Saturday, April 26, 2008

RAPIDZ: CHANGE OF SPELLING IS TELLING

Either you want to watch pro baseball in Ottawa for a good many years -- or you're so jaded you'll use the spelling of the team nickname as an excuse not to opt in.

It's naive to presume that Rick Anderson and Rob Hall, the entrepreneurs behind Zip.ca, will tread lightly as the owners of the Can-Am League team. Changing the name and colours (from baby blue to red) just four weeks before Opening Day is probably the tip of the iceberg. Please, please, please keep an open mind.

The name change should not be strike one (this is a game where two major-league teams spell Socks with an X, for crying out loud; people put up with the team in Toronto being called the Blue Jays, which was a tie-in with its original corporate parent producing a top-selling beer, Labatt's Blue).

The risk is that the francophone fans on both sides of the river whom Miles Wolff was trying to court by having Rapids and Rapides team logos might view this as a total kiss-off. Anderson and Hall need to come in appreciating that the arc of the Can-Am League coming to town was the longest 11th hour any sports lover should ever experience.

It lasted from late August -- remember the stories about David (Bank of Frank) Butler and his cockamamie plan to put a roof on the ballpark? -- until the presser on Valentine's Day. There's still the question of how it's going to fly this summer, which is why a name change, which seems so minor, is so chancy.

One great suggestion from a commenter is,
"Keep Rapids and call it Zip Stadium. As in: 'Not cutting the grass this afternoon, dear. I am heading to the Zip to catch the Rapids."
It's tough to gauge the general reaction to the name change. The Paper of Record in Ottawa has not followed up on this story at all. For the time being, hopefully Anderson and Hall have time and open minds for the people who have baseball in their hearts, who thought this was dead in the water a thousand times last summer and fall.

This extends to the godfather of indie ball, Wolff, the Lynx employees whose jobs were saved by getting the Can-Am League team, superfan advocates Carl Kiiffner and Bruce Murdock who stuck their necks wayyyyyyy out there to keep hope alive through the fall and winter and last but not least, the people who will watch baseball for the sake of watching baseball.

It will take more than keeping the diehards happy to make the Rapids a financial success. The biggest indie-ball success story in Canada is the Winnipeg Goldeyes. There are countless people in Manitoba who love going to Goldeyes games, but go to eat and drink and for the conversation -- and that doesn't make them any less of a desired customer.

That's who Anderson and Hall need to reach. There's hope they can get people out to The Zip -- if they won't call it that, let's call it that for them -- for any reason and hope they come back for the primary reason.

More power to them if they pull it off. It will be a lot easier if they have clear eyes and full hearts with respect to people who kept hope alive through the fall and winter.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Sorry, the name change IS strike one to me. The comparison with the fact that two MLB teams have "socks" spelled as "sox" doesn't work. It's not as if the "Red Socks" changed their name to Red Sox after they were bought by Xerox.

I have the same bad feeling about this as when the Gliebermans stepped in to save the Renegades a few years ago.

sager said...

Fair enough, but people never had an issue with the Blue Jays being owned by a brewery that produced a top-selling Pilsener beer called Labatt's Blue (if you don't mind, I'll add that to the post).

Anonymous said...

You're right, if we forget that "Blue Jays" was also the most popular name out of the name the team contest and that "blue jay" is an actual bird name (without any spelling change!).

Anyway, that's beside the point, because if it was only a matter of logo and name change, I could certainly live with that (although with difficulty, cause the new name and logo really s%&ks).

I'm a die-hard baseball fan and I'll just be happy having a team to watch in Ottawa. The problem is that it could very well be the tip of the iceberg like you say and the promises of more bad business moves. How could anyone argue that the name and logo change, only 2 weeks before the start of spring training, is anything but a really dumb decision? With a fragile baseball market like Ottawa is, everything counts and the team cannot afford to make mistakes. I really hope I'm wrong but I'm really disapointed.

sager said...

Check Stephen Brunt's book on the Jays' first 20 years... he pretty much implies it was going to be Blue Jays regardless of the will of the people... same deal when there was a name-the-team contest for the Raptors in the '90s.

It's called Noam Chomsky, eat your heart out.

Pete Toms said...

Team nicknames are largely irrelevant in determining long term success.

I share Naete's concern though that the name change might signal a change in approach in luring the folks on the " Quebec side " to the stadium. If in fact this is the case I think it is a bad move.

On the plus side, I guess it's a good sign that somebody bought it. Wolff owning 2 teams in an 8 club league was not viable long term.