An Open Letter To Bill Murray
First of all, sincere congratulations on the arc of your wildly successful film career. You have not only made a success of yourself in Hollywood--which, let's face it, Rob Schneider and Adam Sandler have proven doesn't necessarily require any particular skill or talent to accomplish-- but your evolution as an actor has a uniqueness that I'm not sure has ever been matched. Early on, you delighted this 7 year old kid with your star turn in "Meatballs". Shortly after "Meatballs", you did two films that have stood up as timeless comedies, "Caddyshack" and "Stripes". "Ghostbusters" made you rich beyond your wildest dreams, and you have been able to pick and choose your work since then. As a result, you have proven yourself a true craftsman. Rather than resort to tired crap just because it represented the path of least resistance, you have done some serious quality. Your turn as Ernie McCracken in "Kingpin" was sublime. And your work in the Wes Anderson's films, "Rushmore" "The Royal Tennenbaums" and "Life Aquatic" (which I feel is one of your best, and most underappreciated roles) have cemented yourself as something waaaay more than just some sort of deadpan comic actor. Jim Jarmusch's "Coffee and Cigarettes". Hell, you even did Shakespeare, with your turn as Polonius in "Hamlet". Finally, you earned an Oscar nomination--something that I'm sure few people expected back in 1978--with your incredibly nuanced role in "Lost in Translation". For good measure, you did an equally nuanced--although not as recognized-- role in "Broken Flowers" from which one of your fellow Chicagoans, Roger Ebert, ascribed this uniqueness which I earlier described as unmatched.
Some actors give the kinds of performances where we want to get out of the room, stand on the lawn and watch them through a window. Murray has the uncanny ability to invite us into his performance, into his stillness and sadness. I don't know how he does it. A Bill Murray imitation would be a pitiful sight: Passive immobility, small gestures of the eyes, enigmatic comments, yes, those would be easy, but how does he suggest the low tones of crashing chaotic uncertainty?
I remember reading, a few years back, that Bill Veeck's outstanding autobiography "Veeck as in Wreck" (written with Ed Linn) was rumored to be made into a film. Further, talk was that you would play the role of the maverick Veeck, another fellow Chicagoan who, though dead for twenty years, is, as I'm sure you know, a link to the last true Golden Age of the Cubs. The prospect of playing such a role must be an enticing one for you, I'm sure. For all I know, it could still happen.
I can see why this role would be enticing for you. I remember hearing once that your son's name is Homer Banks, as that was what what you saw in the papers everyday in the box score when you were a kid. Even though I was actually in attendance at the game you broadcast in lieu of Harry Caray in '87, I saw a tape of the game later, and you proved yourself as someone who knew what the hell he was talking about. You knew Tim Wallach was a Cub-killer and therefore took the liberty of openly rooting for Wallach to fall down the dugout steps while attempting to catch a pop-up.
Your love of the Cubs is genuine. Furthermore, unlike many of your fellow Chicago expatriates living in Hollywood, you rarely prostitute yourself about this. Let Dennis Farina talk about "we" on HBO while giving credence to a stupid, media-driven curse. Let Jeff Garlin let an absentminded, thoughtless poor excuse for a Cub fan off the hook for screwing things up. Let William Petersen narrate all of the pithy documentaries about the Cubs.
In the last fifteen years, in fact, being a Cubs fan has somehow seemed to have become tres chic, which is probably why you are nowhere to be found. Sure, you followed through on your promise in 1998 to only sing "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" when the Cubs made the playoffs when you sang during the one-game playoff against San Francisco later that year (as well as an Opening Day here or there afterwards), but for the most part we don't see you beating your chest, letting everyone know that you're such a big Cubs fan.
Which tells me that you're as fed up as the rest of us. I suspect that, unlike a lot of people, you don't think what has gone on with this shambles of a ballclub is cute. Or lovable. Or that it's somehow neat to root for a team that has sent generation after generation of people to their graves withour rewarding them, and will currently refuse to manage their club in a proactive manner so long as their ballpark is full.
Tell me I'm wrong, Bill. Tell me I'm wrong.
But I wouldn't believe you.
Here' my plea to you, Bill--and I'd be surprised if this thought hasn't rattled around your strange but brilliant mind: round up some of the high roller producers in Hollywood, pitch in about $80 million of your own cash, and buy this flippin' team from Tribune Corporation.
I know you could do it, Bill, because it's something you'd want to do.
I'm certain that, being the high-minded Cub fan that you are, you're aware of the story of Bill Veeck's father, Bill Veeck Sr. A sportswriter in the early 1920's, Veeck had written harshly of the Cubs' organization. Lacking the insecurity that riddles the current Cubs administration--like when Andy MacPhail publicly berated Tribune beat reporter Paul Sullivan for being less than bootlickish--owner William Wrigley Jr. turned to Veeck and asked, simply, "If you think it's so easy, then why don't you give it a shot?"
Veeck answered Wrigley's challenge, accepted the role of Cubs' General manager, and four pennants in the next ten years later, proved that you don't need to be part of a good ole' boys network to succeed in baseball management.
Not that I'm suggesting you actually run the team. We'll leave that to Billy Beane, or whomever else you'd feel fit to hire. But this needs to be done. How many more seasons do we have to suffer through, bearing the considerable weight of not only our own torment, but that of our parents and grandparents and, in many cases, great-grandparents as well? Many people like to joke that the Cubs are planning to go an entire century without a title. However, the way things are going, it's hard to see them winning after 101 years, 102 years etc., either. 100 is just a number anyway. Who's to say any of us will ever see this team in the World Series? Ever?
I've already decided that if the Cubs show no promise of turning things around in the next couple years, that I will break this vicious cycle and raise my infant daughter to cheer on some other ballclub or, at the least, refrain from indoctrinating her into this sado-masochism. Like yet another great Chicagoan, the late, great Mike Royko, who felt guilty at having raised his kids as Cubs fans, I suspect you've had days when you felt bad about raising your kids similarly.
Suffering's good for the soul, but being kicked in the groin, repeatedly, by an indifferent, PR-conscious media conglomerate is not good for anyone's soul.
That's why it's time one of us takes this team back. And Bill, you're just the guy to do it. Call up Spielberg, the Weinstein brothers. You know people with money. I mean, sheesh--you've only been in Hollywood for three decades. Put in your own considerable 10% in and be the face of the franchise. Shoot, get some of your brothers to pitch in. Hell, you could collect $1,000 from 10,000 Cubs fans. That's 10 mildo right there. Regular schmucks like me can find a grand to pitch in and stake a claim to a share, I assure you. Even if you weren't a die-hard, it'd be a good investment--Tribune will sell this team for possibly as much as twenty-five times what they paid for it merely twenty-five years ago, so your investment will only appreciate.
In the meantime, get rid of these bums that choose profit over winning, and let's end this thing. Seventy-five years of inept PK Wrigley/Chicago Tribune ownership is enough. You're one of us, Bill, but with the ability to get something done that we've all been waiting our entire lives to get done.
Bill Murray, Cub nation turns its bleeding eyes to you, sir.