February 14, 2019

Sure, it’s easy now, with snow on the ground, the ivy in hibernation and opening day nearly six weeks off, to forswear the Cubs.

There are no stats and standings to avoid, no game updates to ignore on my phone, no tempting ticket offers from friends to decline.

The winter of my discontent may well become the spring and summer of my irresistible yearning.

But as of today, I’m done. I’m renouncing my more than 30-year allegiance to the Cubs in the wake of Wednesday’s news reports that nearly all the team’s games will move in 2020 to a proprietary cable/satellite channel estimated to cost subscribers an extra $5 a month.

That’s only about 50 cents a game if you divide the yearly cost by the number of games, a minor indulgence as luxuries go. But the proposed Marquee Sports Network will be part of Sinclair Broadcast Group, a rabidly right-wing media company, and this news comes after a series of off-field events that have made the franchise decidedly less lovable than back when the Cubs were our town’s “lovable losers.”

In 2016 the Cubs traded for relief pitcher Aroldis Chapman, who earlier that season had served a 30-game suspension for allegedly shoving and choking his girlfriend, then firing a gun eight times in the garage of his home.

That same year, the Ricketts family, which owns the Cubs, contributed $1.25 million to Future 45, a super PAC aimed at electing Republican Donald Trump president.

Last year, the Cubs traded for Daniel Murphy, who had angered the LGBTQ community by saying of a gay MLB employee, “I disagree with his lifestyle. I do disagree with the fact he is homosexual.” When reporters asked him what he would say to gay fans who said they would no longer back the team, Murphy said simply, “Oh, dear. I would hope that you would root for the Cubs.”

For the 2019 season, the team has invited shortstop Addison Russell to training camp even though he is still serving a suspension based on an accusation by his ex-wife that he physically and emotionally abused her during their two-year marriage.

On Feb. 4, the website Splinter published a raft of vile, racist emails sent and received by Joe Ricketts, the main money man behind the family’s 2009 purchase of the Cubs. Although the 77-year-old patriarch is not involved in operating the team and members of management forcefully distanced themselves from his remarks, his stench lingers.

Also earlier this month, the Republican National Committee announced that team co-owner Todd Ricketts will lead the fundraising operation for Trump’s re-election campaign.

Currently, Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts is trying to oust incumbent veteran 44th Ward Ald. Tom Tunney, who has acted as a check on the team’s attempts to transform Wrigleyville, by funding the campaign of challenger Elizabeth Shydlowski to the tune of $10,000.

And yeah, I know. It’s a business. Owners want to win and they want to make the most money possible. The process is not always pretty.

But being a fan is a passion. Fans want to feel good about their chosen franchise, all things considered. And it’s become really hard to feel good about the Cubs.

I’ve already switched my allegiance once — in the mid-1980s, when I became indifferent to the Detroit Tigers, the team of my childhood, and adopted the Cubs, the team of most of my Chicago friends and neighbors.

Can I do it again? The White Sox are an easy trip on the CTA from my home on the Northwest Side. The stadium — I’m told veteran fans refer to “Sox Park” and not the name of the mortgage company that now owns naming rights — is pretty, modern and serves good food, and owner Jerry Reinsdorf has been comparatively bipartisan in making political donations.

Part of the reason I didn’t become a Sox fan when I moved to Chicago in the early 1980s was the team’s annoying foray into SportsVision, a subscription TV service that asked Sox fans to pay for what Cubs fans were getting free. It was easier and cheaper to follow the Cubs.

Longtime local baseball fans and new arrivals may have the same experience in reverse once most Cubs games are on the Marquee Sports Network — a channel that cable and satellite services may have trouble forcing into conventional packages given that we Sox fans in particular will chafe at paying extra for it.

Many fans of the Los Angeles Dodgers have been shut out of similarly proprietary telecasts in LA as cable and satellite companies have balked at the added freight.

My former colleague Ed Sherman, a sportswriter who has taught business of sports media at the University of Illinois, said he doesn’t expect that to happen here. “The following for the Cubs in Chicago is light years more passionate than it is for the Dodgers in Los Angeles, where so many people aren’t from Los Angeles,” he said in an email. “There would be a considerable backlash to any distributor that doesn’t carry the Cubs network. They would lose subscribers.”

Most Sox games are on cable, too, but on established multi-sport channels.

The White Sox bandwagon is rickety and in need of repair and rebuilding, and old habits are hard to break, but I’m going to try to jump aboard.

And if it’s still part of the Sox fans’ ritual, I’ll sing to the Cubs, “Na na na na, na na na na, hey, hey, goodbye.”