Monday, November 8, 2010

Good Thing Todd is Actual Family and Not Figurative Family

Last night, Undercover Boss provided some obvious comedy of watching Todd Ricketts suck at everything he attempted and then wrapped it all up by trying to induce tears.  It was typical reality television.  We all laugh at someone's misfortune or being in over their head and then we get some touching, well-edited moments that make us think.  At least, that is usually the goal.  Personally, I think Undercover Boss failed at the heart-warming moments as much as Todd failed at being competent in the slightest.

First, if you think I am exaggerating for the sake of humor about how inept Todd was in performing his duties, then you clearly did not watch the show.  There was almost nothing he didn't mess up in some way shape or form.  He did somehow manage to not accidentally kill anyone.

It wasn't even just the actual duties like "cleaning" the bathrooms with a fire hose and a squeegie (remind me to never, ever use Wrigley bathrooms again), making correct change while selling hot dogs (poorly), knowing what a straight line is while parking cars, or pulling a tarp and spreading drying agent on the field.

He was bad at picking a pseudonym for himself.  He went with Mark Dawson.  I'm guess that one just made the cut over Ernie Maddux and Harry Brickhouse.

He was bad at lying about what a crap job he was doing.  Twice.  First he tossed out the last four hot dogs in his bin because he couldn't sell them (he paid for them with his own $20) and then proceeded to stammer, sweat, and blush his way through an interrogation by his hot dog vendor mentor when confronted.

Then, after getting fired from practically every position he tried in five days, he went to a little round-up meeting with the other Ricketts siblings (whom the camera never caught laughing their asses off, but you know they were).  They asked him, "How'd it go?"  He responded that he thought it went "really well."  if getting fired from four out of five positions in five days is going "really well" then here are some other things that have also gone "really well":
  • JFK's trip to Dallas
  • Maiden voyage of the Titanic
  • Wile E. Coyote's use of any Acme product
  • Bay of Pigs Invasion
  • The 2010 Dallas Cowboys
  • Hawley-Smoot Tariff
  • Lindsay Lohan's rehab
  • 8th inning of Game Six in the 2003 NLCS
  • Invading Russia, ever
You get my point.  Did he not think they would eventually see the footage of him failing at everything?

The only thing at which he didn't fail miserably was his time sitting in the scoreboard and looking out at the game.  As far as I could tell, he didn't seem to make any glaring mistakes in there, but I seem to remember a game where the scoreboard showed the Cubs winning over the Pirates % to G, so who knows?  That was also the job where his actual Cub employee partner appeared to have just done all the work for him (he had already fired Todd once in the show).

So after all of the comedy and hijinx that made me realize even more that the franchise is run "really well," it was time to get to the heart-warming stuff.  Todd revealed himself to the guys who had been burdened with his fucking everything up and they all got some sort of reward.

The dude who showed him how to turn the fire hose on all the crusted urine and vomit gets swimming lessons for his daughter from (hopefully) someone other than Todd.

The hot dog vendor got the First Annual Wrigley Field Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence plaque, tickets to the last Cubs game of the year, and he got to throw out one of the 800 ceremonial first pitches before the game.  I probably would have given it to the guy who has to clean the bathrooms, but whatever.  Good for him.

The parking guy got a promise from Todd that he would write him a recommendation on Cubs letterhead to anywhere he applied for a new job and capped it by saying, "I'm trying to help you not come back."  I'm sure he meant well, but when the Cubs said that to Ryne Sandberg, he kept coming back.  He also gets a trailer to sit in if he returns in 2011.

The grounds crew guy now works in the Cubs marketing department, hopefully diligently telling anyone who will listen that "It's a Way of Life" is a sad joke.  His interview seemed to entail having a hot dog with Todd Ricketts, telling him he just finished his business degree, and he wants to work his way up with the Cubs, ideally.  Completely unrelated side note: I just finished my MBA, I love hot dogs, and I would also be glad to work my way up from the bottom.

Todd capped the show by gathering a bunch of Wrigley employees on the field and talking about how important families are and relating it to his own family, and realizing that the Wrigley workers were already a family before the Ricketts era. 

The Ricketts have talked a lot about families since taking over the Cubs.  At the Convention, they talked about how owning the Cubs would be a long-term family undertaking and they had plans to keep it in the family for years to come.  Tom Ricketts talked about the importance of families in his letter to the season ticket holders where he outlined plans to keep seating in the 500 level and deep in the corners under the upper deck at price points that families could afford (if they don't mind seeing games against the Nationals on Tuesday afternoons).

Now there was Todd crying on national TV because his eyes had been opened to the family of Wrigley Field workers.  It's a shame he didn't get a chance to work security in the bleachers or try to settle arguments between people who insist they are in the right seats when they aren't.  That would have been excellent television and I doubt it would have reinforces the "family" theme that the Ricketts have going and that can't have been an accident.

