By: Anna Junko, Senior Editor for Student Literature and Art (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Cubs fans understand losing. The team last won a World Series in 1908 and the Cubs have lost 197 games during the last two seasons. As my grandpa, a Cubs fan of over 60 years, warns, “The Cubs will break your heart.” So what motivates fans to keep watching? How do we endure inexhaustible agony and the heartbreak of endless losing streaks? It surely isn’t the team’s record or a star-studded lineup; any Chicagoan will tell you that it’s with a sense of humor.
It is therefore no surprise that Cubs fans cynically awaited the unveiling of the team’s new mascot. The official Cubs’ Press Release stated that after conducting multiple surveys and consulting various focus groups, “the appetite for more family-friendly initiatives became clear, and the concept of a mascot who interacts in the community, engages with young fans and is respectful of the game was widely supported.”
On January 13th, the Cubs presented their new furry friend, Clark—aptly named after Clark Street, which borders the west site of Wrigley Field—at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center’s Pediatric Developmental Center, where player prospects spent time with the hospital’s young patients. The initial reception was positive; according to MLB.com, Clark is “unbearably cute.”
However, the digital world reacted swiftly, and with ruthless creativity.
Deadspin instantly countered, “With [Clark’s] arrival, Wrigley will now be known to Midwesterners…as a house of nightmares through which a freakish, perverted bear will chase you, forever. Now go do horrible things to it!” Deadspin’s contest, appropriately titled, “Do Something Horrible To The Cubs’ New Perverted Mascot,” inspired hundreds of smutty submissions and ultimately caught the attention of both local and national news outlets. Some were disgusted by social media’s lively and sometimes tactless interpretations, but many folks were thoroughly entertained by the bawdy imagination behind Clark’s new looks.
Deadspin isn’t the only entity openly criticizing Clark. The contest exists amidst a wide backlash of negativity, with the Daily News writing, “While Clark has some supporters, the Twitterverse appears to like the bear about as much as they like Steve Bartman. Steve Bartman, for those of you who don’t know, is the fan who, in 2003, reached from the stands for a ball, deflecting it from a Cubs outfielder. If the ball hadn’t been deflected, the Cubs would have been four outs from winning the National League pennant for the first time since 1945. The RedEye summed the controversy up quite nicely, simply writing, “Only the Cubs.”
So were Clark’s negative repercussions soley due to bad artistic rendition? Although the pantsless bear is a tragically easy target for Internet mockery, some say timing is to blame for the scope of the scandal. Jon Greenberg writes for ESPN, “[The] cartoonish ‘Clark the Cub’ [is] an easy target for disgruntled Cubs fans in an Internet age…It’s difficult to pull off something as naively unironic as a mascot introduction in a world where snark travels faster than light.”
So what’s next for the franchise? Will they alter their plans in response to the hefty backlash?Alison Miller, senior directing of marketing for the Cubs, insists, “Clark is here to stay.”