by Tanner Simkins @TannerSimkins
As one of the faces and voices associated with NBC’s “Sunday Night Football,” former NFL All-Pro receiver Cris Collinsworth is no stranger to fans of the gridiron. However it is the work Collinsworth and the team at his Cincinnati-based company Pro Football Focus is doing that is really helping change the way the game is played and talent is evaluated not just at the NFL level, but at the college and high school level as well for coaches, media and fans. PFF’s fast-growing and award winning analysis is quickly becoming the standard by which a growing number of those in and around the game are measuring the way players are contributing to the growth and success of their teams, and with that, a business has blossomed.
It certainly hasn’t been overnight, as PFF has a party solid track record. However as it has gotten more exposure, and more funding, in the last few years, the business has mushroomed. Where is it, how did it get here and where is it going not just for the Super Bowl but for key events like the NFL Combine and the Draft, we asked Collinsworth himself.
- Pro Football Focus has really grown as a data property and news service, what is the one key thing that has set the business apart?
- The key is in the name really. Focus is critical to our success and we’ve been very careful not to spread ourselves thin with other sports and instead have focused on owning Football and continuously innovating to help our customers win. The PFF Insights Era now includes 11 seasons, 5000 games and 1M plays and no competitor comes close. Prior to the 2016 season, we expanded our technology team and developed software that increased our speed and accuracy and enabled PFF to capture, interpret and display even more meaningful player performance data in near real time. I personally used it during my broadcasts this year, and next year we anticipate some second screen opportunities for football fans that will complement NFL and College football coverage on various networks
- Are there two or three benchmarks in the past year that have pushed the business?
- The first is the foundation of the business, our ability to support the teams and help them win more football games. 24 of 32 NFL teams have chosen PFF as the priority insights provider and a part of their toolkit they are not willing to do without. The more teams we can help, the more stable the foundation. Likewise, our media partners are reliant on PFF to help them drive the story to attract and retain audience. The media’s trust in PFF is demonstrated by the incredible attribution PFF received this past season from local radio news mentions to NBC Sunday Night Football PFF player rankings and graphics. And finally, this has carry through to the fans seeking to learn more about the game and their favorite players and teams reflected by a 180% increase in traffic to profootballfocus.com
- How did you get the teams to all buy in, or the ones you have at least? What was that process like?
- Well, my english friend and PFF Founder, Neil Hornsby, got the ball rolling several years ago as part of an incredible story starting with the NY Giants and bringing us from 13 to 24 NFL teams within the past 2 years. Once the teams see what we’re doing and the quality and quantity of football and video analysts we have including former coaches and players, it’s a no brainer. Now we’re part of the NFL team toolkit and if you don’t have the insights you don’t have the edge. That is a motivating factor we expect to drive the balance of teams to take advantage of what PFF can offer.
- How involved are you in the day to day?
- I’m heavily involved because I love this business and the passionate people that have built it. I acquired PFF with Jack Cassidy (former Cincinnati Bell CEO) to satisfy my competitive nature and selfishly support my personal broadcast preparation. It’s a tail of two seasons for me, off season and on season. No one prepares better during the off season to win than the group at PFF and I’m alongside them everyday in our Cincinnati offices. I would not have agreed to do both Thursday and Sunday night broadcasts if not for PFF. I had an army of PFF analysts preparing weeks in advance for those two months of doing two games per week. Not only did it make me more efficient, it made PFF more efficient and streamlined. Our people and processes are so locked in that once the season starts and I’m on the road calling games, they run PFF like a machine serving teams, media and fans alike.
- Although PRO is in the name, how big has the college and even the high school market gotten?
- While our roots are more mature with the NFL, covering every FBS game (1025 games together between NFL and College) has been and will be the single largest opportunity for College programs to improve their performance and NFL teams to draft smarter. Recruiting is a very interesting space and while I can’t make announcements, I can say that we plan to own football at every level.
- What about the consumer space?
- The consumer space is the compelling space and with 35,000 paying subscribers we’re just scratching the surface, our customers are the most intelligent and loyal football fans on earth. They are also the most wealthy consumer segments seeking the edge based on quantifiable metrics to win their argument, their fantasy league or their bet. We continue to invest in the consumer market and are taking a strategic approach to position ourselves to appeal to a broader audience of football fans seeking to be relevant and intelligent.
