The baseball season opens today, not as the national pastime, but a perk for hedge fund millionaires
today at 8:00 am
Back in the day when you could play stickball in the street without having your mother cited by Social Services for child neglect, a bleacher seat at Wrigley Field sold for 50-cents. In 1952, the cost was up to 60-cents, which caused considerable complaint.
Today a season ticket in the bleachers will gut-punch you for a fast $3,464, or $42.75 a game for eighty-one home games.
Inflation can’t be the reason; four bits and a dime when Phil Cavarretta was in the dugout converts to about $6.00 in today’s currency.
It has more to do with these astounding figures. Back in the fifties the nondescript CEO sitting next to you cheering for the Cubs earned about 15 times more than the pay envelope your dad brought home. Today, that coifed chief exec earns a minimum of $14.5 million and about 320 times more than the rank-and-file worker who took a vacation day to see the game.
Our country has devolved into two societies. The days of going to the ballpark and sitting by chance next to a fellow fan who happened to be the president of the bank, are long gone. Average Joes rubbing shoulders at the old ball game is a Norman Rockwell poster. The Chairman is at the game alright, in the corporate box. You’re the dude in the top row of the upper deck next to the scoreboard.
The disparity is obscene. A flippant fashion page in this month’s Vanity Fair offered up a pair of Dior slippers for a mere $6,400, or about 750 hours behind the grill at McDonald’s. What’s in-between is a shrinking middle class forced into a combative adversarial corner to fight for what’s left of the myth of democracy.
To the right are the obscenely rich and the seemingly oblivious descendants of Jefferson Davis and Scarlet O’Hara. To the left are Alexandria Ocasio–Cortez, blacks and browns, unions and people who still buy hard covered books. Two irreconcilable sides separated by an ideological moat.
There has been pigment added to the group photos of government officials and corporate boards, but the optics overall are cringeworthy. Mostly white men in their fifties and sixties enabled by centuries of male entitlement, sneering at the audacity of any challenge to their economic empires and privileged role as arbiters of morality. And equally horrifying, their cadres of craven, sycophant Bobbleheads nodding in approval as they wait in line for their turn to preside.
Where do these princes of privilege incubate? Read Caitlin Flanagan’s article in the April issue of The Atlantic and learn how their path to the throne is clearly marked, and make no mistake about it, they are the ruling class.
Compare your public high school to Phillips Exeter Academy, endowment $1.15 billion. Or Groton with bequests equal to $100,000 per student. Or Deerfield Academy, on a 330 acre campus comprised of athletic fields, tennis courts, a fitness center, and a 5,900-square-foot boathouse along the Connecticut River.
These are three of the elite prep schools that feed into the elite colleges. It comes as no surprise they overshadow their classmates when they get there. Rhodes Scholars, the prestigious Sachs Scholarships… just under fifty percent of the winners of academic awards were given to students attending private schools, leading to a grotesquely outsize role in determining who gets to claim a coveted spot in the winners’ circle in the race to the top.
The yearly tuition at Hamilton College where David Solomon, Chairman of Goldman Sachs graduated, is $72,390. Jeff Bezos graduated from Princeton University. Marc Zuckerberg and Bill Gates attended Harvard. You get the picture. Today the country is governed by a political/economic system that serves the need/greed of the one percent, the people who wield power and amass wealth. It’s undeniable; the wealthy and the so-called working class are living in different worlds.
Which brings us back to Wrigley, a microcosm of the America I’ve described, the air-conditioned corporate boxes separated from the sun-scorched bleachers.
The components are more sophisticated, but we are returning to the society of Medieval Europe, when serfs eked out a subsistence by cultivating a plot of land that was owned by a lord.
If there is hope for Americans to move forward together as a country, somewhere in the bog there is a leader who can articulate a cause, more like a crusade, that can rally the populace to join in a shared identity and a greater common good.
It sure as hell wasn’t Trump. He commandeered a coat of arms that British aristocracy had granted, and quickly replaced “Integritas,” the Latin word for integrity, with “Trump.”
Maybe it will be Joe Biden, the average Joe from Scranton, Pee-A, who will emerge as the man of the people.
And maybe Kyle Hendricks will pitch a no-hitter against the Pirates.