In addition to semi-regular work as a Wrigleyville Nation contributor, I’m also an adjunct instructor in the English department at Northeastern Illinois University. Each spring semester, I teach a 300-level class centered on taking a liberal arts degree and making it immediately employable. Lots of content on digital marketing tactics and best practices, thought leadership, networking, etc. I love sharing my experience with the communicators of tomorrow, helping them open doors to career possibility.
This term I’m fortunate to have a student in class, Jack, who happens to be a member of the Chicago Cubs security team. When we first met in January, he was already well aware of the NEIU staff’s biggest Cubs fan (There was no formal competition and I crowned myself. But I digress…). So he knew to mention that he’d be receiving a 2016 World Series ring of his own once the 2017 season commenced. Overcome by equal parts excitement and jealousy, I insisted he bring that bad boy to our final class session for an undergrad version of show and tell.
Because I’m someone who tends to enjoy ball busting generally, and more specifically where people I mentor are involved, I’ve sprinkled empty threats full of ring pilfering wishful thinking throughout the term. I’ve also suggested I’ll secure a wealthy patron to make Jack an irrefutable financial offer, bewitch said patron with my considerable charms and take the beautiful ring home. I have an active baseball imagination anyway and when it comes to World Series 2016 mementos, I’m essentially Gollum with more hair.
Clearly, despite 15 weeks of needling, Jack has zero plans to do other than treasure the ring for life. He’s more than a dedicated fan. He’s a part of the magical organization that last year made so many long-cherished Wrigleyville Nation dreams a reality. Were I this young man, I would not part with the treasure for anything.
Turns out my purchasing hypothetical was so much wasted daydreaming. We learned this week that non-player recipients have signed off on contractual restrictions that prevent a desperately envious interloper like myself from securing a second hand 2016 World Series ring. Per Bleacher Report:
“The Chicago Cubs have asked non-players within the organization to sign an agreement giving the team the right to buy back World Series rings for $1…the agreement will prevent the ring from flooding the market and becoming devalued.”
The prospect of a limited cultural artifact 108 years in the making suddenly becoming “devalued” can be debated. “Oh. That old thing? I’ve got five just like it. Toss.” – said no Cubs fan ever. But the attempt to formally retain the ring’s special integrity is understandable and laudable, especially given the Ricketts’ benevolence. Cubs leadership ordered and distributed 1,908 rings (gotta love that number), paying the bulk of the taxes for lower-level staff lucky enough to receive one. Cubs GM Jed Hoyer said this about signing the agreement:
“I signed that thing willingly. Everyone except for the players signed it. I look at it as the Ricketts [ownership] were so unbelievably generous in the cost of the ring and the number they gave out, I think it’s totally appropriate when you’re paying for the ring and helping out with the taxes along with that—it seems appropriate to say, ‘I don’t expect you to take the gift I’m giving you and run out to the market with it.”
Without question there’s a tempting and strong market for these gems (ahem! cough!). During lean financial times in infancy, my father sold his high school class ring at a local pawn shop for extra cash. The Cubs have a legitimate concern in preventing that type of transaction with a coveted World Series bauble, though I suspect the payment would far outstrip dad’s take for a St. Benedict’s High School Class of ’73 band.
So even if he wanted to, Jack couldn’t rightly sell me his 2016 ring without offering to let the organization repurchase it first. This is probably as it should be. I’ve taken my turn standing in line for a fleeting moment with the World Series trophy, and I’ll be fortunate enough to glimpse the ring this coming Wednesday night. It’s more than enough.