- Is the business more for fantasy geeks or is there a bigger play?
- We help fans win, whether that’s at the water cooler, in their fantasy league or legal gambling. So the bigger play is bringing together an informative and entertaining experience that delights and saves time. We do that and everybody wins.
- As far as fantasy goes, that industry has taken huge hits. Is there still a growth market for PFF with fantasy players, especially on the daily pay side?
- Let’s just say we have plenty of room to grow. The fantasy advice market alone is valued at more than $2 Billion in North America. While legislation is evolving in this area and there was a significant drop in ad spending year over year by the big two DFS platforms, we still see a very healthy market with potential for new entrants and new customer choices that PFF can serve. Matter of fact we launched PFF DFS PRO, a lineup optimizer tool this past season to critical acclaim having recently won FSTA (Fantasy Sports Trade Association) best news and information site for a single sport for the third year running.
- Cris, your relationship with NBC is an obvious plus. has that hurt in any way with getting other media companies to buy in and use the data?
- NBC Sports is a great partner to me personally and to PFF at large and the management team has taken advantage of the opportunity to elevate the conversation of the game through PFF insights which in turn has increased PFF’s credibility and awareness. Other networks are like NBC, they just want to put the best product on television they can. We work hard to deliver the same specialized data for individual games to other networks that we deliver to NBC for SNF and TNF. We’re taking more calls from media companies than making calls to media companies these days. And I love that.
- What should brands, consumers and media be looking for next from PFF?
Our primary focus to date has been on delivering the highest quality data and insights to our team and media partners. This year we are adding even more value for those clients, and in parallel we’re moving aggressively into the consumer space by developing a division of the company dedicated to serving fantasy football players and fans in general. This is where we expect to see explosive growth. With our analysts spending over 50 hours per game capturing more than 140 data points on every single play, we have an answer to just about every football question you could possibly think of. So, think unique insights, data visualizations and video programming that will appeal to the needs of the fan and that smart brand marketers will want to align themselves with across all channels. Think natural language interfaces for mobile, car and home assistants and other connected devices. PFF will help our customers win and make the most intelligent decisions each and every day through whatever method they choose to interact with… we’ll be there for them every game, every player, and every play.
- SUPER BOWL ECONOMIC IMPACT. Super Bowl LI at NRG Stadium is expected to “bring upward of $500 million for the city of Houston,” according to BizJournals.com. Last year’s Super Bowl 50 in San Francisco, California, brought in around $350 million of economic impact and the 2015 Super Bowl in Glendale, Arizona, generated just under $720 million. But one thing Houston has on its side over its two predecessors is its layout and the proximity of NRG Stadium to the city’s major economic hubs. In 2015, Phoenix was the economic center of the region, but the game was played 20 minutes away in Glendale. Last year, the game was played in Silicon Valley, but fans stayed and shopped and dined all throughout the Bay Area in the days leading up to the game. The week leading up to Super Bowl LI center around “downtown Houston, the Galleria and Reliant Park, all of which are in Houston proper and Harris County. The geographic triangle will hold a majority of the daytime and nighttime activities, hotels and transportation,” Ric Campo, chairman of the Houston Super Bowl Host Committee, told the Houston Business Journal.”
- TRAVEL/HOSPITALITY/GOLF. The city of Houston is pulling out all stops to ensure a successful Super Bowl Weekend. The Texas city has been the hub of many major sporting events over the past years – the Super Bowl LI venue, NRG Stadium, also hosted last year’s epic NCAA March Madness Final. According to the Houston Chronicle, the “thriving city” boasts “warm winter weather, 20,000 reserved hotel rooms, a 72,000-seat retractable-roof stadium,” a nine-day fan festival at Discovery Green leading up to the Big Game and a “no-fly zone over the entire city.” The hosting venue, formerly known as Reliant Stadium, most recently hosted Super Bowl XXXVIII in 2004, when the New England Patriots defeated the Carolina Panthers. Less than a week out from Super Bowl Sunday, the forecast for game day, February 5, is “partly cloudy” and a high of 73 degrees.
