By Tim Baffoe-
(CBS) Here’s how to serve a meal to the gullible that looks fantastic, probably tastes pretty good and is likely to give you botulism.
Take one part monolithic sports league with a sprinkling of all the rats behinds it gives about anything but its own ability to profit and juggernaut its way through bad press. Mix in a city so infamous for nefarious politics that meals at swanky restaurants downtown might as well literally be served under the table to accommodate the action. Glaze it all over with some fancy marketing and PR. Then spoon it in generous helpings into troughs of a public’s willful ignorance when it comes to the pageantry and reality-show structuring of a human selection show that fuels a country’s national religion.
That is the recipe for the 2015 NFL Draft to be held here in Chicago from April 30-May 2. And with some ingredients that probably wouldn’t pass FDA inspection in league commissioner Roger Goodell, Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel and a questionable nonprofit, what Chicagoans are being fed doesn’t seem as good for them as the packaging suggests.
The Chicago Tribune published details Friday of what the NFL wants from the city and how Chicago plans to roll out the red carpet for the ginger commish and crew in April. Reading it all makes one pretty uncomfortable about what is going to happen here for three weeks of weirdness and beyond.
If it wasn’t evident by actually paying attention to the way the NFL treats charitable and social awareness causes like breast cancer and more recently domestic violence, it doesn’t particularly care about anything but itself and its existence as a reverse ATM. It’s no surprise then that come April, the league plans on acting like the pushy fat guy on public transportation with no consideration for your space.
“The NFL made dozens of costly requests and asked to not pay for almost any of them,” the Tribune reported.
What the league is asking for (see: demanding, because it’s the damn NFL) includes:
— Stopping traffic around Grant Park and Congress Plaza for nearly three weeks. Because that won’t be crippling and infuriating for Chicagoans.
— Free parking basically everywhere for everyone involved in the draft and free internet and free use of Roosevelt University. Football. America. Freedom.
— Using cops and other “resources” to fend off anyone not affiliated with the draft trying to make a buck. In April as spring is in full swing, of course, cops aren’t as important in Chicago anyway.
— Lots of outdoor space for a “village” to appease sponsors and set up youth clinics/indoctrination camps.
— Promotional material and signage worth at least $4 million.
Jeez, to those of us who couldn’t care less about having a showcase for commodifying human beings in our backyard, that all sounds horribly inconvenient. And expensive.
But fear not! Choose Chicago’s got this. That’s the nonprofit tourism agency organizing the event along with the NFL. Choose Chicago has promised to foot the bill for everything. So that’s cool.
Except from where does Choose Chicago get its money? Sponsors and donations, it claims. OK. But knowing Mayor Emanuel and how he went about the wildly successful new DePaul basketball arena thing that surely is going to be built eventually, there’s likely going to be cash being moved around in a shell game that usually involves TIF money (that could go to education and other unimportant stuff for people who live in the city longer than three weeks) with Choose Chicago as a front.
“Three years ago,” the Tribune reported, “Mayor Rahm Emanuel closed the city’s tourism department and transferred duties to the tourism bureau, whose budget now comes mostly from government grants.”
This all isn’t surprising when dealing with the NFL, which is a shady nonprofit itself that’s swollen with billions in unprofitable cash annually. Not to worry, though, says Choose Chicago CEO Don Welsh.
“This probably is going to wind up being one the best events for the city of Chicago,” he told the Tribune. “It’s probably one the best, most fair negotiated agreements that I’ve been part of.”
As everybody knows, when somebody goes out of his way to tell you how fair something was done, it probably totally was. And since nonprofits aren’t legally required to be all that transparent about their money, I’m sure the guy in charge of it is being straight with us. Welsh also assures the concerned that no cost to Chicagoans’ pockets will come from hosting what is essentially a tinier version of an Olympics, and those are always good for a host city.
The aroma is already wafting through the city. What’s being cooked up by chefs Emanuel and Goodell is full of a lot of artificial colors and flavors like construction jobs, tourism and economic growth. Teaching kids about exercising and playing with their heads up and ignoring information of the adverse effects of football. And young men in bad suits tearfully hugging loved ones.
This meal is going to be served steaming with the hot air of those smiling and telling us how nourishing it will be for Chicago. But for some reason I worry we’re going to feel sick a little while after if we swallow it down.
Follow Tim on Twitter @TimBaffoe.