Archive for Sunday, May 29, 2005

Commentary: Bad singers are a tradition at Wrigley

NASCAR’s Gordon latest to butcher ‘Take Me Out to the Ball Game’ during seventh-inning stretch

May 29, 2005


— Ozzy Osbourne has misplaced most of the last four decades, so to expect him to pick up the words to "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" probably was a bit ambitious.

But the Cubs, bless them, convinced Osbourne to sing, slur and otherwise stagger his way through the song two years ago, and the result was one of the more memorable seventh-inning stretches in recent history.

And we want to deprive ourselves of that?

Since Tuesday, when NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon tortured "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" in new and diabolical ways, there has been a lot of discussion among fans and media about whether the practice should be canned.

Gordon's rendition is why it absolutely should be continued and why the cobwebbed traditionalists calling for its abolition need to slather themselves in pine tar and have a group hug.

The singing has become as much a part of Wrigley Field as the ivy. Is it lame? Very much so - but in a strange, twisted, most excellent way.

When a celebrity comes to Wrigley and sounds like a cat getting strangled, it renews our faith in the idea that if somebody is going to make a fool of himself, it might as well be somebody famous. Coincidentally, it's the only philosophy that explains Adam Sandler's movie career.

So when Gordon did the honors Tuesday, told the crowd it was great to be at "Wrigley Stadium" and then proceeded to sing off-key when he wasn't Ozzy Osbourne-ing the words, he got the bejabbers booed out of him.

There was joy in those boos, a communal release. Those boos said, "Jeff, you are so very bad that we know of no greater compliment than to offer you our displeasure. And we're a people who would cheer a hand model from the Home Shopping Network if she could carry a tune."

You say you could take a poll right now and prove that a majority of people want the seventh-inning stretch festivities abolished at Wrigley?

All I know is that when the singer is announced and starts warbling, all eyes are locked on the person standing in the WGN-Ch. 9 booth. It's part of the deal at the ballpark, part of what makes the experience if not special, then at least different.

I'm sticking to my bad-is-good theory, but there are a few other possibilities that might explain the popularity of the seventh-inning stretch at Wrigley:

People love celebrities, even if those celebrities are of the low-watt variety. If you were a bit player on "Eight is Enough," for example, it's only a matter of time before you will get a call from the Cubs to sing. And there's a decent chance you will be cheered when you're done singing.

People are hoping when they look up to the booth, they will see Mike Ditka is about to mangle the song again.

I asked Cubs manager Dusty Baker on Thursday whom he would like to hear sing during the seventh inning. He said Snoop Dogg.

"He'd probably rap it instead of sing it," Baker said.

As long as it's possible for a rapper to be off-key, I'm all for it.

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