Cubs Look Tone Deaf in Wake of Wrigley Music Snafu
I think we all know about Aroldis Chapman’s past by now. We also know that the Cubs have begun using popular songs for hitters’ walk-up music and for between-innings entertainment. For the most part, it’s gone really well. I’m not really a fan of hearing Julianna Zobrist over and over, but Anthony Rizzo’s music is pretty catchy and Kris Bryant (Warm It Up – Kris Kross) and Javy Baez (Informer – Snow) have taken me back to my childhood.
In similar — if much less innocent — fashion, another musical blast from the past scored Aroldis Chapman’s walk to the dugout after shutting the Cardinals out in the 9th inning Sunday night.
Chapman closes out the inning & at the inning break the Cubs play "Smack My Bitch Up." You gotta know better. C'mon.
— Sarah Spain (@SarahSpain) August 15, 2016
In case you’re not familiar with the song, it was a big hit from the English electronica band Prodigy back in 1997. I can still remember the fake hand-wringing at MTV over whether or not to air the video for the song, the scenes of which I can still see with relative clarity in my mind’s eye. If memory serves, they ended up putting it in the late-night-only rotation until the initial furor died down. So there’s that.
There are undoubtedly hundreds of other takes on this topic out there, with thousands more getting ready to come out of the oven, but I wanted to share some thoughts nonetheless. Here goes…
The Cubs’ initially said that the song was played unintentionally (which I find dubious), that it was “unfortunate and should not have happened” (um, yeah), and that they would have a “strong response” to the incident later in the morning. That response came in the form of a statement from Crane Kenney, President of Business Operations.
We apologize for the irresponsible music selection during our game last night. The selection of this track showed a lack of judgment and sensitivity to an important issue. We have terminated our relationship with the employee responsible for making the selection and will be implementing stronger controls to review and approve music before public broadcast during our games.
Okay, so that’s pretty much what you’d expect them to say. Here’s the thing, though: I’ve got a little problem with the earlier use of “unintentional.” While I don’t believe the Cubs organization intended for the song to be played, you’re not going to convince me that the DJ didn’t know exactly what he was doing. My understanding is that Sunday’s DJ was just a fill-in, which makes the idea of a distasteful joke that much more plausible.
Call it a blaze of glory, like a streaker running onto the field. Never underestimate the desire and ability of people to do dumb things because it seems really cool in the moment. And if the only consequence in this case is to lose the ability to spin the ones and twos at Wrigley every once in a while, is there really much of a deterrent to pulling of a prank like this? Not at all. So, yeah, I’m pretty well convinced the DJ knowingly played that specific song at that specific time.
Oh, great, so he’s absolving the Cubs here. Not so fast, my friend.
If I take my wife out to dinner and come home to find our teenage babysitter drinking my beer and watching Fifty Shades of Gray or 30 Days of Night with my kids, I get mad offline (probably online too, for that matter) and fire the babysitter. But I also need to accept the blame for a) not setting proper expectations; b) having that stuff lying around where it could be accessed too easily; and c) having terrible judgment, both in my taste in movies and in my vetting of the sitter.
Just as I — or, more accurately, my wife — would lay out all the pertinent information regarding the house rules to a babysitter, so should a guest DJ be given a list of dos and don’ts. Do turn the lights out when you leave. Do wash your hands after using the trough. Don’t play a song with lyrics about hitting a woman when an alleged perpetrator of domestic violence is on the mound. You know, the basics.[beautifulquote align=”right”]What in the hell was “Smack My Bitch Up” even doing in the Wrigley music catalog in the first place?[/beautifulquote]
To that end, what in the hell was “Smack My Bitch Up” even doing in the Wrigley music catalog in the first place? The context in which it was used makes things even worse, but I can’t imagine a scenario in which it would be acceptable in any case. And I’m not even talking about the use of the word “bitch,” since kids at the ballpark probably heard much worse when Hector Rondon served up a pair of homers in the 7th. Even if it was only an instrumental version of the song, it’s just incredibly insensitive. And if we want to string it out even further, it’s not even a useful song from a pop culture standpoint.
As evidenced by the statement above, the Cubs had not taken precautions to prevent something like this, but they are still at least partially culpable as a result of their lack of due diligence. The organization had seemingly come a long way from incidents like throwing out a bunch of Ron Santo memorabilia or using a picture of Charles Lindbergh at Comiskey as a part of a mural celebrating 100 years of Wrigley Field. This is a different matter entirely and I won’t go so far as to relate this to those earlier eff-ups, but it’s certainly a bad look and displays a general sense of tone deafness.
So now we’ve narrowed it to the business side of things, right? Well, not quite.
If we really want to trace this to back to its roots, the only reason this is a topic of conversation is that that Cubs signed Chapman in the first place. Now, that’s assuming we’re running with the idea that the DJ’s song choice was intentional, which means it would not have been played had Chapman not been pitching. Understand that I’m not saying the Cubs should not have acquired the closer, only that doing so opened a Pandora’s box of sorts. Whether you agree with the social and personal objections or not, it’s impossible to deny their existence.[beautifulquote align=”left”]The Cubs actually did Chapman a disservice by not monitoring the playlist more closely.[/beautifulquote]
That brings me to my final observation in this whole thing, which is that the Cubs actually did Chapman a disservice by not monitoring the playlist more closely. I’m not trying to make the guy a sympathetic figure or anything, he has long since crossed that bridge. But as I wrote when it came to the whole translation snafu a few weeks back, he’s got the right to be portrayed accurately. Batters get to choose their walk-up music, Chapman had nothing to do with this soundtrack.
While I’ve not heard that anyone actually thought he was involved in the selection of the song or that anyone’s trying to promote that idea, it strikes me as one of those pieces of inadmissible evidence that a jury is instructed to disregard. Can you disregard it though? And even if you are able to, do you think everyone else can or will? While I’m getting a little too hypothetical at this point, it speaks again to the general lack of preparedness on the Cubs’ part.
This whole thing feels like a flash point of sorts, a brilliantly intense corruscation of opinions bound to burn out as quickly and surely as a thin strip of magnesium. Most will forget about it in short order, if they ever paid it any mind in the first place. Still, this kind of flame can leave its mark long after its smoke has dissipated. The Cubs themselves will be forced to blink away those little eye floaters dancing in their vision and I’m guessing a few fans will have to keep squinting as well.
Sometimes I think it was easier to be a fan when these guys were bad.