They say the roads are as bad back home as they are here, where the sidewalks are like a war zone of puddle-shrapnel and the airport is full of suckers like me with canceled flights.
Which means you and I are in perfect position to take part in one of Kansas City’s most time-honored traditions.
Making fun of the Royals’ new slogan.
The club is going with “Be Royal” this year, which is sort of meh which, actually and sadly, is the whole point. “Royal” rhymes with loyal, and (even if the team won’t say it out loud) ties into that “Royals” pop song the kids like. So, fine.
This slogan doesn’t make any promises about the team, and even if it opens up the club for jokes — doesn’t this team need to be better than what the Royals have been over the last generation? — it’s mostly just empty calories for highway billboards.
Before we go any further, let’s acknowledge how senseless it is that the Royals (or any other team) hire a bunch of suits in cubicles to come up with marketing slogans that follow the first rule of medicine: Do no harm.
And all teams do this, by the way. The gazillion-dollar Dodgers are going with “Live. Breathe. Blue.” Breathing means living, and not breathing sometimes means turning blue, but whatever. It’s better than “Your Mortgage Payment is Our Players’ Dry Cleaning Bill.”
The problem with a slogan is that in the best-case scenario, people will forget it. Quick, can you name the Royals’ slogan last year? I’ll wait.
“Come to Play.”
That was a relative success, a vast improvement over the year before, when “Our Time” became a boilerplate punch line for people to throw stones at a team that was supposed to be strong but instead lost 90 games.
The Royals backpedaled when that season turned to mush, forced to try some revisionist-history spin that the slogan referred to holding the All-Star Game, not the actual team. But you can bet that general manager Dayton Moore and others in baseball operations are now given a heads up before the marketing department goes public with a check the team may not be able to cash.
This is how it goes. Marketing departments are bigger (and often more detached from baseball) than ever before. And those billboards aren’t going to fill themselves. So men and women sit around and bounce ideas off each other until — and this really is the goal — they find one empty enough that it can’t be used to hang a losing team. In 2011, the White Sox bumped up payroll and went with “All In,” which turned into a disaster when they finished 16 games out of first place.
There is just no winning here. No profit in slogans. No traction to be made. If the team loses, the slogan is remembered only with irony. If the team wins, chances are something better and organic comes along to replace it. Had the Royals experienced more success last year, you can bet James Shields’ weird neon deer in the clubhouse would’ve become a thing. They didn’t, but 86 wins were the team’s most since 1989 and enough to keep “Come To Play” away from infamy.
But baseball teams feel like they need these things, even if a T-shirt giveaway and fireworks can put twice as many people in the seats as any slogan (and a winning team does much better).
Can we guess the runners-up to “Be Royal?” And remember, you can’t overpromise.
“Ned’s Actually Very Funny Away From The Cameras.”
“Kids Under 12 Race Billy Butler For Free.”
“Our Last Playoff Appearance Is Old Enough To Be A Doctor.”
“C’mon, There’s No Good Movies Out.”
Actually, this is kind of fun. Come up with a marketing slogan that wins, but only if it doesn’t lose. Sort of like a teenager who throws a party when his parents are out of town and doesn’t get caught.
I tried that once. I was 16.
And I got caught.