By Dan Bernstein-
CBSChicago.com Senior Columnist
(CBS) — There are causes more noble than others, certainly.
We all have finite amounts of time and energy to devote to what we feel really matters, volunteering our resources to help make the world a better place in any small way that we can. We are forced to prioritize, often gnawed by the inability to do more. While some are staffing shelters for the homeless or reading to the blind, others are content to wear a rubber bracelet of a certain color or include some slacktivist hashtag in a tweeted a picture of their lunch.
Every week and month has a titular Awareness of some illness, injustice, environmental concern or shared history, so it’s easy to feel swamped. That’s why I feel compelled to call a particular effort to your attention.
Last month Mark Caro of the Chicago Tribune singlehandedly launched a campaign to eradicate a scourge that has plagued the city since 1984, and it deserves your support. He is trying to find a replacement for the saccharine abomination that is the song “Go, Cubs, Go.”
The hokey anthem was written by area folk singer Steve Goodman in 1984 at the request of WGN Radio, and has infected baseball broadcasts there and on television since at varying degrees. Like the emerald ash borer or Asian bighead carp, the song always seems to threaten our fragile ecosystem with its cloying, insufferable giddiness and cheesy sentimentality. That Goodman died of leukemia just before the Cubs clinched the division that year only adds to the underlying sap and slush of the whole mawkish routine.
To be fair, Caro has advocated merely playing it before the game if only to keep the lyrics in proper tense — since warbling “The Cubs are gonna win today” after the fact makes no sense – but I’ll go further in hoping it disappears entirely. As submissions for potential replacements have come in from motivated composers, the responses have been particularly polarized.
“It’s either ‘I hate that frickin’ song, or ‘You’re a blasphemous idiot,’” Caro told CBSChicago.com. “There’s a lot of vitriol, like ‘How dare you!’”
And it’s not like he’s desecrating statues or trashing the home uniforms, here, either. The song has really only become something that could even remotely be considered time-honored after it was unleashed on us again during the first of two failed playoff runs eight years ago.
“It’s from the ‘80s and they mothballed it,” Caro said. “It only came back in 2007. I love the fact that some people think this is some kind of great tradition.”
What’s ironic is that so many feel “Go Cubs Go” captures the joyful essence of Cubs fandom, when in fact Goodman’s previous effort actually did. “A Dying Cubs Fan’s Last Request” was recorded in 1981, and it better described the stark reality of the team that “only bring fatigue” while languishing perennially as “the doormat of the National League.”
The subsequent effort plays like a weak, not-entirely-sincere apology for telling too much truth, commissioned by a broadcast partner much more comfortable with homespun pablum.
That partner has been kicked to the curb, however, in favor of WBBM Newsradio 780. The new outlet – with the addition of the edgier, funnier Mark Grote to the broadcast team – signals a new, evolving sound commensurate with a reinvigorated franchise preparing for an extended run of competitiveness for championships.
A song created by and for WGN and mentioning WGN has no place anymore. And besides, people singing it look stupid and sound stupid. It’s bad for the new Cubs brand.
So more power to Caro’s quixotic endeavor, as he has chosen to fight the good fight by tilting at this particular, ivy-covered windmill. I’m with him.