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August 19, 2004

Breaking Balls

Stop the Moose Goose!

by Derek Zumsteg

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I used to corral my complaints about the deterioration of watching a baseball game live to things that happened during game play: The scoreboard-led cheering, for instance, or the cribbed-from-professional-wrestling musical intros for home team hitters (just once, it'd be cool if they played some bars of that week's rap-rock hit and from the dugout, fireworks blazing, and Jericho ran in, charged the mound, took out the pitcher with a flying drop-kick and then made his escape through the wildly cheering crowd).

The Mariners have long been an innovative team in almost all aspects of profitable operation, including making a game a fun and baseball-centered-but-light affair for the whole family. They gave the world that techno music ("Oooh-oh-a-oh-oh, oooh-oh-a-oh-oh...") teams play going into the ninth, originally scraped up for former closer Kazuhiro Sasaki, where the oh-oh, combined with excitement and a little wincing, was entirely appropriate. The only ideas they're loathe to embrace are those that come from New York (like the endlessly annoying Day-O thing). Like great works of literature in Iran, they just don't get translated.

The team tries all kinds of weird between-inning and pitching-change video-screen-oriented activities, and if they don't work, they discard them. Given a spare minute, they're prone to putting on "Safeco Field Bad Dancing" with close-ups of people writhing around, according to a set rotation:

  • junior high or high school girls, cuter the better

  • parents holding babies aloft, waving babies in time to music, the cuter the baby the better

  • people dancing, the less rhythmically the better

But this year, the Mariners have introduced something that is so crazy, so insane, that it warrants immediate attention and federal action, preferably through use of overwhelming military force.

The "Moose Goose" is a dance for audience participation. The Moose turns up on the This Sponsorship Available Video Screen, and they show instructions as he dances around. Two steps left... hop, hop... clap, spin... with arrows and everything. It's like Dance Dance Revolution for 50,000 people except that unlike Dance Dance Revolution, the music sucks and no one plays along.

For those of you lucky enough to have not seen the Mariner Moose, he's... he's like a comic who's unoriginal but funny the first time, after which you're forced to see his act every day without fail. It's like watching the comics with thin material on Last Comic Standing, or covering the political stump speeches of someone who can't and doesn't want to deviate (looking left) from what they see scrolling (looking right) on those little grass screens (looking left) every time they get behind a podium (applause).

You may ask why I'm so annoyed about the Moose Goose. Why, if no one cares, should I be calling for the Army to drive up from Fort Lewis and put a forceable stop to this, especially given my long opposition to using the military for the enforcement of civilian law? And after all, the Moose Goose seems to be just part of the long tradition of artificially generating fan action with the Obey-o-tron scoreboard commands, or of co-opting fan enthusiasm (Fans excited and chanting? Take over the chant by way of helping rhythm through playing clapping over the PA). But no, it's far more insidious than that.

Usually the Mariners' pattern of innovation goes like this:

  • introduce bizarre segment no one likes (here's a picture of a Mariner player making a defensive play, but it's been run through an Adobe Photoshop filter a couple times so it's hard to make out--who is it?)

  • when crowds fail to respond at all to segment, introduce audience participation (put fans up on dugout, have them guess at the player for token prizes, like a 1987 Seattle Fun Run T-shirt, size XS)

  • discard segment

But the "Moose Goose" keeps coming back. They keep trying to push it, as if they're already in too deep. There's a warehouse in Seattle's industrial districts filled with "Moose Goose" video games they're waiting to deploy to local arcades, shipping containers of "Moose Goose 2005" for the Nintendo GameCube with and without Moose-horn headset, all shrink-wrapped and ready for release to retail channels. They're going to push this on us until we give in, like some boy band supported by Clear Channel, and then every city in the country is going to have to endure this, as mascot dances and songs overwhelm local culture in crashing waves, like the Macarena hitting every season.

So I'm begging you: I don't care if you're in one of the Stryker Brigades and can drive right up I-5 to help put an end to this and stay for the game, or you're assigned to a sub up in Bremerton and might be willing to put an unarmed cruise missile through the Moose's video head next week (please consult with your commanding officer first--mention that I have good tickets I'll give them). I don't care if you have to call, write, or e-mail your duly elected representatives.

The only way we're going to teach these teams a lesson is through overwhelming force, and Seattle's conveniently located next to some of the most overwhelming force the world's ever seen.

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