O'Donnell: Despite years in the making, not a good start for Marquee

  • It was a disjointed opening for the new Marquee Sports Network from the Cubs and Chairman Tom Ricketts.

      It was a disjointed opening for the new Marquee Sports Network from the Cubs and Chairman Tom Ricketts. Patrick Kunzer | Staff Photographer

Updated 2/26/2020 8:36 PM

FOUR LONG AUTUMNS AGO, the Cubs happily can-canned "The Curse of the Goat."

In its place, have they taken on "The Curse of Spring Training?"


In 2017, it was the fear of a World Series hangover along with the dugout departures of Dexter Fowler, Aroldis Chapman and David Ross.

One year later, it was the slo-mo pursuit of the high-priced highwayman Yu Darvish above the first significant hints of cracks in the Joe Maddon-Theo Epstein semper fi.

Last spring, the outrageous emails of Joe Ricketts melded with the dark clouds over Addison Russell to set an implosively distractive tone.

And this time out?

With the cacti barely prickling, the Cubs presented one of the most disjointed TV launches in the history of disjointed TV launches with the debut of their Marquee Sports Network.

Close to 10 years in conception, three years in deeper plotting and more than one year in allegedly intense preparation, Marquee came on with all the sharpness and promise of Tom Steyer at yet another Democratic presidential shout-down.

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Marquee had it all -- languid programming, worn-through subject matter and a premier preseason game pushed back five hours due to inclement Arizona weather.

The first voices heard were Harry Caray and Bill Murray, cliched personas that must have meant no archived audio of either Frank Chance or Tom Dreesen was available.

Production values were paint-by-numbers. Original thought has apparently been banned in the hallways of Marquee.

Looming above it all was the hodge-podged distribution crossword that left too many subscribers to Comcast, Charter Spectrum, DirectTV and even late add-on streamer Hulu + Live TV without access to the limp paws.

Maybe those shut out were the lucky ones.

Tom Ricketts, Crane Kenney and web boss Mike McCarthy actually traversed the impossible.

They opened a startup in rebuild mode.


And one of these post-curse spring trainings, in a diamond simulant far, far away, the Cubs organization may actually get it right.

STREET-BEATIN': Vanessa Bryant was an extraordinary profile in grace, courage and eloquence during her impossible eulogy of husband Kobe and daughter Gigi Monday at the Staples Center. Michael Jordan allowing a rare public look at the human being long behind Michael Jordan! only added to the senses of sadness and surrealism at the tribute. ...

A perception of general malaise has pushed the Cubs from 22-1 to 30-1 at some major Vegas houses to win the World Series; Dallas Keuchel -- with or without a peeping scoreboard and banging cans -- and the Sox are holding at 35-1. Biggest jump-up was the Dodgers, now co-favored at 3-1 with the NYY following the acquisitions of Mookie Betts and David Price. ...

Excessive Bears chatter in late February is as natural as carving pumpkins on St. Patrick's Day. And until they introduce betting props on the NFL Combine, it just doesn't matter on the mainstream sports calendar. ...

Slumping Stephen Colbert landed Zamboni goalie David Ayres for a rushed cameo Monday night and then completely killed the show with a sitdown by the charisma-free Rahm Emanuel. Colbert should be playing in an endless power alley during a goofy presidential election year but instead seems to be undermined by staid production and unusually weak writing. ...

Great Q. by Brian Hanley on ESPN AM-1000: "Who in the world is watching Bulls games from start to finish? ... Why would you do that to yourself?" (A.: The same people who thought "FloGarf" -- Tim Floyd and Gar Forman -- was the answer following six world championships.) ...

Also in portmanteau patter, with the combo "GarPax" now back in heavy rotation, it was conceived by insouciant fingers for a downtown daily during the 2008-09 Bulls season. (So, all are welcome; first runner-up was "PaxGar.") ...

AM-1000 bossman Craig Karmazin has been dealing with a mini-mess at his ESPN Cleveland 850: Respected NFL reporter Tony Grossi has been suspended for calling Browns QB Baker Mayfield "a (bleeping) midget" in an aside over a hot mic. (Apparently Little People of America from Akron to Ashtabula were insulted by being lumped in with Mayfield.) ...

Some in the media blogosphere apparently don't want to get it right about Rafer Weigel: The talented Renaissance man was charged with no crime in a sensationalized "revenge porn" case and one of the women involved has now turned up in a separate contretemps involving a Chicago TV news sleuth. ...

Recent visitors to Arlington Park claim the deteriorating parking lot is wrecking-ball ready. CDI chairman Bill Carstenjen is apparently happy to let the haphazardly managed landmark continue on as his golden steamroller's version of "Anything Goes." ...

And Rick Pizzo of the Big Ten Network, before a recent Illinois-Nebraska game, asked: "What's up with all these 100-point Scrabble names in this game between (Giorgi) Bezhanishvili and Thorir Thorbjarnarson?"

• Jim O'Donnell's Sports & Media column appears Thursday and Sunday. Reach him at jimodonnelldh@yahoo.com.

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