Cheer the Cubs, boo the aldermen

Thank you for registering for the chance to purchase tickets to Cubs 2016 postseason games to be played at Wrigley Field. Unfortunately, your entry was not selected in this random drawing for World Series tickets.

More than a million Cubs fans clicked on that email on Monday and mumbled "rats." Or something less printable.

About the same time, Chicago aldermen learned that they were out of luck, too. The Cubs had withdrawn an offer to sell them World Series tickets at face value.

The difference between aldermen and everyone else is that the aldermen didn't have to enter a lottery for a chance to buy those tickets. It comes with the job. Or it did, until the Chicago Board of Ethics recognized this perk as a blatant conflict of interest.

Since 2003, city, state and federal officials have been invited to buy tickets at face value to all playoff games at Wrigley Field. All they had to do was show their clout card.

In the early rounds of this post-season, some 70 percent of Chicago aldermen — and 85 percent of Chicago's state lawmakers and members of Congress — took advantage of the offer. So did Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Gov. Bruce Rauner. Season ticket holders and team affiliates also pay face value, as do the unspecified thousands of lucky Cubs fans drawn from among the millions who enter the Cubs lottery. For everyone else, there's StubHub.

With the Cubs playing deep into October, tickets are worth thousands of dollars more than the original price. On Tuesday, online scalpers were getting an average of $7,200 for tickets to World Series Games 3, 4 and 5 at Wrigley Field this weekend.

Elected officials in Chicago aren't allowed to accept gifts worth more than $50. Buying playoff tickets at face value violates that ban, the Board of Ethics said, unless the elected official performs some kind of ceremonial duty, like throwing out the first pitch. Keeping a seat warm doesn't count.

Aldermen profess to see no big deal here. Yes, they vote on all sorts of matters involving the Cubs, such as the $575 million renovation project in and around Wrigley Field. But no, they insist, their votes can't be swayed by the team's generosity.

Really? Not long ago, Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts wanted permission to serve alcohol until 11 p.m. — midnight on weekends — at a new plaza outside the ballpark. Neighbors worried that it would create "the Midwest's largest beer garden," and the City Council instead approved a much more limited plan. The probability that Ricketts will be back for another try — can you blame him? — should have been reason enough for aldermen to take a pass on those once-in-a-lifetime tickets. But they couldn't resist.

Even before the Board of Ethics weighed in and the Cubs rescinded their offer, aldermen were complaining bitterly about being called out over the perk. Talk about tone deaf. They weren't accepting an improper gift; they were supporting our team. They were representing their wards at the games.

News stories that called attention to the ticket deal were a distraction from the Cubs' glorious march to the World Series — as if taking notice of aldermanic opportunism somehow takes away from the team's on-field heroics.

Chicagoans ought to be singing "Go Cubs Go" instead of lighting up social media with angry comments about the entitled behavior of their elected representatives.

The truth is that it's possible to cheer for the Cubs and to boo your alderman at the same time. In many wards right now, it's kind of hard not to.

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