Forgive a native Chicagoan for a moment here, but I have to shed a virtual tear as I contemplate the renaming of another Chicago institution - the Sears Tower will be known some time soon as the Willis Tower. Far away from home as I am, I couldn't help but perking up when I learned this news this morning.
First they came for Comiskey Park, home of the White Sox on the South Side, and renamed it U.S. Cellular Field.
Then those cretins at Federated Department Stores, a.k.a the Macy's Group, just had to mess with a century of history and commerce, and transform our venerable downtown department store Marshall Field's into a Macy's, just like you'd find anywhere else.
Now the Sears Tower is Willis Tower. Great.
Next up, I imagine, Wrigley Field, owned by the ailing Tribune Company, will get sold to the Scheinhardt Wig Company and re-christened "Scheinhardt Wig Company Stadium," just before they close it down, build another place for the Cubs to play outside of Naperville where the land is cheaper, and lease the parcel in Wrigleyville to Wal-Mart.
What upsets me here is that these signifiers of Chicago's history as a booming city at the center of America are systematically being wiped away. Months ago, with President Obama's election, there was all this sturm und drang about how it was going to be Chicago uber alles in America; now if it was Chicago over all, you wouldn't be able to tell it from St. Louis, or Indianapolis, or Manchester. That's because these things that make Chicago Chicago are being scrubbed away in the face of someone else's far-off brand.
OK, I know, Wrigley, Sears, and Marshall Field's were all old money. But they were old Chicago money, a sign of how this unique thing called "Chicago" had emerged where once there was a swamp that stunk of wild onions.
I know that President Obama is probably too busy to gasp at the homogenizing of the city that nurtured him during his meteoric ascent to the White House. But Mayor Daley isn't. It's time one of our civic leaders stands up for what makes The City That Works The City That Works.
Or would you rather find yourself in some perfectly globalized future where you can't tell Chicago-Style Pizza from a round of cardboard on sale at Pizza Hut?