Thursday, January 16, 2014

Clark the Cub Redux

     One of the cardinal rules in this business, at least to me, is: don't linger. Obsessives quickly become boring. I always say, if I came across Jesus Christ delivering the Sermon on the Mount in Grant Park, it would end up as three columns, tops—a two-parter about Jesus' speech, if I could find a way to make it interesting enough, and maybe a third column of reader reaction and then on to something else. Otherwise, you risk being Bob Greene hobby horsing for 100, count 'em 100, columns on Baby Richard, and we all know how that ended up.
     In other words, I'm loathe to hit Clark the Cub for a second day.
     But there are just so many loose threads. When I set aside my column on Israeli/Palestinian relations, and decided to express a bit of the deep loathing I had tweeted for fun Tuesday night, my first instinct was to talk to artists I knew, to get their professional opinion. The first one I turned to was Tony Fitzpatrick, he of the brilliant  collages. Tony wrote:
Rather than subject the already  psychologically battered Cub fans to a watered down version of the 'Care Bear' Mr. Ricketts should try something novel and save some money--rather than that mascot--He should  paint his ass and walk on his hands during the 7th inning stretch -- from home plate to the pitcher's mound. He should do this until the Cubs win the World Series. They are now embarking on their second century of sucking.
      I couldn't just leave that on the cutting room floor. And then another pal, who asked that I not use his name because he is friends with folk who trapped in the corporate maw of the Cubs organization, but allowed me to say that he is a long-time season ticket holder and member of SABR, the Society of American Baseball Research.  His response was a marvel of insight and concision: 
Clark is a meaningless distraction.  Real baseball fans give as much mental space to various team mascots as they do to pigeons crapping on the concourse.  While the game broadly conceived includes lots of things that happen off the field (the experience of the stadium (sound, smells, sight), food and drink, keeping score, talking about the action), mascots are there to distract little kids.  So let the Cubs move boldly into the 1970s with this furry guy.  I lose no sleep over this, and any Cubs fan who is having palpitations should look at the pitching staff and the, third base and the outfield instead.  Any Sox fan who is gloating should just remember Ribbie and Rhubarb and the shameful firing of Andy the Clown.
     "So the Cubs move boldly into the 1970s" —you see why I love the guy. That's a phrase worth engraving on a coin.
      I'll spare you the rest, most praising the column, some responding with a variety of complaints, ranging from it being a waste of prime sports page real estate (as opposed, I wrote back, to the deeply significant matters typically dealt with in the sports pages) and those who were genuinely puzzled as to why I didn't like Clark (to whom I repeated Louis Armstrong's always-useful quip to someone who asked him to explain jazz: "If you have to ask, you'll never know.")
     I was truly thrilled to hear from both Wayne Messmer, he of the golden throat, and broadcast legend Chet Coppock. It was good to be interviewed for "All Things Considered" (which they never aired — I guess "Almost All Things Considered" might be a better name. Despite my frequent forays locally, I'm not really National Public Radio material — for instance, I was told they couldn't utter the name of this blog on NPR, which is just sad.  I bet if the blog were called "Goddamn the United States Every Day" they'd find a way). Anyway, it did stick in my craw a bit after I got off the phone and thought about it. Eighteen years writing a column for the paper, and Clark the Cub prompts National Public Radio to call.Here I'm worried about trifling with a cultural brouhaha for a day too long, when perhaps my problem is that I don't do it often enough.


  1. Neil,

    If "Clark" is for kiddies, is he baseball's equivalent of "Joe Camel" considering how toxic the CUBS are on the field?

  2. Favorite quote: "Real baseball fans give as much mental space to various team mascots as they do to pigeons crapping on the concourse." Funny because it's true.

  3. Clark is the Cubs' Jar Jar Binks. Adults will roll their eyes, kids will love him. Let's move on.

  4. Hmmm. Does the photo at top imply we Cubs fans are sheep? Cuz we are.

  5. I think it had more to do with animals in disguise. Or maybe I had the photo and it seemed to fit in some obscure way.

  6. I heard you briefly yesterday afternoon on public radio. It must have been Here & Now if it wasn't All Things Considered.

  7. All Things WERE Considered Wednesday the 15th. I didn't miss it!

  8. So I hear. Well, at least I snuck on a bit.

  9. Don't care about Clark. Pissed off they don't play "Go Cubs Go", instead they have some stupid song they came up with. We would all stay after game to sing that song. Now we leave 8th inning!


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