Sure quickens the pulse to hear that wannabe Cubs owner Mark Cuban will be Dancing with the Stars next season. How nice. While his next team is in the thick of a division crawl, the Dallas Mavericks honcho can prepare for Melanie “Scary Spice” Brown, Helio Castroneves, Marie Osmond and the rest of the competition. Now tell me, Cubs fans, is that the billionaire you want to own your ballclub for years to come?
Sure quickens the pulse to hear that wannabe Cubs owner Mark Cuban will be Dancing with the Stars next season. How nice. While his next team is in the thick of a division crawl, the Dallas Mavericks honcho can prepare for Melanie “Scary Spice” Brown, Helio Castroneves, Marie Osmond and the rest of the competition. Now tell me, Cubs fans, is that the billionaire you want to own your ballclub for years to come? Or would you rather have the Chicago guy, the one who grew up at Kedzie and Lawrence, rode the streetcar with his father to Wrigley Field more times than he can remember, jokes “too long” when asked how long he has bled blue and had one major concern Wednesday night -- the Milwaukee Brewers-Cubs score? That would be Wolves owner Don Levin, of course. “Mark Cuban is a great guy, but is he a Chicago guy? No,” Levin told me in a telephone conversation. “Should the Cubs be sold to him? In my opinion, no. But that doesn’t mean it won’t happen or that he wouldn’t turn out to be a better owner than the rest of us.” You see, that’s what separates Levin from the rest. To fix the Cubs in the future, the next owner has to understand why they broke so many times in the past. As one who has lived and mostly died with the team all these years, Levin is the only known candidate who has been as successful as a local sports owner as he has been frustrated as a local sports fan. Among those who have a spare $600 million or so, anyway. “Yeah, absolutely it’s important to have local ownership if at all possible,” Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. “Most successful franchises have local owners. They know the team and the fans and the city. They take a lot of pride in a job well done.” Word is, the next owner may not be in place for as many as eight months, but Cuban seems to be the chic pick for now. Personally, I like the guy even if the volume is a bit loud at times. Every team owner should have his passion and determination and guts to speak his mind. The bland, old game of baseball could use some fresh ideas. “Mark is very successful,” Levin said. “Maybe a lot of us should want to be Mark Cuban.” Just not as Cubs owner, that’s all. Cuban deserves major points for the way he turned around a sorry NBA team in a matter of years, but basketball isn’t baseball. In the NBA, one player can make or break the franchise. In MLB, there are farm systems but no quick fixes. If a frustrated Cuban didn’t get immediate results here -- these are the Cubs, remember -- would he go young Steinbrenner on us and double the payroll? Then what -- $250 bleacher tickets? Would he sit within earshot of the players and managers and second-guess their moves, charge onto the field after blown calls? If Cuban wants another dance partner, then he can look no further than Pittsburgh, where he was born. Inject some life and resources into the Pirates team he worshipped as a kid, give it an image makeover, and baseball would have one less hopeless franchise on its hands. If ever two were meant to tango, then Cuban and The Burgh are the ones. Don’t mistake that for a guarantee Levin would do what no Cubs owner has done in 98-plus years here. As even he admits, three league championships in what amounts to Triple-A hockey doesn’t necessarily translate into the same in Major League Baseball. The last time I checked, the Grand Rapids Griffins aren’t on the Cubs schedule, although they probably could finish third in the Central Division, if you want to know the truth. Still, when you consider how Levin has turned the fan-friendly Wolves into perennial winners, not to mention one of the best entertainment values around, it’s hard to deny the guy knows what local sports die-hards want and how to deliver it. “There is no better organization in pro sports than this one,” Wolves veteran Rob Brown once told me. “I’ve been with five NHL teams, and they’re not run this way. And that’s why they don’t win. We’re treated like people, not like what-have-you-done-for-us-latelys.” A number of big-league teams could use a hands-on guy to turn them around. Given all their advantages, the Cubs aren’t one of them. They need someone who will delegate authority to baseball people with proven track records, provide a low-nine-figure payroll to work with, offer some creative advice, then get the heck out of the way. For the most part, that’s the way Levin has done business in the past 13 years. "I’m absolutely interested in the team,” said Levin, 59, who resides in Highland Park now. “I won’t buy it to lose money, but I’m prepared to pay a price that will allow me to break even. The idea isn’t to be a vulture and gouge the fans but to do whatever it takes within reason to have a successful sports franchise here.” Scary Spice can wait. If you’re the Cubs, better to align the stars than dance with them. Daily Southtown Paul Ladewski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.