The Seventh Inning Stretch and the Danger of Eroding Fandom

Last night, the Cubs invited Dan Katz, a.k.a. “Big Cat” of Barstool Sports—an often misogynist, retrograde, and undeniably popular entertainment site—to sing the seventh inning stretch. Though they ended up somewhat downplaying it and pairing Katz with radio announcer Ron Coomer (it was unclear if that had been the plan all along, or if they called a late audible), it nevertheless led to another long day for some in Cubs fandom.

Many fans met this news with a familiar discomfort. Others, many of whom are women that Barstool and its followers have either implicitly or explicitly attacked over the past decade, met this news with a familiar pain. There is no need to rehash the offenses of Barstool and its affiliates over the years, but the pain was another example of something people have experienced—now in many contexts—as they root for the Cubs.

Katz is a popular figure in Chicago sports media, and this is not the first time the Cubs have publicly endorsed him and the site he represents and associates with. He was invited to throw out the first pitch earlier this season—to a similar outcry—and in the past he’s been invited to join in celebrations with Cubs and Blackhawks players during their respective postseason runs. It’s often said in his defense that he is nice and funny, one of the “good guys” at Barstool, and, relatively, that is true. But the Cubs need to better consider the institution and views they are accepting when they invite Dan Katz  of Barstool Sports to take part in their traditions—even if the part is small. And they also need to consider who they may be excluding from taking part.

Writers at Wrigleyville, particularly Zack Moser and Mary Craig, have done an excellent job of covering the historical context to baseball, and the slow, ongoing fight to make baseball—and the Cubs—more universal. Racism and sexism were and still are rampant (just ask those fans at Fenway and these fans at Fenway), but pro baseball teams today, the Cubs included, at least pay lip service to the idea that fandom should be open to everyone. But making these sorts of decisions endorses a worldview that excludes those very fans that teams should be most eager to bring in.

Trading for Aroldis Chapman, refusing to talk domestic abuse allegations openly, and insinuating that the Barstool brand of broishness is alright will assuredly turn people off, no matter the intentions. These intentions of the Cubs and Katz are almost certainly not malicious, but that doesn’t mean that the message these actions send is not. For women who feel that the Cubs might not much care about them, these clumsy and ill-thought-out actions give them more and more reason to feel their suspicions are right.

As a white guy, it’s inherently easier for me to shrug this off and continue rooting for the Cubs. And that is assuredly what I will do, as someone who cannot help but love the Cubs and baseball and my dad and the incredible community and city that roots for them. But the accumulation of these affronts to kindness and openness is something the Cubs should be wary of. Fandom is hard to end full stop, but it is something that that can be dulled and wear away over time.

Baseball fans, and all fans, are captive audiences. And the feeling of being unduly captive is the distinct feeling that arose again during the seventh inning stretch last night. On an otherwise beautiful night at Wrigley, following the unspectacular but still exciting debut of a young pitching prospect, many fans—more than the Cubs’ leadership might understand, and especially those who need baseball to function as an escape from the rest of daily life right now—were briefly forced to think about things outside baseball. And that can dull fandom. There are Red Sox fans for whom Curt Schilling’s post-career exploits have damaged the memories of the ’04 run. There are many NFL fans who are growing generally more disenchanted with the league’s reticence to take on head injuries and domestic abuse issues. For many, Chapman being on the Cubs did not ruin the World Series last year, but it did somewhat lessen it.

Because of this, teams, owners, and leagues need to bear this responsibility to their fans carefully. They can’t control everything, and nobody would ask them too, but actively deciding to welcome these ideas without explanation is disrespectful to many in the Cubs community. And those fans who have historically been on the margins of baseball- and Cubs-fandom might slowly get pushed back off.

Cubs fans (like everyone) are complex but largely kind, giving, and well-meaning. In response to the team’s actions, they will continue to do goodhearted things like reacting to the Chapman trade with the Pitchin4DV fundraiser, and they will continue to push forward the conversation about inclusivity in sports and society at large. This, in turn, will lead to a pushback from those who, because it’s easier for them, would rather only talk about the day-to-day entertainment of sports and not the morality and context behind them. They will accuse the marginalized of “politicizing” something that the organization, unwittingly or otherwise, has already politicized. They will tell women to just stop watching the Cubs if they don’t like it. And, one day, those women may start to listen to them.

