“We have heard from many fans that they would like to hear a broader genre of songs incorporated into our game day experience,” a team spokeswoman said Monday. “Chuck Brown is a legendary Washingtonian, and his music remains part of our rotation — including home run celebrations.”
Translation: People in high places want to get rid of a go-go song at the park, they weren’t sure if anyone would notice and were willing to take the risk. To a degree, it’s worked. It took two full homestands before the change was widely noticed. Through seven home games, the team has hit seven home runs. It appears that the pregame soft-rock bit was enough to distract people from another music change, temporarily.
Now, there’s a Change.org petition asking the Nationals to bring back Chuck Brown, and as of 6 a.m. Tuesday morning it had 73 supporters. “Change is good, but some traditions, even relatively new ones, deserve to stay,” it reads. Back in 2008, fans voted for Chuck Brown among a slew of other songs for various moments.
This isn’t merely another case of a certain era of the District’s culture being wiped off the map because it didn’t appeal to corporate and/or commercial interests. It’s about where the Nationals want to stand in the overall power rankings of the Washington sports fan experience. Baseball is consumed at so many different metabolisms within any particular team’s fan base that any specific blow from a PR standpoint — combined with, say, a not-great year on the field — can have rather injurious effects.
This franchise is too young and not nearly rooted enough to be ditching the few traditions it has already established.
You don’t want to find yourself in a situation like some other teams in this town, where fans start to feel like it really is all just a big money grab (and we know deep inside that it is). But the team’s de-emphasis of D.C., the city that ponied up all kinds of money to house the Nationals, started a while ago. First, they ditched the uniforms and hats with the interlocking letters on them. Merchandise and branding moved to all Curly W, all the time.
After Ben’s Chili Bowl debuted as a park concession, the team rolled out a crab company to appeal to the traditional Maryland eateries. This year, it’s added Virginia ham-related menu items and the Stars & Stripes Club is now the Norfolk Southern Club. This all makes sense, on some level. Presumably most of the fans are coming from Northern Virginia and a larger regional appeal is just smart marketing. Even the logo on the scoreboard is now representative of the entire DMV, not just the District.
But to covertly alter the team’s soundtrack on your most loyal fans — who were there before all these fun amenities came into the picture — is a pointless gesture that smacks of a team getting very high on itself after landing an all-star game a couple seasons down the road.
Over at the District Sports Page blog, Tom Bridge addressed Valerie Camillo, the team’s chief revenue and marketing officer, directly. “One thing I love about sports is that sports are the last remaining home for civic religion. Sure, some people treat local politics that way, but not all places do. You can unabashedly love your sports team because it’s a personification of your region, and a lot of teams carry on the traditions of their city as standard bearers,” he wrote Monday. “To take away Chuck Brown from the celebration at Nats Park, and to replace him with something overproduced and generically pop-y, is to say that DC’s music culture just isn’t there.”
Unfortunately, the fact is the Nationals probably never wanted Chuck to begin with. The original press release for the “You Make the Call” promotion to pick the various songs is still online. Of all the songs highlighted in the contest, a certain track is not there.
I’ll bet you can guess which one.