Fans relieved blind outrage sort of actually warranted
People were shocked to learn about the Reading Phillies’ franchise re-branding initially, but things have calmed down since the team asked their fans to root for the Reading Fightin’ Phils, represented by a feisty, flightless bird designed to attract children.
Well, everyone except an extremely vocal percentage of fans who remain angry about the change from “Reading Phillies” to “Reading Fightin’ Phils,” or “Fightins” if you feel like it. That percentage is 84. But let’s list some of the cast of this farce.
Jeff Hunsicker, the Reading GM with a shiny new Eastern League Executive of the Year award and a radical plan to turn Reading baseball on its head. Slowly, he worked to get the historic borough, seeped in tradition, to adjust to the concept of change, before riding into his hotly anticipated reveal on the back of a cartoon ostrich.
Dave Bauman, the prolonged PA announcer at First Energy Stadium who, like most of us, couldn’t stop the instinctively disgusted response to the change slip out of his mind and then again slip out of his fingers as he typed the response on Facebook. The ominous reaction of the club has led to wild speculation that you can’t look for a replacement unless you plan to have an opening.
Mike Drago, the Reading beat writer and friend of the site–by “friend” I do mean he has shown up in the comments section to point out gross inaccuracies–originally reported a “so-so” reaction from the fans, only to rip the curtain back and contribute his own blistering commentary.
But what’s most confusing to me is the purpose. Reading made it sound like they were ready to leave the Phillies’ shadow, to use the stature gained from their own work, independent of their affiliate, and capitalize on one of the largest fan bases in minor league baseball. That makes sense, and they’ve earned that chance, as shattering as it would be to the team’s legacy. And then their big move is changing their name from the exact name of their big league affiliate to the nickname of their big name affiliate.
I was giving them credit for reaching the point at which they’ve arrived. But the change wasn’t really dramatic or iconic enough to accomplish what they claimed they were trying to do. Add onto that the toxic epilogues of Dave Bauman’s debacle and Hunsicker’s proud announcement that “We’ll have more field gear than any team in the history of minor league baseball,” before slyly directing folks toward the gift shop, and this all kind of sounds more like a con than an overreaction by the people.
Nobody likes change. It’s cold and unfamiliar and strange. There are no memories in these uniforms. Think of all the work that has to be done for these uniforms to accomplish something. It’ll be months before anybody even wears one on a baseball field. People didn’t want to like the new brand, and the R-Phils–with their shady doings and merchandise at the ready–aren’t making things much better.
But the team will most likely stick with it–they did spend all that money on twenty alternate uniforms. And they’re not awful; they embrace the “Baseballtown” moniker, they invoke the image of the Crazy Hot Dog Vendor; they, um, are the first team ever use an ostrich as a mascot.
Historic, certainly. But the key will remain to stifle the response from reaching equally historic levels.