Warm weather Super Bowl sites are always a boon for golf-related hospitality, and Super Bowl LI is no different. Among other outings planned this week are the official Houston Super Bowl Host Committee invitation-only event and the NFL Foundation’s annual star-studded “Legends on the Links,” held this year on Friday at Golf Club of Houston, home course to the PGA Tour’s Shell Houston Open. There is perhaps an unusual sense of urgency around Super Bowl-related golf events this week. Since the Big Game is in Minnesota next year, that pretty much rules out any golf – and a quick search of the TopGolf website doesn’t reveal any “coming soon” locations of the popular driving range chain in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area any time soon, either.
- TICKETS: Super Bowl LI seeing significant international growth: According to the latest sales data from StubHub, ticket prices for Super Bowl LI are holding, and while things can always change in the open market in the last days leading up to Sunday, this one may stack up to be the most affordable Super Bowl in recent years. Compared to this time last year, the average ticket price sold is $4,697, down 11% from this time last year. It’s hard to beat the anniversary bonanza that was Super Bowl 50, in beautiful San Francisco, that also happened to be Peyton Manning’s last football game. StubHub also reports that international demand is higher than ever, with nearly 10% of total sales coming from purchasers outside of the U.S., and as far away as Australia, Hong Kong, Brazil, Israel, and South Africa. Tickets from Canada and Mexico account for more than 7% of total event sales alone. The Super Bowl is an international “bucket list” phenomenon. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you are, the NFL has worked hard to grow the game across the globe, and create the hype that is the Super Bowl. As the NFL has grown, so too has StubHub, now making its marketplace available in 47 countries around the world, which speaks not only to the global ticket popularity, but the access now provided to it.
- TICKET ALLOCATION. A Super Bowl ticket is one of the most high-demand tickets around, and while secondary market ticket prices are slightly down, according to StubHub, ESPN.com reports that changes in ticket allocation means fewer tickets were initially available on StubHub than in previous years. Only 1,800 tickets were listed on StubHub following the AFC and AFC championship games, “which industry insiders say is roughly half of the usual volume.” On Location Experiences received 9,000 tickets to sell with the stipulation that 1,500 each had to be earmarked for Patriots and Falcons fans. On Location was created as a result of brokers short-selling Super Bowl XLIX tickets in Phoenix, ensuring that nobody was getting scammed. Every active NFL player still gets two Super Bowl tickets. Sources report that roughly half the league’s teams handed the players their tickets, while the other half will make their players pick them up in Houston, which will make it harder to flip them.
Compared to recent years, Super Bowl ticket sales “weren’t as brisk” in the hours following the Falcons’ and Patriots’ wins in their respective conference championship games. According to ESPN.com, Super Bowl LI tickets are being allocated differently this year than how they had been in past years. “Many of the tickets that used to flow from teams to brokers through hospitality sponsorship deals were given by NFL owners" to hospitality firm On Location Experiences, which is partly owned by the owners’ venture fund. As reported by the firm, Patriots fans had made more reservations to be in attendance than Falcons fans, though that is subject to change as Super Bowl Sunday gets closer. “The Falcons fans are the wild card. But, for the packages we’re selling, they have the strong corporate base in Atlanta to do well,” said On Location Experiences CEO John Collins.
- TEAM VALUATIONS. Similar to last year’s Super Bowl between the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos, this year’s Super Bowl features one team with a franchise value in the top half of the league facing another team with a franchise value in the bottom half of the spreadsheet. According to Forbes’ 2016 NFL Franchise Valuations, the New England Patriots are the second-most valuable team, valued at $3.4 billion – trailing only the Dallas Cowboys. On the other hand, the Atlanta Falcons are the 19th-most valuable team at “only” $2.125 billion. To honor his franchise’s Super Bowl LI berth, Falcons Owner Arthur Blank is planning on paying for every single employee in the organization to attend the Big Game. This will represent more than 500 employees who Blank will cover, following the move that Panthers Owner Jerry Richardson made last year when he paid for everyone on the team’s payroll – interns included – to make the trip to San Francisco.
- TV/NEW MEDIA. The Super Bowl is always one of the year’s most-watched live television events, and this year’s contest between the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons should be no different. In 2015, Super Bowl XLIX became the most-watched Super Bowl in NFL history, when 114.4 million viewers tuned into NBC to watch the game. With more televisions and mobile devices capable of streaming the game, this year might break that marker. According to The Gazette, 16% of Super Bowl LI viewers plan to watch via online streaming apps or the web. Fox Sports is delivering free live-streaming in-game video including the halftime show through its Fox Sports Go apps for tablets and connected TV and at FoxSports.com.
