An Open Letter to Rick Telander

I try not to read the Chicago Sun-Times, I really do. But just like a late-night cable airing of Road House or a viral epic fail video, I just can’t seem to look away once my interest has been piqued. Such was the case when I was made aware of Rick Telander’s recent column titled “Not buying Cubs, Theo’s song and dance.

Not only did it stand in stark contrast to my own views on Epstein’s press conference, but I took umbrage with some of the content therein that appeared to be directed toward members of the general and non-credentialed public rather than solely the Cubs organization and/or management.

I actually feel pretty conflicted about even linking back to the piece, since I’d prefer not to provide it with any more views, paltry though my influence may be. At the same time, I subscribe to Sun Tzu’s concept that one should know thy enemy. And if “enemy” seems like a bit too strong a title, that’s exactly what Telander became after firing shots across the respective bows of any Cubs blogger or fan who supports the team’s strategy.

So while I doubt he’ll ever read it, and doubt even more that if he did read it he’d ever admit to doing so, I wanted to type up a quick letter to him to share my thoughts.

Dear Rick,

I hope you don’t mind that I call you Rick, despite the fact that we’ve never met and probably never will. I just don’t feel that I can accord you the respect of addressing you as Mr. Telander. I suppose that means I shouldn’t have included “Dear” in the salutation either, but, letter-writing purist that I am, tradition got the best of me there.

You don’t know me, but you referred to me just the same in your spiteful and hackneyed diatribe on Tuesday. I am one of those dirt-gorging amoebas who, like all Cubs fans, will swallow anything. I’m a smarter-than-anyone houseboy, a sobriquet that seems more insensitive epithet than innocent nickname (particularly given the demographics of the neighborhoods near Wrigley).

But make no mistake, Rick, I don’t think everyone else is dumb, yourself included. Shortsighted, obtuse and intractable maybe, but not dumb.

As I sit here and peep from my brown b(l)og, I can only imagine that you were referring to those of my ilk when you pounded out those images with all the delicacy and subtlety of a sledgehammer on a tin roof. Oh, would that I were a frog, living fat and happy in my marsh full of columnists-turned-flies, particularly those silly enough to buzz a bit too low while buzzed on a gazillionth of an ounce of Old Style.

I get it though. I understand your need to irritate and antagonize. I mean, no one actually enjoys a hemorrhoid, but they’re pretty damn unavoidable aren’t they? So in that swollen and inflamed vein, you’ve done your job quite well. You got me to not only read your column, but to write one of my own in response, actually linking back to yours. Genius!

But maybe you weren’t referring to bloggers when you wrote about Jonestown-party-juice drinking automatons who do little else but tout the stats of AAA “guppies” while reciting the Gospel According to Theo from atop virtual soapboxes. Perhaps you’re not at all worried that you’re losing some of your readership to those of us who cover the Cubs for less (read: no) pay and fewer resources.

I’m sure there are plenty of folks out there who enjoying opening the paper in order to wash down their breakfast with a few healthy gulps of self-righteous vitriol. And that’s all well and good, but I prefer to get my bitterness in the forms of a morning coffee and an evening IPA, thank you very much.

As someone who’s insulted his (relatively small) audience in the past, I can tell you that there’s nothing to be gained from it, a fact of which you’re no doubt already aware. Call out a team or an executive all you want; that’s your job, right? But going after bloggers and fans looks to me like a pathetically transparent attempt to recapture readers/viewers by any means necessary.

And dammit if it didn’t work, because here I here I sit, reading your column again and again. Good publicity, bad publicity, just spell my name right, huh? In that case, I should’ve typed “Tellander” in the headline. I just wanted you to know that we can see exactly what you’re doing, Rick. We can see it because we don’t share your myopic vision of the team we write about and follow, even if are at times a bit jaded in our own way.

But don’t you go changing just for me. I’m sure the Sun-Times is doing fine in this era of evolving media coverage, one in which far more people are turning to alternative outlets for their news and information. Given CST’s fair and balanced coverage of the Cubs, I have no doubt that you and your colleagues will be safe well into the future.

Most browsers don’t support it, so I’ll just come right out and tell you: those last couple sentences were meant to be in sarcasm font.

In the future, it might behoove you to dial back the thinly-veiled attacks on bloggers and fanboys; our voices may be small but they are also many. I understand that columnists are paid to provide their opinions, but those views are only valid so long as they’re shared by someone who maintains a modicum of respect. With this piece, I think you’ve delved a bit too far into the absurd; you’re becoming a caricature of yourself.

It’s sad, really, that you’ve resorted to this. But I suppose I’ll go ahead and take it as a compliment on behalf of all my fellow bog-dwelling, dirt-gorging, Theo-loving n’er-do-wells. After all, you wouldn’t be scared of us if we weren’t doing something right. So for that, I thank you.

That said, I am going to have to stop reading your work moving forward. And while that essentially amounts to a change in roughly only 10 minutes of my average year, I simply can’t, in good conscience, support you in any manner. It’s not me, it’s you. I would, however, like offer just one piece of friendly advice in closing: you need a shower, Rick; desperation is a stinky cologne.


D. Evan Altman

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