Playoff talk from the Nationals? Pshaw. Playoff talk was last week’s news. This week, we’re on to the D word.
“I think everybody in the Nationals organization would agree on this: we’re not necessarily playing for one year specifically,” Stephen Strasburg said Thursday on ESPN 980. “We’re playing to hopefully build a dynasty.”
A dynasty, eh? How best to describe this outlook? Self-assuredness? Confidence? Blind faith?
No, no and no. This, friends, is Natitude.
“It’s a young team, with an edge and attitude,” Nats COO Andy Feffer told me this week. “But now it’s different than the past: they’re talented, and they’ve got the skills to back it up. That kind of edge and attitude is Natitude.”
The team will introduce “Natitude” to the D.C. area this weekend, with a press release Friday, radio spots starting Saturday during 106.7 The Fan’s first spring training broadcast, television ads beginning with Sunday’s spring training debut on MASN, and at least one commercial on the team’s Web site (below). That commercial alternates between Michael Morse and Danny Espinosa, with both men virtually leaking glowing globules of confidence off the screen.
“Some people say you’re either born with it or you’re not,” Morse says in the ad.
“I don’t care if you’re the best, I’m gonna get you,” Espinosa adds. “That’s why I always look into the dugout. I want to make sure they’re watching.”
Morse is shown repeatedly, doing some sort of primal, silent howl. “Ignite Your Natitude,” is the tag line at the end.
A group of Nats employees came up with the “Natitude” brand campaign together, but Feffer said it was inspired by the way the team played in 2011, by Ryan Zimmerman’s walk-off home runs and Morse pounding himself on the helmet, by Jayson Werth getting dirt in his beard while sliding into third and Stephen Strasburg “closing down the Marlins’ own stadium on our terms,” by Espinosa getting kicked out of the team’s weight room at midnight and Ian Desmond saying a double-header split with the Phillies was no longer acceptable.
“The difference is that confidence and assertiveness,” Feffer said. “We’re probably more excited than ever, more confident, more assertive and more ready than we’ve ever been to make things happen this year.”
Remember the team’s previous marketing campaigns, like “Nats Town” in 2009? “NatsTown” conjures quaint images of humble journeyman ballplayers just maybe trying to eke out one more season, one more at-bat, one more bowl of bubble-gum flavored gruel, please, sir. NatsTown had very little Natitude.
(Other campaigns:“Get Your Red On” and “Welcome Home” and “Expect It,” as I recall.)
The team has started introducing players to the new campaign, asking them to design t-shirts that express their own particular Natitude. Drew Storen has already come up with his concept, featuring the phrase “Attention fans, the bottom of the 9th has been canceled.” The most popular player shirts will be used either as team giveaways or sold in the team store.
Fans will also be asked to submit their own takes on Natitude, and Feffer hopes the campaign “will define itself over the course of the season, change, become new and fresh, less what we say it is and more what the players and fans decide it is.”
And why not? Jim Riggleman quitting in the middle of last season? Bad Natitude. Nyjer Morgan creating distractions with absurd on-field antics? Needed a Natitude adjustment. Elijah Dukes and all his baggage? Total Natitude problem.
But Bryce Harper and Gio Gonzalez and even Strasburg saying they expect to win, and soon?
“Natitude is a little thing that makes a big difference,” Winston Churchill once said, sort of.
“It’s real, what’s going on,” Feffer said. “The players know it’s real. Davey Johnson knows it’s real. They’re ready.”