail all the details, though. What went wrong? A - the banners they put up all read thank you, Marty; B - all the pictures they used of Martin Luther King, Jr., were actually just of Martin Luther…

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: …Or C - they presented a plaque to actor James Earl Jones, but the plaque read thank you James Earl Ray.

(LAUGHTER)

DICKINSON: Oh, no, no…

RICKETTS: Wow, all those are bad.

DICKINSON: …No.

RICKETTS: That would ruin a lot of celebratory parades. I'll take C.

SAGAL: You're going to take C? I'm glad that you somehow knew we would never dare to make that up. That is in fact what happened.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

SAGAL: They…

(APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: …Presented him the plaque and they looked down and they're like, oh, my God. The organizers felt really, really, really, really bad about that. Bill, how did Tom Ricketts do on our quiz?

KURTIS: You know, he did just like the Cubs are going to do for the rest of the season.

SAGAL: There we go, perfect.

GROSZ: Perfect.

(APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: Tom Ricketts - he is the owner and chairman of the perhaps future world champion Chicago Cubs. Tom, thank you so much for joining us.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SAGAL: Support for NPR comes from NPR stations and Lumber Liquidators, a proud sponsor of NPR, offering more than 400 styles, including hardwood, bambo, laminate and vinyl. With flooring specialists in hundreds of stores nationwide. More at lumberliquidators.com or 1-800-HARD-WOOD. The Pew Charitable Trusts, driven by the power of knowlege to solve today's most challenging problems, at pewtrust.org. And the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, helping NPR advance journalistic excellence in the digital age. Learn more at knightfoundation.org. WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME is a production of NPR and WBEZ Chicago in association with Urgent Haircut Productions. Doug Berman, benevolent overlord. B.J. Leiderman composed our theme. Our program is produced by Miles Doornbos, technical direction is from Lorna White. Our CFO is Ann Nguyen. Our production coordinator's Robert Newhouse (ph). Our senior producer is Ian Chillag. And the executive producer of WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME is Mr. Michael Danforth. Thanks to Bill Kurtis. Thanks also to all the panelists and guests that you heard this week. And of course, the inimitable Carl Kasell. I'm Peter Sagal, and we'll see you next week.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SAGAL: This is NPR. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.