Goodbye Cubscast (Am I Allowed to Type That?)

MLB may never get it. 

If you’ve been following this blog for long, you know I’m a big fan of Cubscast, the godfather of Cubs podcasts. And if you followed the link to Cubscast, you know that Lou, Sheps, and Sneetch have cast their last pod. The fact that this groundbreaking podcast met its demise saddens me greatly; the way it happened makes me RAGE ANGRY HULK SMASH!

Call it credit or call it blame, Cubscast is the reason I started blogging about the Cubs. I was spending so much time and energy contributing to their message board, I figured I might as well move my verbose ramblings into my own lonely corner of the Interfrontiers. At that time, I wasn’t aware that there were 254 batrillion Cubs blogs clogging the virtual plumbing. I knew Cubscast. That was it. And that was enough.

One of the things that made Cubscast great was that they produced the show like professionals but steered the content like fans. They deftly walked the tightrope between hope and frustration, criticism and cheering, being opinionated and open minded. It was a well crafted show and a good show in every sense of the word. They weren’t out to make anyone look stupid. They just made being a fan of the Cubs that much more fun. I often disagreed with their opinions, but they set a tone on their broadcast that prevented disagreements from ruling the day. They never lost sight of the fact that baseball is a game and that the game was meant to be enjoyed.

So I enjoyed their podcast. They were and are great Cubs fans. Which makes what MLB did (MLBAM, to be precise) so mind-boggling. Here’s an excerpt from Lou’s parting words explaining how they were bullied into submission (my words, not his) by the object of their affections:

Major League Baseball Advanced Media (MLBAM from here on out) sent us a cease and desist letter demanding that we immediately stop using the domain name. The letter also said compliance meant to immediately transfer our domain name to them, or else. A few weeks later we found out that MLBAM did not want us using the name “Cubscast” for our show, either.

MLBAM is the Internet/Interactive/Idiotic arm of Major League Baseball. They suck. They’re the ones responsible for trying to charge for the use of public-domain stats in fantasy baseball, streamlining the secondary ticket market through StubHub, and assuring the entire world that they never see a single baseball highlight anywhere but through, which they own and crap all over.

Remaining true to their greedy, senseless monogamist prison rape of their own brand, they decided that fans who wish to promote and enhance the engagement with the Major League Baseball product should not use the name of their favorite teams anywhere in their domain, program name, or any other place where such usage would make total sense for any fan looking for another way to express their appreciation FOR THE STUPID TEAM!

Deep breath. Let’s continue.

We have pursued every angle possible in trying to find out exactly why this happened and how we could resolve it amicably. We have had several phone calls with MLBAM to gather the facts and state our opinion on the matter, which is that our site is not deceptive in the least and does not cause confusion (we have had a disclaimer at the bottom of our site for several years), among other things. We outlined our position in a letter back in March. We didn’t hear much in response, and then several months passed before MLBAM got back to us, basically sticking to the language in their original letter, asking us to fully comply, and to call them if we had any questions.

Yeah, I’ve got a question. WHY DO YOU HATE YOUR FANS?!? Whew. Another deep breath. One more. Okay, carry on.

Somewhere in the middle of this ordeal we discovered that a major league team besides the Cubs found one of our sister podcast websites and didn’t like that they didn’t own it, which seems to be the genesis of this ordeal. We offered to immediately shut that site down and transfer the domain to MLBAM, but that is not good enough. MLBAM wants everything, including Cubscast.

That major league team is the twins. Attention all twin fetish porn sites: prepare to be shut down unless you take the word twins out of the domain.

Sorry, couldn’t resist commemorating this event with one big sizzling pile of copyright-abuse irony.

Of all the things an organization with such great resources as Major League Baseball can do, this seems like a low note and a waste of talent to me. I love baseball, but I wish they would move quickly to embrace fan involvement, fan communities, and technology. Other leagues such as the NBA are setting the bar high, and baseball has some serious catching up to do. Watching a great sport like baseball is one thing, but being connected to other fans makes watching and experiencing a season a thousand times better.

THIS. I know MLB probably desires to see the postseason ratings plummet even further to prevent people who haven’t directly subscribed to from being able to discuss the World Series without the expressed written consent of Major League Baseball, but come on! Why would any organization seek out and shut down the efforts of their own fans and customers who are trying to promote their product? It is beyond stupid. It’s like baseball is their girlfriend and they don’t want anybody looking at her or referring to her by name . . . unless they’re the ones who can whore her out privately.

