MORRISSEY: It’s OK to hate what Clark symbolizes for Cubs
BY RICK MORRISSEY Sports Columnist January 18, 2014 12:44AM
For too long, the Cubs have made Wrigley Field and the circus that surrounds it a bigger deal than actually winning. | David Banks/AP
Updated: February 20, 2014 6:34AM
It’s just a mascot!
You could feel the exasperation and anger in the tweets and emails that came in from a segment of Cubs fans last week. Why the uproar over Clark, the team’s cuddly new mascot, they said. It’s for the enjoyment of little kids, they said. It has nothing to do with what president of baseball operations Theo Epstein is trying to accomplish with the on-field product, they said.
But it’s not just a mascot. It’s a symbol of all the things over the years that have had nothing to do with winning, whatever that is.
It’s celebrity singers taking a swing at ‘‘Take Me Out to the Ball Game’’ during the seventh-inning stretch at Wrigley Field.
It’s a Greek Orthodox priest sprinkling holy water in the home dugout to remove a ‘‘curse’’ before the playoffs are about to begin.
It’s a TV announcer’s statue erected outside the ballpark years before the statue of any Cubs player is erected.
It’s Cubs fans throwing opponents’ home-run balls back onto the field.
It’s the rooftops across the street from Wrigley, the constant bickering between the team and the buildings’ owners and the eternal sniping between the Cubs and Ald. Tom Tunney (44th).
It’s Ron Santo the announcer being much more beloved than Ron Santo the player.
It’s the Ricketts family’s bison hot dogs at the stadium.
It’s a ballpark renovation, a hotel, a video scoreboard and a lot of very large ads.
It’s the Cubs Convention, where you can play ‘‘Cubs Bingo.’’
It’s that sugary “Go, Cubs, Go’’ song after victories.
It’s Rod Blagojevich, superfan.
It’s the poor guy who reaches out to catch a foul ball during a postseason game and the way the act hangs over the franchise like a dead tree branch about to fall.
It’s a restaurant CEO who blows up the offending ball to sell more meals.
It’s a goat.
It’s a giant macaroni noodle sculpture/advertisement outside the ballpark.
Shall I go on? Fine, I will.
It’s the concerts at Wrigley — Paul McCartney, Pearl Jam, Jimmy Buffett and Bruce Springsteen, among others.
It’s a college football game at Wrigley.
It’s a Blackhawks game at Wrigley.
It’s the search for a new Cubs radio analyst getting much more attention than the search for better relief pitchers.
It’s Crane Kenney.
It’s three straight seasons of more than 90 losses and the possibility of a fourth in 2014.
It’s fans taking batting practice at Wrigley, for a fee.
It’s the Captain Morgan Club.
It’s the contest to design a logo for the 100th anniversary of Wrigley Field.
It’s that it always seems to be about everything but winning.
It’s 105 years without a World Series title. And it has gotten so very, very old.
Taken individually, most of the above examples are no big deal. Some of them are the kinds of marketing initiatives that lots of professional sports teams launch to make money. Some are unfortunate incidents that have taken on lives of their own. Some are examples of misplaced priorities that cropped up during the 1980s, when Wrigley Field was Lollapalooza before there was a Lollapalooza.
But together, in the face of more than a century without a World Series title, they paint a vivid picture of a franchise that continues to lose its way at every turn. Do you realize that 2015 will be the 70th anniversary of the Cubs’ last World Series appearance? Seventy years!
So, it’s just a mascot? No, it’s a breathtaking disconnect that allows a team to think it’s a good idea to loudly introduce a mascot after a combined 197 losses the last two seasons and that of course everyone will love a fluffy cartoon character.
It’s the excruciating stab at logic that says a mascot is a way of growing a fan base and filling the empty seats abandoned by all the fans who have seen too much losing.
Peripheral things have a way of becoming center-stage things with the Cubs. That’s what happens when you can’t figure out how to be successful on the baseball diamond.
Over and over again throughout the years, the franchise has expressed its fervent desire to win and be taken seriously. You tell me: Does Clark look like the embodiment of a Lovable Loser, the unfortunate image the Cubs have been trying to escape for years?
It’s not just a mascot. It’s much, much more than that.