By Dan Bernstein-
CBSChicago.com Senior Columnist
(CBS) Cartoon bear without pants, day three, and welcome to mid-winter in Chicago sports.
The other Bears are done for the year, now mattering only as they make scapegoats of anonymous lieutenants. The Bulls toil in sad, conflicted circles. Blackhawks games of any importance are still months away, long after a three-week hiatus for the Olympics.
This is when baseball teams like to make news, trotting out player acquisitions or freshly-hired managers in cavernous hotel ballrooms. The White Sox boast a retooled roster that could be ten wins better than last year’s, which would get everyone excited for the improvement to only 89 losses.
The Cubs, meanwhile, chose the middle of Monday afternoon to unveil Clark, their smiling new mascot.
Timing is significant, here, because it was publicity they sought. This was no soft launch, just having him appear without fanfare at a weekend event or posting something on the team website on a Friday evening, when news outlets are staffing down and social media can take a temporary back seat to actual socializing.
This was a mainline into the bloodstream, here you go, have at it, look at us. Here was the picture, the bio, and the announcement of that night’s public debut to bring out the cameras.
And that attempt to own the ever-tightening news cycle is perfectly understandable – it’s right out of the PR playbook, in fact — but it’s not without risk. The Cubs had to know this would be easy fodder for a certain, vocal segment of the fanbase, and one particularly adroit digitally.
Clark the Cub at 3:30 PM on a Monday wasn’t just meat on a stick, he was a Brazilian-style steakhouse: a line of gaucho waiters brandishing beef-laden swords as we all scrambled to flip that cardboard disk to green and lunge for our tongs. At least those of us inhabiting a certain sports-media space where the absurd is welcomed, and amplified with sophomoric glee.
Deadspin.com snapped into action, their art department hastily equipping Clark with a needed organ and asking that readers submit their own photoshopped creations. Calling him a “nightmarish, perverted furry” set the tone, certainly, as did the marching orders that “it deserves to have horrible things done to it.”
The Cubs were not pleased.
“Unfortunately, there are those that decided to respond in a way that had nothing to do with the mascot,” Communications VP Julian Green told ESPN, sounding like the substitute teacher wagging his finger as a hailstorm of spitballs hits the chalkboard behind him. “I’m disappointed in some of the unfortunate images that went from negative to despicable.”
Not sure what’s inherently “despicable” about anatomy. Perhaps it was too human, and not biologically correct for a bear? This wasn’t GWAR frontman Oderus Urungus’s Cuttlefish of Cthulhu, or anything. Though that’s an idea.
As if one mistake of recognizing and engaging the fleeting, benign backlash wasn’t enough, Green went to far as to announce late last night that the team is standing by their mascot, further legitimizing the reaction as somehow meaningful.
Poor Julian Green. The respected, politically-connected pro came to the team to manage the complicated interactions with media and government officials involved in major business projects, and here he is getting all worked up over a guy in a bear costume and some funny pictures.
Dude, it’s OK. It’s nothing.
An MLB mascot, even one naked from the waist down and grinning, is harmless. So is making fun of him.
Dan Bernstein joined the station as a reporter/anchor in 1995, and has been the co-host of Boers and Bernstein since 1999. Read more of Bernstein’s columns, or follow him on Twitter: @dan_bernstein.
The Boers and Bernstein Show airs every weekday from 1PM to 6PM on The Score, 670AM (or you can listen online).
Listen to The Boers and Bernstein Show podcasts »