Backlash Against Marquee Network Story of 2020 Cubs Convention

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During his session today at 2020 Cubs Convention, club President of Business Operations Crane Kenney said he feared no boos; not for Marquee Network, nor anything else. Kenney told the assembled crowd he’s been booed before, for several things, including the jumbotron and the team mascot Clark.

The latter reference is poignant as the pants-less but friendly and inviting cartoonish bear was pretty much the headline story of Cubs Convention 2014. Why? Because he was a new addition to the club in a winter when the team made no real new additions to the player roster. The team was coming off a bad season (66-96) and moving towards the next one in which they were projected to be bad (they were, 73-89) again.

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Poor Clark was the whipping boy that Cubs Con, and honestly, it was unwarranted. It seems even more ridiculous in retrospect.

That’s one factor, of many, as to why there was such a strong backlash against Marquee Network this weekend. The team underachieved last season and finished with a mediocre 84-78 record, and the projectionists envision mediocrity this season.

Marquee is a totally different animal though (pun intended).

It all started when Chairman Tom Ricketts appeared (and was booed) at opening ceremonies Friday night, and then started talking about Marquee, which was also booed.

Ricketts didn’t seem to get it, and his obliviousness could not have provided a starker contrast to Team President Theo Epstein, who told fans he feels their pain this offseason, and wishes he could do something about it, during his session this morning.

If the Cubs had done something, okay ANYTHING, this off-season to improve a squad that didn’t make the postseason in 2019, the backlash against Marquee would not be as strong.

It really comes down to a very simple concept- people do not want to pay for something that they used to get for free.

Over time, Cubs fans may grow accustomed to Marquee and be at peace with it; seriously.

People don’t want to deal with carriage fees and contacting their cable companies (because that always goes oh so well). If Ricketts can’t grasp this, then he’s a classic example of an out of touch billionaire.

There is of course another layer as to why one might despise Marquee Network, but I don’t think that’s what’s really at work here.

 

Yes, they are partnered with Sinclair Broadcasting Group, who are so far to the right politically, they make FOX News Channel look…well, closer to the center.

Sinclair flies under the radar though, and not many are aware of who they are and what they really do, as evidenced by the crowd reaction when Kenney said there could be Sinclair content on Marquee.

(It’s beyond the scope of this article here, but I definitely encourage you to go read up on them. Start with this link and this link)

Marquee Network was the lead story this weekend, as Kenney discussed who they have deals with, what ducks are in a row and what deals are still not closed. As much as Marquee was booed, the crowd did warm up a little when the on-air talent was announced.

You already knew Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies were going to be on board, but the citation of familiar names in Cubs lore, such as Rick Sutcliffe, Lou Piniella etc. was met warmly.

The biggest applause line for Marquee Network was when a fan said, no offense to her replacement Taylor McGregor (daughter of late Colorado Rockies team President Keli McGregor), but Kelly Crull really should be a part of this new endeavor.

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Unfortunately, she won’t be and today’s unveiling of the on-air line-up was about as hard news as Cubs Con got. Although Kenney did also say that the club is lobbying to get the All-Star game here in 2021 and they will be extending the protective netting around the park, “to the elbows.”

The Cubs pioneered the concept of a fan convention event way back in 1985, and it has since become an industry standard. It’s a weekend long celebration of the brand, which is fine in times when consumer sentiment is high, and the general overall feeling is positive.

Right now, is not exactly the “era of good feelings” though.

That term refers to the period in the partisan political history of the United States during President Monroe’s administration that reflected the unity Americans had after the War of 1812.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net, which is partnered with News NowBanks, the author of “No,  I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” regularly appears on WGN CLTV and co-hosts the “Let’s Get Weird, Sports” podcast on SB Nation

You can follow Banks, a former writer for NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com on Twitter here and his cat on Instagram at this link.

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