Pain is inflicted when the Cubs do not think about and handle these things carefully and openly. The Cubs are a powerful enough institution that they don’t need to (and shouldn’t!) settle for what’s easy and popular. Fans will love them anyway and grow along with them.

And if, in the end, we really do just want to talk about baseball and only baseball, the easiest thing to do would be to just let Harry sing the stretch.

Lead photo courtesy Jerry Lai—USA Today Sports

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11 comments on “The Seventh Inning Stretch and the Danger of Eroding Fandom”


Did Len and JD mention who was singing w/ Coomer? Or did I miss that.


I swear they said Tim Gaines. I thought I might be losing my mind, no?


Good piece. For an organization that has done mostly everything right under Ricketts / Theo, rolling Barstool out to throw a pitch or sing is completely and totally wrong.


This is so pathetic.

First and foremost, Dan is a great guy.

Second, Barstool is an organization that can be chastised for a few pull quotes… but they constantly contribute to and assist many noble efforts and charities. To villainize them to this degree is intellectually dishonest and lazy.

Third, it is absolutely absurd to believe his association with a blog can somehow dissuade people to stop being fans of an unrelated team!! Will you write the same piece when someone from the government is invited to be involved in an event because Trump has made horrible statements about women and minorities? (All of which are culturally more abhorrent than what’s been written on barstool).

Grow up. Please. And if you are honestly this soft… I recommend you challenge yourself and your sensibilities by engaging in dialogue with these people to learn more before you draw such illogical conclusions.


This writer is clearly an intelligent guy and seems like his intent is well-meaning. However, his attempt to compare the signing of an admitted domestic abuser to a, by all accounts, great guy who works for a controversial blog is extremely lazy. I don’t know Big Cat at all but do follow Barstool and understand that some of their material can be considered controversial. I very much doubt that the author of this post has done his research or knows Big Cat personally.

A very lazy article deserves my lazy response.

Since Dan Katz joined BSS fulltime in 2013, he has been nothing but a fantastic human being. . Dan is funny, original, and kind. I have witnessed these things as both a fan of the site and having met him a few different times in person. His hard work creating arguably the most influential sports podcast in the last ten years, cultivating a cult-folloinwg locally and now nationally, and moving his entire life from Chicago to New York to further his reach as a member of the media (he may hate being called that but idk). Dan also knows what he signed up for. The skinny jeans comment, the bringing back of the c word…those are all things that are so easy (not to mention lazy) things to throw at anyone from Barstool whenever they achieve any type of success. Dan knows that and recognizes that, but he doesn’t let it phase him. Cherry pick a few out of context misogynist quotes all you want. He (much like the author) is a lifelong cubs fan and I’m sure to be asked to do the 7th inning stretch and throw out the first pitch are thrilling moments for him. This post seems to be written largely out of jealousy. To see someone who came from an office job with in real estate to one of the most sought after sports media personalities in such a short amount of time (likely with minimal formal training) while the author fancies himself the co-EIC of this site with minimal twitter following would probably grind my gears too. But to go and use the standard SB Nation/Deadspin/The Cauldron (RIPIP) playbook on defaming Barstool is neither effective or original. But hey, I’m just a guy who is a fan of a website that has known to have said some off-color things in the past, so what do I know?


I understand the complaint against Barstool as a whole, especially in their earliest days, but if you think Big Cat and the Pardon My Take schtick is anything but satire you’re sorely mistaken. The whole joke of segments such “Dudes Explain Chicks” is a riff on what’s popularly known as man-splaining. I don’t think Dan is anything but a great guy who deserves the success he’s having.


Look, I’m not going to pretend that Barstool is something other than “broish,” inappropriate, and often offensive. What drives me crazy about this piece is the idea that the Cubs are pure as the driven snow. Pete Ricketts supported Trump publicly, and the Ricketts family essentially funded by themselves a campaign to bring the death penalty (which historically is implemented in racially disparate ways) in Nebraska. The Cubs fan base might be the most racially homogenous in all of baseball, and highlights the racial and class divide that is the two cities in Chicago. Don’t act as if Katz is ruining the sterling record of the Cubs organization on these matters. There’s nothing left to ruin.


Ban the 7th inning stretch!


Jake Coogan

“the easiest thing to do would be to just let Harry sing the stretch.”

Yes, and we should all walk around in protective bubble suits so nothing can harm us!

Lazy, Nate. Lazy. Get off the mans back.

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