TELANDER: Cubs’ fans don’t get a contender, they get Clark
BY RICK TELANDER Sports Columnist January 14, 2014 10:47PM
This Monday, Jan. 13, 2014 photo provided by the Chicago Cubs shows Clark, the team's first mascot, hugging children during his debut at Advocate Illinois Masonics Pediatric Developmental Center in Chicago. Clark, a young bear wearing a Cubs jersey and backward blue baseball cap, is named after the North Side Chicago street on which Wrigley Field is located. (AP Photo/Courtesy of the Chicago Cubs, Steve Green)
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Updated: January 15, 2014 11:26AM
On Monday, I heard there was Cubs news.
And there it was: Clark.
And not just any mascot. This creature is being touted as ‘‘the first official team mascot in modern history.’’
Obviously, nobody remembers Ronnie ‘‘Woo Woo’’ Wickers. Look outside, Cubs brass! Woo Woo likely is ‘‘woo-ing’’ near Wrigley Field even as I type this.
Couldn’t see the forest through the trees, could you? Almost 50 years of free screaming. Too late now.
Clark, my God.
I guess the name choices were Clark, Addison, Waveland and Sheffield, the streets surrounding the ballpark. Orval Overall would have worked for me.
But I don’t count. I have lived and watched Cubs failure too long. The official marketing release states that Clark is a ‘‘young, friendly Cub’’ who ‘‘can’t wait to interact with other young Cubs fans.’’
Plus, per the news release, his great-grandfather was Joa, the original live bear mascot in 1916. So Clark is something of a mutant — part real, part rug, all lovable loser.
Me, I’m neither young nor friendly, so maybe the judging of Clark ought to be done by some innocent 9-year-old from Park Ridge or Wilmette. That’s the target market, after all: little kids who can’t envision Moises Alou in a dither or 105 weeks of misery, let alone 105 years.
Think about it. It’s as if the Cubs, on the eve of the mighty Cubs Convention, are co-opting our children, much the way the Pied Piper did, or the pagan monster in ‘‘Children of the Corn.’’
What whining child wouldn’t want a paid visit from Clark at his/her birthday party? (Going rate, according to other baseball mascot deals, is about $400 per.) What kid wouldn’t want a fuzzy Clark replica doll from the ballyard? Hat on backward? Check. Demented smile? Check. Crazed eyeballs? Check. No pants? Check.
This is what we get in Year 3 of the Theo Epstein reign.
It’s almost silly enough to be a sitcom plot. What next? Pull back the curtain and ta-da! Cubs pizza! Cubs microbrewery! Cubs antacid! (Hmm. Could work . . .)
But, no. We don’t get a monster free-agent signing, a pitching ace, a ballteam that can erase the memories (even an alert second-grader has witnessed 197 losses in two years, poor thing) of perpetual Cubness.
I keep coming back to the concept of Joa, the idea of a live animal mascot. That could be wild. It must have been. After all the goats and black cats in Cubs history? Think of a bear being led through the stands on a leash by Tom Ricketts, and suddenly the thing rips off its muzzle and goes nuts, eating hot dogs, aluminum wrappers and all, quaffing Old Style, then charging onto the field to chase a daydreaming Starlin Castro into the clubhouse tunnel.
Of course, it won’t happen. It’s the problem for the Cubs, which starts with the name. Cubs. Not Bears. Not Grizzlies. But baby bears. Sweet little cutie things.
Can you imagine a pro team called the Kittens, the Cow Babies, the Hatchlings? Of course not. So if the Cubs had a real cub mascot, it would keep growing into a terrifying bear, which might run amok and would no longer be a Cub. That is, loser.
There was this guy who called himself ‘‘Billy Cub,’’ dressed in a costume, filching quarters from adoring fans before games as he posed for photos or whatever around Wrigley Field. Apparently, business was so good that there were four of these Billy Cub clowns out there at times. Four corners, you know.
Well, the Cubs want that revenue stream, and a study done with Northwestern University shows that many Cubs fans want a mascot. So now management and the study founders and those fans should be happy.
Only three major-league teams — the Angels, Dodgers and Yankees — don’t have mascots. The White Sox have ‘‘Southpaw.’’ (At least their horrifying former mascot with the long purple proboscis called Ribbie was put to sleep.)
So we can’t hold this Clark thing against the Cubs. It would be too much to ask for actual stadium work to be done, to declare a truce with the rooftop owners, to beat the Cardinals, to even put something on the field that isn’t just bluster and sweet-talking and water-treading.
Me, I think about the Naked Cowboy I always see in Times Square or the guys spray-painted silver who stand motionless on boxes on sidewalks or the dudes who dress up as clowns or Santa Claus or elves. All of ’em give me the creeps.
Mascots are us.