After the game, the Super Bowl hangover ensues. Kraft Heinz Co., the maker of Heinz Ketchup, claimed that more than 16 million people call in sick the day after the game. The company believes “Super Bowl Monday” should be a national holiday, hence why “it started a somewhat tongue-in-cheek campaign by giving its salaried employees the day off” and took it a step further by posting a petition on Change.org to make the day a national holiday.
- COMMERCIALS. Five million dollars. That is what it is going to take if you want to air a commercial during Super Bowl LI on Fox. According to Variety, 30-second advertisements are being shopped around for a minimum of $5 million, a seemingly ridiculous number for such a short period of time. This threshold has been topped only a few times over the past years on select networks, but has never been set as the bare minimum for the Super Bowl by any network. CBS sold most spots for between $4.5-$4.7 million in 2015 and raised the figure to just shy of $5 million for Super Bowl 50 in February. Some sources close to Fox have reported that the network is actually looking for companies that are willing to pay between $5.5-$5.7 million, not just a flat $5 million. Many in the sports business and advertising industry call this a ridiculous move on Fox’s part, saying that they will not fill all of their spots if they keep their price tag this high. Back when the first Super Bowl was aired on television, it was simultaneously streamed on two networks: a 30-second ad cost approximately $42,000; the $5 million price tag this year is a far cry from that.
- ATLANTA FALCONS IMPACT. Within a matter of months, the Atlanta Falcons will open their brand new Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The facility cost approximately $1.5 billion and will be open in time for kickoff next year. The stunning structure comprises top-to-bottom windows on one side and a “sunflower-esque” retractable rooftop. The team’s Super Bowl appearance has been a huge bonus for their push to sell all of their Personal Seat Licenses (PSLs). The Falcons recently surpassed the 75% PSL sales marker and is expecting to be 100% sold out within weeks, especially if they defeat the Patriots in Super Bowl LI. According to the Falcons, they are “getting more than 700” requests per day for PSLs since topping the Packers in the NFC Championship. Falcons Owner Arthur Blank’s new stadium will definitely rival AT&T Stadium in Dallas and U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis as the crown jewel of the NFL.
- FUTURE GAMES. Across the NFL, team owners continue to reinvest in stadiums, all trying to one-up the most recent state-of-the-art facility that opens up. Having a new stadium means an increased likelihood of drawing mega events, such as the Super Bowl and the Final Four. This past year, the Minnesota Vikings played their first game at U.S. Bank Stadium, which is set to host next year’s Super Bowl. Down in Miami, Steve Ross and the Dolphins completed their facelift of Hard Rock Stadium, and across the country in Los Angeles the new City of Champions Stadium is being planned to host both the Chargers and Rams. Despite ongoing scrutiny, public money is being spent on these massive facility projects because with a new stadium comes more positive economic impact for the surrounding area. In Houston’s case, the economic impact of Super Bowl LI is expected to offset the complete public cost to build the stadium, which should be around $500 million.
- TRUMP. Newly-inaugurated President Donald Trump may make another kind of history: in a week he could become the first sitting president to attend the Super Bowl. According to the Newark Star-Ledger, Trump currently has no concrete plans to attend the game, though it is public knowledge that he is friends with Tom Brady and Robert Kraft. The president is also friendly with Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who wrote Trump “a note of support around the time of the election.” “Our friendship goes back many years, and I think anybody that’s spent more than five minutes with me knows I’m not a political person,“ Belichick said in reference to the letter. “The comments are not politically motivated, I have a friendship and loyalty to Donald.” Trump boasted about the letter while stumping in the New England area. “The biggest reason why it likely won’t happen” is that it would “almost assuredly be a logistical and security nightmare” to get him into the game.
