Thursday, June 5, 2014

The day will come when people think it strange that “WGN” ever meant Cubs

Soon to be a historic relic
Some things about Chicago are eternal – such as the idea of the Chicago Cubs who have been in the National League ever since it started play back in 1871.

But when it comes to how many Cubs fans follow their favorite ball club, there are going to be some serious changes. The idea that one tunes their radio or television to WGN (720 AM, Channel 9) to catch a ballgame every afternoon is going to become a piece of history.

JUST LIKE THE Stevens Hotel, Riverview amusement park or the International Ampitheatre.

It was in recent days that it became learned that WGN radio was letting Cubs broadcasts go – even though they’ve been on that radio station since the days when Al Capone’s gangs terrorized Chicago.

Cubs games will shift to WBBM-AM radio, with some speculation that games eventually will shift to the sister station owned by the company, WSCR-AM – the station with the sports-talk radio format.

That station currently carries Chicago White Sox broadcasts, but there’s the chance that the team may move on to another broadcast alternative in another year or so. The White Sox radio channel could soon be the preferred alternative for the Cubs.

AT LEAST ON those occasions when a new generation of people actually bothers to listen to a radio.

It seems that the new generation of people that doesn’t want to read news or books on printed paper also doesn’t think much of listening to a ballgame on a radio. They want it on whatever portable devices they carry with them.
Also likely to become history

So I’m sure that from the Cubs’ perspective, not having their games on WGN radio any longer isn’t so bad. It is a relationship that served its purpose all these decades, but also ran its course.

Even though the rhetoric is that it is WGN that wasn’t interested in keeping Cubs games, at least not at the same rate the station was having to pay the ball club.

PROFESSIONAL BASEBALL TEAMS increasingly want to be paid big bucks for the rights to carry their games. Either that, or they want to have their own channels where they can control every aspect of a broadcast – and all the advertising revenue that goes along with it.

It’s also why I’m sure the Cubs will not lose sleep over the fact that WGN America, the cable television version of our local television station that people across the country get to see, is willing to let Cubs baseball go.
Will Santo disappointment live on?

Those fans around the country who really care about the Cubs (and I don’t doubt there are all those rural Iowa, Illinois and Indiana bumpkins – the great-grandchildren of Three Eye League baseball fans – who do care) will find other options.

The time will come when only Chicago residents will get to see Cubs games on a “WGN” channel. At least until the day we get Cubs TV (channel 364, or whatever, on our television channel lineup), which will offer us constant games, rebroadcasts, historic clips, and sports talk shows around the clock.

WHO KNOWS? JUST as the old television program “This Week in Baseball” in its final years gave us a digitally-created version of host Mel Allen after he died, perhaps Cubs TV will give us Ron Santo recreated.

Santo redux could give us introductions, before young 20-something broadcasters who look cute on camera tell us about how badly the Cubs blew their latest ballgame.

And just think, there could be a touch of the past, too. That Brant Brown-inspired Santo cry of “Oh noooooooooooo!” could live on whenever the cubs do something bad. And Cubs fans will lap it all up.


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