Let’s hope the Cleveland Browns’ play is better than their slogan-writing: Ted Diadiun
CLEVELAND -- A few years ago, my wife and I and a couple of friends flew into Calgary and headed north on the way to an exhilarating exploration of the Canadian Rockies. The first order of business upon arriving in Banff was to stop and quench our thirst at a Western-themed tavern, and after a while one of our number got up to use the facilities.
She came back with a puzzled look on her face. It had taken her awhile to sort out which bathroom to use. One door had a sign that said “Udders,” which after a pause she correctly took to mean it was for females.
“But the other one said Udder-OH-nees,” she said. “What’s an Udder-OH-nee?”
After an urgent investigation (I’d had a couple of beers, remember), we finally derived what it meant. The sign said “Udderones,” but we were mispronouncing it. Udders and Udder ones. Get it? Females and males.
(Why do restaurants and bars insist on making you stop to ponder, when all you want to do is to quickly answer nature’s call? Believe me ... “Men” and “Women” is all you need to put on the doors, and it gets the point across just fine.)
The experience made me think of a movie about a garage band from Erie, Pennsylvania, from a couple of decades ago called, “That Thing You Do!”, which was kept from being a potboiler by the presence of Tom Hanks and a catchy tune.
Early in the story, the band was searching for a name. The leader wanted to call it the Wonders, but he didn’t spell it that way, suggesting the oh-so-clever name of The Oneders. To his ongoing chagrin, the result was that MCs would introduce them as “The O-Needers.”
Sometimes – most times – clarity is the best approach. It will prevent confusion and, sometimes, an embarrassing backfire.
Which brings us to the Cleveland Browns, and their new slogan.
We Clevelanders live in what we like to call the “Heartland of America.” We’re tough, resilient, salt-of-the-earth type people. Just ask us.
That wasn’t enough for somebody with the Browns, however. And he (it had to be one of us udderones – I can’t imagine a woman coming up with this) had an inspiration for this year’s uplifting slogan for the team, featuring – yes – an oh-so-clever play on words:
“Football from the Hardland of America.”
It followed last year’s slogan, “United by Stripes” – whatever that meant.
To be sure, there has been no shortage of theories as to what this year’s slogan means.
Seriously? Nobody in the organization could see the reaction coming? That, inevitably, this was something just begging to be ridiculed across the country? I’ll spare you the more ribald comments, but one wag suggested that the slogan that finished second might have been, “Erection of the future starts today.” Perhaps that could serve as a tagline.
The Browns’ struggles over the last several seasons weren’t enough? We really needed to tee up another opportunity for people to mock our town and team?
Not only did the team’s brain trust not send the slogan to deserved oblivion – they liked it so much they put it in huge letters on the outside of the training facility in Berea: “Welcome to the HARDLAND of AMERICA.”
This is what happens when you try too hard – if you’ll pardon the expression. It is reminiscent of the corporate effort of the ’70s – mercifully short-lived – to refer to Cleveland as “The Plum City.”
I still have a bumper sticker somewhere: “New York might be the Big Apple, but Cleveland’s a Plum.” I recall stories in The Plain Dealer that actually referred to our city as “The Plum” (“But here in the Plum ...”).
Happily, the idea never took wing, dying before anyone had a chance to drape Cleveland with the logical conclusion that plums turn into prunes, and you know what those are for.
Do not hope for a similarly swift death for Hardland.
The Browns’ website touts the phrase as one that “will be seen on signs, banners and more at Browns training camp, FirstEnergy Stadium and throughout Northeast Ohio,” adding that it “embodies the refreshed identity of the Cleveland Browns.”
“Nothing fancy. Grit. Determination. Perseverance.”
The players are outfitted with T-shirts that spell it out: “Hungry. Accountable. Relentless. Determined.”
The T-shirt is fine. The banner invites ... no, begs for ... derision.
Over the years, the team has tried everything. Slogans. New Uniforms. Different shades of orange. Everything except actually putting players on the field who can win more than a few games a season.
This year appears to be different.
In John Dorsey they have a general manager who knows what he’s doing. He has put together what looks to be a capable group of draftees, free agents and holdovers that might actually be capable of providing some excitement on the lakefront this fall.
So challenge the team to play hard. Wear the T-shirt ... and a chip on your shoulder.
But lose the slogan. We don’t need slogans, especially this one. What we need are wins.
Otherwise, one shudders to think what might be marching around the stadium in this year’s post-season parade.
Ted Diadiun is a member of the editorial board of cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer.
To reach Ted Diadiun: firstname.lastname@example.org
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