Jim O’Donnell: If Reinsdorf’s initial $1 billion stadium gambit fails, why not a telethon?

JERRY REINSDORF CELEBRATES his 88th birthday Sunday and there's still no report that his autobiography is in the works.

Since Alice Cooper long ago took “Billion Dollar Babies,” a grand title for the definitive book on Chair Jer' might be, “The Naked Capitalist: Brooklyn Knows the Charmer Under Me.”

(Deepest Steely Dan fans, relax — derivation and tweak acknowledged.)

As anyone who deigns to know already knows, Reinsdorf is in the midst of phase one of a campaign to make the public aware that he wants its money to keep his woeful White Sox playing in some sort of civic-sponsored tax haven north of Nashville.

HE'S HAD A COUPLE OF DOWNTOWN LAPDOG media groups running interference for him and that's helped. In 43 years of calling the MLB shots on the South Side, he has grown supremely adept at identifying pliable faux journalistic types and using them as needed.

It's all about leverage. It's all about audacity. It's all about operating in a state, city and region where taxpayers are long accustomed to putting up with whatever they are billed to put up with.

There is a sneaking suspicion that he knows the times are wrong and the payday economic climate too frigid for his first thrust. Even the weak defensive line corded from Gov. J.B. Pritzker to fast-fraying Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson can presumably hold against such blatant nonsense.

And it's also not 1988. That was when his longtime chum Jim Thompson — the Richard Nixon/John Mitchell U.S. Justice Department alum — was in the midst of his imperial 14-year run as governor of Illinois.

THOMPSON GOT REINSDORF his free ballpark down on West 35th Street. An outraged public might have generated enough pushback to prevent that enduring governance gaffe, but the disconnected never try … do they?

So if Reinsdorf doesn't get his $1 billion — or $400 million, or whatever the sum du jour is — what can The Chairman do?

He could easily generate private financing for a new field of schemes, but that's so common. That's for rich rubes from Nebraska trying to remake both a neighborhood and a ballclub's upward trajectory on Chicago's North Side.

So how about an old-fashioned telethon?

Nineteens hours of uninterrupted, overnight programming with a singular eye toward getting Jerry Reinsdorf and associates all the free public money they want to make themselves richer.

CERTAINLY IT'S BORROWING from the late Jerry Lewis, but so what?

Strong opening, compelling wee-hours programming, timpani rolls and new totes throughout.

Surprise drop-ins — Jim Gaffigan, Jenny McCarthy, Mr. T, Joe Flaherty's Guy Caballero. The Guillen Family Singers performing their evocative medley “Venezuelan Sunsets.” Forgotten mascots Ribbie and Roobarb. Scott Podsednik actually wearing socks on camera.

Michael Jordan, in support, having his people A.I. in fresh audio to his lips moving during that phony-baloney video he sent to the Bulls' “Ring of Honor” disaster last month.

And then, a grand finale to complete the hot-pockets initiative — Steve Stone singing, “You'll Never Finance Alone” toward a watery-eyed Reinsdorf.



But is it any more tone-deaf than The Chairman's current overture to a cash-strapped and crises-laden state of Illinois?

Still, there's no question that Springfield is becoming reacquainted with the charmer under him.


Marvelous moment for Craig Karmazin and his drifting lifeboaters at AM-1000: Since the station no longer subscribes to the Nielsen Audios, it's not listed in the February report released this week. That means the fading outlet is all but invisible to many ad agencies. That also means that Danny Parkins and mates at WSCR-AM (670) had their best book in months. …

Intriguing chatter from second-tier University of Illinois men's basketball influencers about a possible move to try and land T.J. Otzelberger. The Iowa State head coach has the same class, smarts and poise as Bruce Weber. Otzelberger bumping Brad Underwood would be a huge win for The Orange Krush and the image of the university. …

The Big Ten and broadcast rum-dums once again bury Caitlin Clark and No. 4 Iowa on Peacock tonight, this time at No. 14 Indiana (7 p.m.). Do they understand the phrase “generational phenomenon” or do they just want to continue to treat even prominent women student-athletes as second-class citizens? …

Wiggly reality: With or without Cody Bellinger, the Cubs draw no fewer than 2.6M this season and finish as one of MLB's most profitable organizations. Good weather in April and contention deep into September push them over 3M. Fewest games announced as possible by Jim Deshaies helps lift the team's monotonous Marquee Sports Network out of its ongoing doldrums. …

And basketball purist Greg Rains, on that 211-186 final in the lightly viewed NBA All-Star game Sunday night: “Were they playing Pop-a-Shot at The South Indy Bar and Grill?”

Jim O'Donnell's Sports and Media column appears each week on Sunday and Thursday. Reach him at All communications may be considered for publication.

Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.