Earlier this week the Chicago Cubs unveiled their first official team mascot in history, Clark the Cub. General response on the Internet has been predictably humorous and unpredictably angry. Stuff like that it’s the Cubs’ biggest offseason addition and that all lovable children’s characters have no pants. Or you rib Cubs fans for a century of futility like Dennis Lawson or whip out Photoshop like Matt Sebek.
Beyond all the humor and general fun poking that was done by baseball fans there was a rather vitriolic response to the mascot that surprised me. I’ve read people calling it stupid. That the Cubs lost their dignity by adopting an official mascot. That it’s turning their back on tradition.
I think some people are missing the point.
The new Cubs ownership group have been asking fans ways they can create a more family friendly atmosphere at the ‘friendly confines” of Wrigley Field. One of the responses they got quite a bit was asking for the addition of a mascot.
So they created a mascot.
Which makes sense because baseball is very much a sport passed from a parent to a child, so you have to create those experiences for kids at the ballpark. Like it or not, baseball has struggled to bring in young fans over the last several years as the age of the average fan continues to increase. In order to continue producing revenues, teams need to find a way to get kids in the seats and learning to enjoy the game of baseball.
Without revenues, there is no game of baseball.
I’m rather disappointed by the number of baseball fans who have acted too high and mighty to acknowledge a mascot. They’ve missed the point of it all and here’s why: The mascot isn’t for them.
I’m 28 years old. I’ll admit that I don’t enjoy personal interaction with mascots now. I’d much rather laugh at them for doing something funny with a kid than engage them myself, but that’s the point. They aren’t there for me. They are there for that kid (my brother Mike) who will remember the time that Southpaw, the Lynchburg Hillcats mascot, stole their backpack. Or the time when Muddy, the Carolina Mudcats mascot, signed a ball (for my brother Wes).
Or if you’re like me, you remember Youppi from the Montreal Expos games you used to attend when you were a kid. Sorry Fredbird, he’s still my favorite.
When I take my son Micah to ballgames as he grows up, I expect him to have memories about interaction with Wool E. Bull at a Durham Bulls game or maybe even Fredbird on a mecca to Busch Stadium. Point is, the idea of the mascot is to create a memory for the kids. A positive memory around the game of baseball that they can sit there and go, “Remember the time when…”
So get off your high horses and realize that the mascot isn’t for you. It won’t change how you digest the game of baseball. It may, however, change the future of the game by bringing in new fans. And that is something we should all be getting behind.