Monday, February 09, 2009

We the Nats

I've been thinking about archaic grammar and how it relates to the Nationals. Our old friends the ancient Greeks had a number between singular and plural - the dual. It pretty quickly fell into general disuse and came to be used only for things that were usually found in twos, like twins or plow horses or testicles. If ever an ancient Greek could come up with a sentence that included a phrase like "the twin plow horses' testicles," he was credited with a Triple Greek Score and got free desserts for life.

I've been contemplating this because the limitations of the English language make it hard to write about the Nats. When you say "Nationals fans," it's problematic. We learned last year that Nationals TV ratings are small, so tiny that it was posited that they must have been the result of a misplaced comma or a couple of delinquent zeroes. Using the plural of "fan" is an insult to the very concept of the plural AND fails to express the author's scorn at the serious crappiness of Washington's reaction to getting its fourth (more or less) major league team, but using "fan" is pushing it too far. Obviously, there's more than one. Not many more, but more.

That's my problem; the Nationals' problem - as represented by the ratings issues - is being addressed by an aggressive rebranding. Maybe you've noticed that the Nats have taken on an edge lately. You have the acquisition of Elijah Dukes, you've got the FBI investigating the team for filching money from hopeful, fresh-faced Dominican teenagers, and now you have the new color commentator, Rob Dibble.

I'm not quite prepared to complain about this. For one thing, I've never actually heard Rob Dibble: Broadcaster. Maybe he's good. Every piece of evidence argues against it, but stranger things have happened. From the Nats' standpoint, the point is that he's not Don Sutton. I liked Don Sutton. He was even-keeled and intelligent, he had a soothing voice, and he didn't inflict an obvious catchphrase on us. Now we have this:

As edgy as a special guest verse from Fred Durst

See that? The shades, the phony snarl? The bat, which represents his truly impressive hitting record (3-25, .120) and the microphone, which represents his equally impressive talking record? That's branding. This ain't your daddy's color commentator! We're not in Kansas anymore! It's like if the X-Games and Mountain Dew and Poochie the Dog came together and took the form of a gel-haired jackass! Etc., etc.

And don't think it's not intentional. MASN interviewed, among others, Buck Martinez, whose musky, scotch-soaked elegance has fallen out of fashion ever since Ricardo Montalban passed away. Clearly, Buck's status as the best-dressed man in baseball (seersucker? Yes! White after Labor Day? No!) just doesn't fit in with the Nationals' current attitude, which emphasizes informality and malfeasance.

See, that's class right there.


Hence Dibble. It might not be that bad. Maybe he'll spend the season browbeating Bob Carpenter because he didn't play the game and doesn't know how to man up and strap it on or whatever (I'm expecting hits from some pretty hair-raising Google searches based on that wording, by way). Maybe he'll just complain for seven months (this is known as the industry as "Blogger-Style"). Or maybe he'll just be completely terrible. Regardless of the actual outcome, I don't think the Nationals went far enough. If you're going to go edgy, go all the way edgy. Don't settle for some safe-for-ESPN Radio-type controversy - you've got to do the damn thing.

Fortunately, it's not too late. The Nationals' marketing strategy can be completed simply by firing Clint and the Nat Pack and replacing them with these guys (WARNING: this is not safe for work and regrettable in a number of other ways):



Now that's edgy. They have our new advertising slogan: We Ain't Got Bats We Got Straps. Which is to say, maybe we suck as baseball, but we will shoot you. Or at least text you a picture of a gun.

Either way: edgy.

2 comments:

Olibou said...

You know, as a Montrealer, I just can't stop rooting for the nats: crappy (bordering on felonious) ownership, ludicrous baseball organisation ran by a phony, stupid marketing, attendance and ratings problems (tough the last two aren't that bad)...

It's like they never left!

Dave Nichols said...

hi. i've added you to my blog roll, would love if you could do same. keep up the good work, looks like we finally got something interesting to write about this year.

thanks,
Dave
http://natsnewsnetwork.blogspot.com/