About Those MASN Defining Moments
You know that series of MASN ads in which Orioles and Nats fans describe their "defining moments," moments that justify and redeem their fandom? Another round is on the way; you can submit a 2009 defining moment online, or go to open auditions at Nats Park this Sunday or at Camden Yards the following Sunday.
Last time around, there were about 200 submissions, which led to about 40 in-person auditions. One problem with the campaign, of course, is that there have been relatively few "defining moments" for both of these franchises in the recent past, or at least, moments whose definition isn't "take two Prozacs and call me in the morning." Certainly, there have been fewer than 200. So what do you do if you're MASN and more than one of your winning contestants has submitted the exact same moment? What do you do if, to be specific, at least three of your winning Nats fans all chose Wil Nieves's walk-off home run as defining? Well, you assign some of those fans a different defining moment, and e-mail them a script about that moment, of course.
"I had to spend the day on YouTube seeing how the Tomahawk Chop is done," joked Cathy Taylor, who submitted Nieves but was told her "defining moment" would be John Lannan out-dueling John Smoltz. "I researched the game I sent in; I didn't research the game I got."
"They weren't forcing it down my throat or anything, they just didn't want two guys doing the same moment," said Mark Searle, who also had submitted Nieves but wound up starring in the Elijah Dukes ad. "In fact, I liked that one better, the more I thought about it."
And to be fair, none of the people I've talked with expressed even the slightest concern that their "defining moment" was defined by someone else, at least initially. But the whole "Name Your Defining Moment" refrain? The verb seems wrong somehow. I mean, this whole thing has jarred my faith in the verity of televised advertising, at least for a couple minutes, anyhow.
"The people were real, the moments were real," MASN spokesman Todd Webster told me. "They may have been submitted by another fan, but that doesn't make them any less of a defining moment."
Adam Gresek agreed. Adam is the guy pictured in the above video. He suggested a defining moment involving a home game that featured thunderstorms, a long delay, and a gang of diehards sticking things out till the final pitch. He was accepted, and "when they accepted me, my script was totally different," he said Instead, he would be talking about the Mets coming to town in first place and leaving town in disarray.
"I remember it, I was here, but that wasn't the moment I submitted," he told me. "Even if the moment wasn't totally genuine, the experience of being connected with the team like that is a really good feeling. And from what I gather, most of the people who participated were still really really happy. It was still an awesome experience, just a great experience to be connected to the team that way."
Searle agreed, explaining that even at their auditions, after discussing their moments in their own words, applicants were given sharp, fast-paced scripts to read.
"We're dealing with real people here, people who had never been on a television shoot before, who were justifiably nervous during the auditions," Webster, the MASN spokesman, said. "So in order to help them focus and make the shoot as efficient as possible, some fans were given a dialogue synthesized from their e-mails, from interviews and from the improvs."
"Here's the main point, we're all great fans and we're all watching the games, and they're all great moments," Searle told me. "I'm watching the other guys like, 'Yeah, that's a great moment, too.' I would have been happy doing any of them, they're all great to me. They did a good thing here, getting the fans engaged."
And the fans seem to be engaged. Gresek gets stares at the ballpark, hears the "hey aren't you..." refrain at games. He's posed for photos with fans. He got recognized by a visitor at his job, when he wasn't wearing a shred of Nats clothing. And he's auditioning again this time around.
His next moment? It's the home opener. Nationals Park. Adam Dunn's gonna launch some bombs. The Big Donkey, trotting into D.C. Gresek has a replica 1949 glove. Dunn unloads. First batting practice home run. Up goes the glove. Here comes the ball, packing more punch than a drunk Phillies fan.
"It hits the glove and pops out the back," Gresek recalled. "I felt an Adam Dunn home run, but I couldn't contain the power."
Let's hope that's a defining moment.
(More negative feedback: "Damn, they are just bad," from Nationals Pride. Fantasies of doing unspeakable things to the stars from the disturbing Ballpark Guys. Mister Irrelevant's list of 10 actual defining moments, which will require a whole handful of anti-depressants with a vodka shooter.
"The reality was we didn't have a single defining moment from 2008 about which we felt passionate enough to subject ourselves to such embarrassment," from Luke Jones. "To some viewers, the commercials are clever, cute and downright funny because of the full-fledged enthusiasm of the fans. To others, they are irritating, silly and serve only as reminders of how unexciting the Nationals and Orioles have been in the past year," from Tim Lemke at the WaTi.)
May 22, 2009; 9:09 AM ET
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