by Kent Sterling
My Dad is irate. Somewhere in the middle of the great beyond, Clark Sterling is cursing the Chicago Cubs with the same zeal he showed for 70 years in life.
The Cubs have decided to do what every other sports franchise tired of trying to extort friendliness and appearances out of their players has done – create and deploy a cuddly mascot that does nothing but make appearances to generate the goodwill their on-field product never has.
And they named it Clark. Clark, my Dad’s name.
No one would be more upset than my Dad with the win-later approach the Cubs have taken to roster. He would see Cubs management as charlatans convinced that incurring the expense necessary to build a winner is unnecessary to fill seats. Smart guy. He would be right. In the true spirit of 21st Century America, it’s never the reality but the appearance that drives acceptance.
And he would see the use of his name on the smiling and fuzzy distraction as an insult of the highest order. Of course, the name refers to one of the four Chicago streets that currently border Wrigley Field, and is in no way referential to Dad. That wouldn’t matter to him.
Always a tortured Cubs fan, the only way Cubs management would have any idea that Dad existed would be if a human remnant of the Dallas Green regime still recalls the many letters he wrote to decry the continued employment of Harry Caray as the television voice of the team, or the bizarre firing of icon Ernie Banks – the living and breathing Cubs mascot.
Dad was not a Harry Caray fan. That much is sure. Caray’s endless mispronunciations, poor grammar, and lack of ability to process and describe basic baseball strategy drove Dad crazy, and when Dad was driven crazy, he wrote letters.
Those letters served to vent the anger that made Dad one of the funniest people I’ve known. It wasn’t a purposeful attempt to make anyone laugh, but a knack for being blunt beyond measure, and blunt is as funny as it is uncomfortable to be around. He called an idiot an idiot – or worse – and he did it until the idiot knew he was being called an idiot.
He was a bare-knuckled verbal brawler who believed honesty trumped all else. The truth as he saw it was my Dad’s native language whether he was talking to a bank teller, drug store clerk, his children, or Cubs management. That the U.S. Postal Service has raised the rate for first class stamps relentlessly since 2002, the year of my Dad’s death, is not surprising. The decline in the number of typewritten complaint letters since then has been a crippling financial blow to its solvency.
The Cubs gleefully announced Clark’s existence today, “The Cubs are thrilled to welcome Clark as the team’s official mascot,” Cubs senior director of marketing Alison Miller said. “Clark is a young, friendly Cub who can’t wait to interact with our other young Cubs fans. He’ll be a welcoming presence for families at Wrigley Field and an excellent ambassador for the team in the community.”
Dad would have been a different kind of mascot, about whom the Cubs would have sent a very different press release, “Clark is an irascible, hard-boiled Cubs fan, in whose mouth a burning cigar relentlessly resides. Interact with him at your own risk, as Clark enjoys telling fans of all ages just what he thinks of Cubs management, the players, fan decorum, and the size of anything proportionate to the rest of a person’s body. The surgeon general has determined secondhand smoke can be harmful to one’s health, and for that reason, exposure to Clark is allowed only after receipt by the Chicago National League Ballclub of a signed and notarized liability waiver.”
The letter Dad would have written the Cubs about the appropriation of his name for a lovable, backward hat wearing sap of a bear cub would have been something to behold. It would have motivated a google image search of my Dad. The picture would have been circulated among the security staff. All that work would have been wasted as Dad was smarter with his money than to spend it for the right to watch bad baseball.
This abomination, created to divert the attention of kids duped into believing each trip to Wrigley is anything but another step down the road of endless misery and despair, was as inevitable as another 90-loss season is in 2014.
That his name is Clark is just a cruel coincidence.