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updated: 2/7/2013 9:52 AM

Cubs-NU alliance leaves Illini, White Sox in its wake

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The Cubs-Northwestern partnership that was announced this week can't be good news for the White Sox and Illinois.

Not in the struggle for the hearts and minds of Chicago sports fans it can't be.

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The alliance is just another sign that the Cubs and NU are energetically and creatively operating 21st century businesses, while the Sox and Illini are stuck in the 20th century.

The Wildcats will play five football games at Wrigley Field that will be high visibility for the school, the ballpark and their brands.

So where does all this leave Illinois athletics in relation to Northwestern and the White Sox in relation to the Cubs? Maybe it's just me but Illinois looks like air to NU's wind and the Sox look like ice to the Cubs' rapids.

Recently the Ricketts ownership of the Cubs has been wheeling and dealing and moving and shaking and shaking and baking.

The family has plans to use its own money to renovate Wrigley Field and also is campaigning for more night games, street fairs and concerts.

The Sox' response pretty much is a new pricing structure to draw fans to Comiskey Park. If they have other innovations to market their ballclub and ballpark they need to publicize them better.

Oh, the Cubs also are proposing to build a hotel across from Wrigley. Heck, they might buy up the entire neighborhood and turn it into DisneyMidwest.

Meanwhile, the Sox still are fighting the exaggerated but persistent perception that the area around Comiskey Park isn't safe.

Until recently the Sox could rely on their ballpark to generate more revenue per customer than the Cubs' ballpark could.

But the Sox won't have that edge anymore if the Ricketts are successful in getting most of what they want in and around Wrigley Field.

The Sox benefited from Comiskey Park being more comfortable and with more modern conveniences than the Cubs could offer fans.

That advantage will dwindle if Wrigley Field is modernized with bigger concourses, cleaner restrooms and better food.

The Sox always figured baseball fans would come to watch them because they were division contenders. That belief imploded last season when the Sox led the AL Central most of the summer and attendance still didn't hit 2 million.

A recent ranking had the Cubs' farm system way ahead of the Sox', so what happens if that translates onto the field in a few years?

Meanwhile, Northwestern is more successful in football than Illinois, beat the Illini in basketball at Champaign and are living up to their boast as Chicago's Team.

Illinois administrators neglected this town for too long and let Northwestern get a foothold here. NU administrators advertise heavily locally in newspapers and the electronic media and on billboards. Wildcats athletic director Jim Phillips and football coach Pat Fitzgerald are eager interviews.

Northwestern football and basketball games are on powerhouse WGN radio. Illinois' are on ... uh, sorry, but I always forget where on the dial to find them.

Illinois, with the advantage of myriad more alumni around here, can counterpunch NU by winning more. However, its football and basketball programs are rebuilding.

Considering all this, you would think the Sox and Illinois would be the imagineers, but it's the Cubs and Northwestern that are.

This has been a Cubs town for a few decades, and lately NU has designs on that designation.

Now this Cubs-Northwestern partnership is like they're ganging up to run up the score on the Sox and Illinois.

mimrem@dailyherald.com

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