With Jamie Swimmer
- If downtown Los Angeles doesn’t wash away by next weekend, after record rains, the city, Staples Center, and host LA Kings look forward to hosting the NHL’s best during the league’s annual All-Star break. Sunny skies are predicted for NHL All-Star weekend, comprising the annual skills contest, 3 on 3 All-Star game, and mobile “Centennial Fan Arena,” featuring the league’s Museum Truck, an “interactive virtual Zamboni ride station,” and photo ops with the Stanley Cup. The All-Star game, in its second season as a division-based, 3 on 3 mini-tournament with a $1-million prize on the line, takes place Sunday. The All-Star weekend takes on extra importance this year, as it is one in a series of year-long events celebrating the NHL’s centennial milestone. A major highlight is Friday’s recognition of 100 of the greatest NHL players of all time – including, of course, “Great One” Wayne Gretzky. Like most All-Star contests, the NHL’s annual celebration is all about exciting and entertaining the fans, and next week’s Hollywood-adjacent extravaganza will be no different. Just expect more famous faces behind the glass.
- Wayne Gretzky won’t be the only sports GOAT in Southern California next weekend – Tiger Woods is set to make his 2017 PGA Tour debut at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines Golf Course. While the newly-revamped Torrey Pines course will play the same – difficult, especially following strong rough-lengthening rains – new partnerships and resulting fan amenities, including new food and beverage and entertainment options, are changing the way this PGA tournament is conducted. And with Woods and local favorite Phil Mickelson on course, this year’s Farmer’s will surely be crowded, and noisy. Tournament Director Peter Ripa has recruited extra marshals for duty this year, and anticipates doubling the 22 million viewers the tournament enjoyed in 2016. While the tournament might not break attendance and viewership records, one of its partner charities, Boys to Men Mentoring, a local program for fatherless teenage boys, once again has the opportunity to break the world record for number of surfers on one wave during Saturday’s One Wave Challenge. Innovative fan experiences and abundant philanthropy are hallmarks of the PGA Tour, and the Torrey Pines event is no exception. Watching a healthy Woods and Mickelson is only part of the fun.
- As we head into 2017, LA 2024’s Olympic bid is slowly being revealed. According to the LA Times, LA 2024 is planning to split the opening and closing ceremonies between two venues, using both the LA Memorial Coliseum and the new Inglewood NFL venue. The Inglewood site will become the home to both the Rams and Chargers upon completion. Though USC has plans for a $270 million Coliseum renovation, the stadium "dates back to the first time” L.A. hosted the Games in 1932. LA 2024 “needed to feature” the Inglewood stadium, if only to “counteract a sense of ‘been there, done that.’” As it is currently planned, the opening ceremony would be held at the Coliseum, paying tribute to its Olympic history, while the closing ceremony would be held at the Inglewood NFL palace, shining a bright light on the city’s future. The Los Angeles region will continue to capitalize on its biggest strength and asset – existing infrastructure and a solid legacy of the success of previous Games. Look for that theme to be continuously emphasized until the successful selection in early fall.
- The Golden State Warriors have official broken ground on their new state-of-the-art arena in San Francisco. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the team held a groundbreaking ceremony for their new Chase Center that “resembled Cirque du Soleil more than it did a construction job.” The site where the arena is being built is in the city’s Mission Bay neighborhood, though it was originally planned on being erected at Piers 30-32 until lawsuits stopped that plan in its tracks. The Chase Center is projected to open in 2019 and will have a capacity of 18,000 seats. San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and others at the groundbreaking “emphasized that the arena is being built on private property without a public subsidy – a rarity in professional sports." Warriors co-Owner Joe Lacob said, "We are totally good to go. It’s not surreal anymore. It’s real.” Lacob and his team have done an incredible job securing the arena commitment in an intense and politically charged environment. As for Oakland, the pressure heats up – they have lost one team, the football team files for relocation, and the baseball team is looking for other sites. Game on, Oakland!
- The on-field success of the Super Bowl-bound Atlanta Falcons has played a huge role in the team’s improved Personal Seat License sales. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, PSL sales have risen “from less than 33,000 at the start of the season to more than 41,000 now,” a significant increase in a relatively short period of time. Now, the team has only about 20,000 seats left to sell before the venue opens in the fall, prior to the 2017 NFL season kick off. The Falcons have “received a significant number of leads on potential additional sales” since their win in the NFL Divisional round over the Seattle Seahawks. The Falcons “haven’t said how many seats are in the PSL inventory, but after excluding seats that are part of sponsorship deals, in suites or held out for group sales and other purposes, the number of sellable seats to the general public is believed to be around 61,000.” Historically, team performance is directly related to suite, seat, and PSL sales. Fortunately for Arthur Blank and the Falcons, the team is realizing its true potential just as the marketing of the stadium is most important. Good timing, Falcons!
- NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is coming under heavy scrutiny for his choice to attend the NFC Championship game instead of the AFC Championship. According to the Boston Herald, it appears that Goodell is “afraid to show his face” in Boston following Deflategate, which resulted in the suspension of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. Similar to the conference championship round, the commissioner elected to travel to Atlanta to see the Falcons take on the Seahawks instead of attending to Patriots-Texans game in Foxborough. Boston columnist Dan Shaughnessy directly challenged Goodell on this topic. “What is the big deal, Roger?” said Shaughnessy. “You are not Salman Rushdie hiding from the followers of the Ayatollah Khomeini…You are the commissioner of the NFL. You are the protector of the Shield. You won the Deflategate war. Come back to Foxborough and face the angry nation.” Despite this issue being over, emotions still seem to be running high across the league. In a classic case of “you can’t make everybody happy,” Goodell apparently needs an intergalactic transport to get him to both games on the same day. With the Patriots advancing to the Super Bowl to face the Falcons, look for Goodell to craft many favorable media opportunities showing him making nice with the team, Pats fans, and owner Robert Kraft.
- Despite not winning a single major this past year, Northern Irish golfer Rory McIlroy finished as the world’s top-paid golfer in 2016. According to the London Daily Mail, McIlroy raked in a whopping $49.5 million, placing him atop golf’s “rich list” for the first time. He “amassed a fortune in just one year thanks in no small part to winning the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup,” and the $10 million bonus that comes with it. While his on-course earnings totaled around $17.5 million, his off-course earnings are what separated him from the pack. Thanks in part to sponsorship deals from companies like Nike, Omega, Bose, and Electronic Arts, McIlroy’s off-course earnings amounted to approximately $32.5 million. Remarkably, Arnold Palmer earned more than anyone else in the game other than McIlroy in the year that he died at age 87: $40 million, “thanks to his portfolio of golf businesses and own brand of iced tea.” Arnold Palmer will always be the king of branding and endorsements. He undoubtedly set the standard for Tiger Woods, and now will do the same for McIlroy in his off-the-course branding aspirations and business performance.
- The surge of the U.S. dollar has bolstered the domestic economy, but it has been detrimental to many Mexican soccer clubs. According to ESPN.com, Liga MX clubs have been negatively affected by the strengthening of the dollar because “league expenses are in dollars and revenues are in pesos.” Over the past four years, the U.S. dollar has increased its value by almost 10 pesos, which has “made things difficult for football clubs, who are searching for different ways to deal with the devaluation.” For example, “if a player was bought for $8 million in 2013, the equivalent in Mexican currency was 102 million pesos. Now, the same cost in dollars would amount to 176 million pesos.” The reason that the clubs have their revenues in pesos is because most money that the clubs receive, with the exception of TV contracts, come is pesos – ticket sales, food, beverages, etc. The cooperative sports connections between Mexico, Canada, and the U.S. will no doubt continue as parties explore the feasibility of a 2026 World Cup bid. In the meantime, each country struggles with its competitive balance as it relates to exchange rate, facilities, player transfers, and the like.
- The Chicago Blackhawks have one of the best records in the NHL, but the team’s local TV ratings do not reflect that. According to Crain’s Chicago Business, the Blackhawks have “posted an average local rating of 3.15” for their 29 broadcasts on CSN Chicago thus far, which is “down 17% from the same point last season.” But these statistics may be a bit skewed due to one critical factor: the team’s early games overlapped with the Chicago Cubs’ World Series run. Three Blackhawks telecasts on CSN Chicago went up against Cubs NLCS or World Series games, “including the lowest-rated game thus far on Nov. 1” against the Flames, which posted a 1.31 rating. Ever since the Cubs ended their season as world champions, the Blackhawks have seen a steady climb in local ratings as eyes turned back to the rink from the diamond. This is clearly a case of continued astronomical expectations coupled with “Cubmania” in Chicagoland. It’s a pleasant problem for Chicago to have: two championship-worthy teams struggling for superiority at the gate and on television.