Let's Talk About... Men In Bear Suits

Danny Rockett

Only in Chicago do things like this happen.

It's a slow afternoon while we wait for the Cubs game this evening.

So let's talk about the Cubs' official mascot and... that other thing in a bear suit, largely because Paul Sullivan wrote about it in the Tribune.

First of all, let's stipulate that mainstream media writers don't often write the headlines on their articles. I say that because the headline on Sullivan's:

Battle of the Cubs mascots goes on mostly silent

... is wrong. "Billy Cub" is not a mascot. Nor is he what's described in the subhead:

Neither official Clark the Cub nor unofficial Billy Cub will make case vocally so it's hard to say which 1 really can win fans over

"Billy Cub" is not a mascot. He's not an unofficial anything. He's just a guy who dresses up in a bear costume and walks around the streets of Wrigleyville panhandling.

There, I said it. That's essentially what the guy does -- panhandle for money, dressed up in a costume that vaguely suggests he is a mascot, getting people to pose for photos with him and more or less demanding $5 for the privilege. Yes, "demanding," because I have seen this guy (or these three guys, since there's more than one of them) get nasty and snippy when people don't pay him.

To Sullivan's credit, he never calls him what's in the headline, only saying that Billy Cub is

an allegedly ornery self-anointed mascot

As noted above, I can vouch for the "ornery." The man behind Billy Cub, and I won't give him the publicity he so clearly craves by naming him, has been quoted as saying he started doing this because he wanted to be made the Cubs' official mascot. Trolling for tips and acting "ornery" and nasty on the streets outside Wrigley Field isn't the way to do that, I wouldn't think.

The Cubs have been trying to get Billy Cub off the streets for several years. They did manage, as Sullivan notes, get him to stop wearing an official Cubs jersey; the various personages inside the costumes now wear generic baseball jerseys that say "CHICAGO" on the front and "BILLY CUB 78" on the back (I have no idea what "78" means), with a plastic replica of a Cubs helmet on the head.

As you also know, the Cubs have created an official mascot, "Clark the Cub," who has been roundly mocked in most quarters of the internet. That's not my purpose here; Clark appeared at three games in Mesa, during which he mostly stuck to the kids' wiffle-ball field behind the right-field berm and was well-received there. He has a "clubhouse" at Wrigley Field, which is located in former team offices above the concourse and is not visible anywhere on the concourse or in the stands -- I have yet to see Clark at Wrigley, which is fine. That way, they can have him interact with kids while not being one of the dance-on-the-dugout types of mascots that, say, the Phillie Phanatic is.

The Cubs certainly do have the right to fight against someone whose persona implies that he is affiliated with the team, especially when he's not a very nice person mascot guy dressed up in a bear suit. Again, what he's doing is really not much more than panhandling, and I don't ever see him with a license for such things.

The incident over the weekend where this guy slugged someone who took his bear costume head off (and let's also stipulate that neither individual in that incident was right) should galvanize the Cubs into action. No other team has to deal with this sort of thing, and the Cubs certainly shouldn't. They have every right to protect their brand and marketing strategy.

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