Maybe I’m not the foremost expert on social media marketing, but this seems counterintuitive. I wish I could say it was old fashioned, but I can’t remember a time in any era when any entity expressed such contempt for their own supporters.

Anyway, we are complying with MLBAM’s request and shutting down the Cubscast site, effective immediately. I’m doing my part in this despite having my doubts about the legality of MLBAM’s claim. I understand that they own the mark “Cubs” and I’m not a legal expert by any means, but in my opinion the jury’s still out on whether or not using a mark to describe a fan club is actually an infringement or not. In our case using the word “Cubs” is simply the most accurate way to describe what we are. We host a free podcast about the Cubs. It’s a shame that nobody including us ends up having enough fearlessness (and money) to see a judge rule on this issue. It would undoubtedly shed some light on this matter.

There are two things to discuss here: the law and the logic. Legally, either MLBAM is completely out of bounds or there are a lot of blogs who should be getting really nervous right about now. Bleed Cubbie Blue (sorry, you’ve got “Cub” in there). Another Cubs Blog. Twinkie TownMetsgrrl. YankeesBlog. Ray’s Boathouse, Cafe, and Catering at International Talk Like a Pirate Day. They’re all walking a thin line. Sadly, MLBAM will probably go after only those sites/blogs/podcasts that are too small to mount a legal defense. Whether they have legal grounds or not becomes moot when they’re big enough to bully an underdog who lacks the resources necessary to challenge the biggest ball of collusion in America.

So yeah, legally (or at least logistically) MLB can tread all over a podcast that dares include the name of the team they discuss and cheer for. Logically, this move is a huge pile of fail. What does MLB gain from this exercise? An image even more tarnished than it already was? A brand that smells like armpit? Fewer fans? Less interest? A more solidified sense that no one under the employ of Major League Baseball has the slightest sense of ethics, decency, marketing, or social awareness? Yes, they gained all that and more.

Congrats, MLB, you managed to attain brand new levels of suck. I have the utmost faith that you can do even worse in the years to come.

5 Replies to “Goodbye Cubscast (Am I Allowed to Type That?)”

  1. Couldn't agree more
    MLB should be ashamed
    Such stupidity

    I also posted something about this (not nearly as eloquently as you, of course) because, like you, it just made me so mad. And, like you, I was inspired by Lou, Sheps and Sneetch to start my own Cubs blog.

    I'm looking forward to my letter from MLB – the blog's name is now "Chicago Sports In Haiku" but we tweet using the team names and the title banner (created with the help of the Tribune when they still owned the Cubs) has the logos of all 5 of the teams we now cover. I've been moderately worried about that in the past, but now I think there's a real possibility someone will suggest a redesign.

    Your "Elsewhere in Cubdom" blogroll has plenty of potential targets. And if Twitter is the next target of the MLB copyright cops we've got lots of friends who should be worried.

    As pathetic as MLB's actions might be, the saddest part of all this is that we've lost our 90 minutes a week with Lou and Sheps.

  2. I actually originally included "Cubs in Haiku" among the list before I noticed how well you've separated that name from your domain and title. Up until now I would have said that wasn't necessary, but now who knows? Since this was handled completely out of court, I don't think it sets any precedent whatsoever, but I wouldn't be surprised if it comes to a head in the near future, especially if they challenge a blog or site that's turning a profit.

  3. "I wouldn't be surprised if it comes to a head in the near future, especially if they challenge a blog or site that's turning a profit."

    Well then, I guess most of us don't have anything to worry about!

    The URL will bring you to a page of Cubs only posts on Chicago Sports In Haiku. Same thing for domains including other team names, but I don't think any of those are used too much. The individual team "haiku" identities exist mainly on Twitter, although that's mostly me and my daughter (@BlackhawksHaiku)

  4. Thanks all for the support over the years. The thing that perplexes me the most is that they haven't shut down MLBTraderumors.

    Until next time, getting shut down by MLBAM is the answer.


  5. I wondered the same thing as I was listening to that last cast. That very well be the most profitable one out there. Maybe they have some kind of agreement, I don't know. But they should be warned.

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