While it is no secret that "reality television" is noweher close to reality in any way, this particular episode seemed even more contrived than most.  I wonder why?

Check out Duk's post on Yahoo's Big League Ste!:  The Cubs are one big family (except for the people they're firing)

It mentions that in the days following the big group hug scene at Wrigley, four people in the marketing department were relieved of their jobs (Grounds Crew Joe has already moved up four spots!).  Then recently, the Cubs outsourced their Vineline publication and sent another few veteran Cubs' employees into the current wonderful job market.

I think Duk nails it at the end of his post:

Look, I understand the realities of an ownership change in any business. The new guys are always going to want "their" guys and that seems apparent in the front office moves that Hayward is making right now. It's their business, it's their right.

That said, don't make the hypocritical move of going on TV to glom more manufactured attention for your family — after initially pledging you were going to be simple, behind-the-scenes owners — when you're going to just turn around and send a bunch of people out into this economy in the days and weeks after.

Meanwhile, Todd should be glad he is actually related to the Ricketts.  His "job" is pretty safe and he seems to be doing "really well."

For more takes on the Undercover Boss episode from the Cubs blogosphere:


Adam said...

The thing everyone seems to be forgetting is that being in a reality show where he can see if he can cut it at various jobs at Wrigley was only Todd's cover--it wasn't the point of the exercise. The point was to see how various employees did their jobs and to get their perspective. Todd's actual performance in those roles was a total sideshow. I liked the reactions it brought out in his supervisors. I liked that the facilities/scoreboard guy fired him and that the hot dog vendor called him out on his lie. The grounds crew/marketing guy was a bit of a yawn, but he only landed a paid internship out of the deal.

In working with HR departments before, I know that they HATE when higher ups refer to the business as a family because their job requires them to treat people in not-so-familial ways. The thing is, all employees understand this. Everyone can distinguish between family BS put out there by management and actual family. No one's putting their co-workers in their wills or sharing each other's health-insurance policies.

Besides, the people who got fired were the ones responsible for "It's a Way of Life." They had to know by mid-April that their days were numbered.

Aisle 424 said...

I don't think the employees believe they are going to be treated like they are actually family members, but all of this is a schtick to sell the "Wrigley Experience" to dipshit fans who buy into this stuff (see Al's BCB post).

I'm tired of the Cubs selling the experience and the family and whatever nonsense they peddle in a justification of their insanely out-of-whack pricing structure. I'm tired of everybody falling for it.

I'm tired of millions of paying customers packing that park and sitting on a waiting list to hand over ever-increasing chunks of money for a team that doesn't ever win anything, and doesn't even come close that often.

The day the Cubs start acting like a major-league franchise on the field, they can do whatever cheap marketing ploys thay want to sell tickets. Until then, they are pulling bait-and-switch on their fans.

Adam said...

Al's post was funny, especially the inexplicable picture of Todd's crotch. But I don't see a connection between selling the Wrigley experience and doing that show. I think it's much more about pulling the bait-and-switch on the employees, which is standard practice for 99% of the companies I've ever heard of. That Al was able to conclude from a feel-good employee appreciation function that the Cubs are on the path to winning boggles my mind, but he has got to be the exception.

Aisle 424 said...

I wish he was the exception. The fans see how the Ricketts want to foster the magic and aura of Wrigley Field by throwing all this "We Are Family" nonsense around and see the Ricketts as good and righteous, so that when they say they are also trying to win a World Series, everyone will believe them.

They'll believe it despite there being no evidence that they are doing anything but putting together a mediocre team and hoping that the NL Central never really becomes a powerhouse like the AL East and that they can occasionally luck into contention.

Aisle 424 said...

And yes, I have no idea why he would take or post a picture of Todd's junk.

Anonymous said...

i don't bother with much of anything cubs these days. glad to see i ain't missing anything.

Aisle 424 said...

It's like a trainwreck at this point, it's impossible to look away.

Kin said...

I am in favor of Ryne Sandberg on ESPN Baseball Tonight.

Kin said...

I guess I am also in favor of Ryne Sandberg taking over Philly's AAA team and eventually taking over for Charlie Manuel.

Bob said...

Here's an idea, rename your blog Jaded & Cynical Crap from Aisle 424.

All I can say is that I'm glad you followed through & actually canceled your tickets. One less thing for you to whine about.

Aisle 424 said...

Bob, with the Cubs there will ALWAYS be something for me to whine about. Thanks for reading!

Kris said...

I find it funny that "Bob" is calling you out for being cynical, when he's the angriest part of this post! What's got your tighties in a bind "Bob"?
I do enjoy reading the other, more insightful comments.

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