Nats ditch fireworks and joy for a sub horn
By Petula Dvorak,
If it’s Bang and Zoom that you want in your baseball, Saturday’s it. The fireworks are back!
Just for one night. And then? Fizzle.
We return to the three short moans of a submarine horn — the jarring, annoying sound that Washington Nationals marketers unveiled this year as the franchise’s newest harbinger of joy and celebration and revelry.
The team was looking for something distinctive, a “brand identifier,” they told me.
Of course, team announcer Charlie Slowes’s catchphrase after a Nats win (“Bang Zoom, Go The Fireworks!”) followed by a lovely sky burst is pretty unique.
I can’t help it. I miss the fireworks.
They were spectacular and special.
Many baseball fans agreed, commenting on Dan Steinberg’s spring story about the mysterious disappearance of the fireworks.
From TexMcGriddle: “This is stupidist (sic) thing I have ever heard of. Replacing exciting fireworks with a stupid horn?”
We go for the flair.
“Fan experience,” one of the Nats representatives corrected me.
Fan experience is why I happily bring the kids to a park where I’m still looking for something bright and shiny when I hear “diamond.”
The playground, the lovely view of the river, the fireworks, a Ben’s half-smoke and a beer. That’s baseball for me.
The first time I took my kids, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to explain the finer points of the game to them.
Two innings in (innings, right?), my older son turned to me and asked: “What kind of ball is this again?”
“BASE-ball,” I wisely answered.
But then came the fireworks and it was bang and zoom all over the place and everyone was happy.
“Whoa! Brilliant! That was a pattern of two brocades, a triple roman candle and a glittery palm, followed by a crossette,” I told them.
The condo folks, the ones who moved into the stainless-steel-appliance-type places that popped up in the shadow of the ballpark knew what they were getting into when they arrived.
But I will acknowledge the complaints from the old-timers who lived in Southwest long before it became baseball land. Not sure whether an eventual jump in property value, added city services and retail, along with annoying fans trawling through the neighborhood, make up for the noise.
The submarine horn replaced the fireworks in the team’s attempt to brand itself. The Nats want to clearly define their relationship with the U.S. military, the team people told me.
Sure, the Pentagon is here. But so is the World Bank, Congress and Fannie Mae.
So how about the sound of billion-dollar loans being signed to developing countries with every home run? The smack of Speaker Boehner’s gavel with a win? The crash of America’s housing market when the game goes south?
Okay, so the ballpark is next to the city’s old naval yard. The marketers went there for research.
“They recorded the klaxon bell,” said Karin Hill, director of education at the National Museum of the U.S. Navy . “It looks like a school bell. It’s a submarine’s diving bell.”
So, submarines were an integral part of Navy Yard, we can assume?
“To our knowledge, there has never been a submarine that’s been docked here on base,” Hill told me, when I called to find a sub connection.
So what was made there? “Torpedo tubes,” Hill told me. “When Washington naval yard was a gun factory, they made items that were used for Cold War-era submarines.”
Look, fireworks are expensive. I get it. A klaxon bell recording isn’t. (They ended up not using the bell that is actually at the naval yard, instead, opting for a recording like this one you can buy online for $2.87.)
But this isn’t an austerity move, the team’s front office insisted. In fact, officials said they’re spending gobs of money on the non-baseball stuff.
They put up shade sails and created a turf lawn with wicker furniture and opened a Shake Shack.
I’m not buying it.
They are saving thousands and thousands with every fuse that isn’t lighted.
Just ask the Potomac Nationals.
They’re the minor league team in Woodbridge. They have 17 fireworks shows this year, win or lose.
“We’ve been having them for, what, 15 years now. It’s been a staple,” said the team’s manager, Josh Olerud. A small show costs about $3,500, a big one $7,500.
But what about the baseball, I wondered, because there are those who care about that.
The P-Nats won Carolina League 2010 Championships last year. Hey, it’s a championship, right?
Bang and zoom indeed.
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