23 August 2010

What's Wrong With Legends Race?

Legends, l to r: Nomar, JT Snow, Jeff Suppan, Don Mattingly

There's the glaringly obvious - these oversized puppets barely resemble the Diamondbacks in question. The Matt Williams doll looks more like Mark Grace than the Grace version, and Gonzo's schnoz looks alarmingly like Nomar Garciaparra.

The bigger problem is that front office "hangers on" Grace and Williams were about as legendary as Robin Ventura and Al Oliver over their careers. For other teams. By the time they got to Phoenix, they werent even our best players. Exporting the idea they are Dback "Legends" looks provincial and undiscerning and degrades the sport-wide currency of the term. Not to mention the larger franchise contributions of Steve Finley and Curt Schilling.

This decidedly "B" heat that stumbles around during the fifth inning of each home game hardly celebrates our history. It demeans it, by calling attention to the fact that (other than Randy and arguably Gonzo), ours is an immature and understandably shallow superstar heritage.

The Dbacks Legends Race is loosely lifted from popular sausage and President sideline schtick in Milwaukee and DC and captures their generic silliness - but Derrick Hall complicated that by reaching for commercial payoffs with his choice of characters. He's not merely suggesting, inaccurately, that we're a baseball town with four legitimate legends. He's corrupted the very "legends" concept, by favoring and aggrandizing less than legendary figures with current front office associations.

Other cities' races are endearing and ours is so awkward because sausages and Presidents are genuine sources of regional pride - quite apart from baseball. These promos are overtly silly respites from the game - not a barely veiled front office ploy to reconstitute fan affiliations with past franchise glories.

What might have worked better?

Something playfully branding Arizona instead of trying too hard to rebrand a flailing franchise. A race to amuse fans rather than convert them. My idea is a rebrand of the state's historic 4 "C"s - a cowboy, cactus, coyote and feminine cougar, in the modern spirit of the term. Keep it clean for families, of course, but interplay with the cowboy could be entertaining.

Two objections arise. Many locals loathe the tired cactus coyote cliche. Those people are insecure losers. Milwaukee's sausages endure and endear because the local culture's poking a little fun at itself. Saguaros and cowboys are harmless cliches that bond fans and reflect a unique sense of place. Nobody wants to see a trendy foreclosure puppet or racing Intel plant.

Second, some big Mormon investor may object to a coquettish cougar. (In Arizona, it seems big Mormon investors are all over. In fact, the race would be more locally representative if the cowboy was replaced with a Mormon investor, but I digress). The key is to portray the cougar tactfully. Make her work on an innocent level, for kids, and let knowing adults enjoy the innuendo.


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Diamondhacks said...

Thanks for the encouraging words.

Anonymous said...

Hey captan sunshine, out of all the things that are wrong with the game you pick this to complain about. these four guys gave us a world series. And until something else great happens to this state we should remember them. Why not tackle why beer prices are going up? I think that is up your ally of critical thinking.

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