Chicago Cubs Upcoming Tribute to WGN-TV Rings Very Hollow

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WGN-TV began broadcasting Chicago Cubs games way back in 1948, and they currently have the longest running relationship with a Major League Baseball team.

The 72-year partnership comes to an end next Saturday, Sept. 21 with the final Cubs home broadcast on the network. Damned if they do, and damned if they don’t, the team will honor WGN-TV with a ceremony at their home game against the Cardinals that day.

In 1986 Tina Turner penned the following lyrics

Don’t turn around, I don’t want you seeing me cry

Just walk away, It’s tearing me apart

That you’re leaving, I’m letting you go, But I won’t let you know

The song has since been covered by the likes of Bonnie Tyler and Ace of Base (the 1980s reggae group Aswad produced the best version, by far) and it could certainly apply here as a long term relationship comes to an end with a ceremony that certainly rings hollow at worst, awkward to bittersweet at best.

Before the game, the Cubs will present WGN-TV with a Wrigley Field scoreboard tile featuring the number nine on one side and the lyrics to “Go Cubs Go” etched on the other.

The late Steve Goodman’s 1983 upbeat ditty features the lyrics “you can catch it all on WGN,” and those words have been outdated for some time already. Now those words take on a new level of irrelevance. 

Additionally, some of the longest-tenured members of the WGN-TV broadcast crew will gather on the field for the first pitch and a group of WGN-TV station members will lead the crowd in singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”

Next season, with the except of a dozen games reserved for national broadcasts, every Chicago Cubs games will be televised on the club’s new Marquee Sports Network, a venture in conjunction with Sinclair Group.

It’s not a literal devil’s bargain, but it’s certainly a proverbial one. If you need a refresher on who Sinclair specifically is, you can go to this link, but we simply state here that they are, politically, to the right of Genghis Khan.

The Cubs maintain that everything will be apolitical going forward, but c’mon man, you’re talking about an alliance between the Ricketts family, a clan filled with right-wing nuts, and a TV network that is even more extremist conservative than FOX News.

Oh, it’s also the end of Cubs games on free television, and what that will they cost you the consumer on pay-tv has yet to be announced. Make no mistake about it though, Marquee will bring new carriage fees that will send those monthly bills northward.

So yeah, it kind of makes the Cubs’ good bye to WGN-TV feel a bit like “hey, all those years with you and the kids have been great, but I just found this new nouveau riche bad boy to partner up with, so farewell and good luck.”

On one hand, it’s nice that the Cubs are at least giving WGN-TV something here on that way out, but there’s only one reason for the divorce in the first place- the Cubs’ extreme corporate greed.

The good news is that WGN-TV plans to take the polar opposite approach of ESPN (or NBC) and not make it all about themselves.   

“I think the reason fans enjoy WGN is we allow the game to be the game,” WGN producer-director Marc Brady told the Chicago Tribune.

“It would be hypocritical to flip it at the end and make it about us. It’s always about the team. We just don’t feel it’s our place to celebrate us.”

“It’s not really about us.”

While announcers Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies will transition over to the new network, Brady and the rest of the WGN-TV behind the scenes crew are still in limbo on their future.

It’s not the only loss that WGN-TV, channel 9, “the superstation” is feeling right now. The Bulls, Blackhawks and White Sox are all also taking their games that are currently available on free tv and moving them over to the cable network NBC Sports Chicago; who are of course also seeing their Cubs telecasts moved to Marquee.

Yes, it’s true that sports have become a much bigger business since WGN-TV first hooked up with the Cubs. And sure, no one will deny that the television landscape has also changed drastically in the 70+ seasons of Cubs baseball since the WGN partnership first took root.

wrigleyville-rooftops-chicago-cubs

And yes, “free market, “pure competition,” “capitalistic system” and all those other phrases old rich white men like to throw out when they are explaining and trying to justify their decisions to destroy traditions and screw over regular everyday people.

But there has to come a point where the current American ethos of “any level of interest in anything must be fully exploited for economic gain at all times, and to hell with tradition” reaches a limit.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, 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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Comments

  1. It sucks that we will have to pay to watch the Cubs when so much, specially in the city of Chicago is already so expensive. However, having lived in the neighborhood and being in the local 44th Ward political realm, it’s not a surprise. The Ricketts are all about money and greed! Don’t be surprised when one day they are running the 44th Ward, the home of Wrigleyville. They tried once and failed, that won’t be the end.

  2. Barb, you are absolutely right! They tried to unseat Tom Tunney because he won’t do their bidding, and they will no doubt keep trying until they finally get their way.

    When Ricketts cried poor in the winter, regarding free agent spending, well they certainly had money to spend on Tunney’s challenger!

  3. i knew this was coming for years. sam zell began the destruction of one of the greatest media groups ever.wgn tv and wgn radio did not need to bloodsuck their advertisors. the ratings and talent along with ,fan loyalty and tradition beyond all else was what made them successful and profitable for decades
    im 63 and the money to watch my cubs is not an issue.but those who love the cubs,the team, the tradition the ballpark.it will matter to many of them. so revenue, player salaries drive this pathetic greed driven new future of the team i have loved and been loyal to this team for 60 years. sinclair if you really are right of fox news read some history. as far as im concerned you have a dear friend of mine in your custady. treat it with the respect it deserves.

  4. SINCLAIR!!!! That political piece of crap! Figures with ownership by Ricketts! This is the biggest betrayal the Cubs have ever done. I’ve been a Cubs fan my whole life. I love the players. But sorry… I’m done with this team if they go with a POS politically driven broadcast company and now I have an even bigger reason to hate the Ricketts Family other than the piece of crap we have for Governor of Nebraska.

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