Letter from California

An archive of the weekly "Letter from Calfornia", written by Jim McCarthy.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Letter from California-January 10, 2005

When I lived in Japan, I traveled a lot on the “bullet train.” It passed through a small town, Ogori, about 10 miles away. I lived in a town called Yamaguchi, the biggest town in the area and more than big enough to pick on pipsqueak towns like Ogori. For some reason, though, the “bullet train” only ran through Ogori, so local travelers had to meet the “bullet train” there. Of course, it’s not really called the “bullet train,” but if I told you the real name of the train, you’d wonder if I had just cursed you out in Japanese. Shinkansen. See what I mean?

Anyway, my Japanese assistant had picked me up from the station one day, and as we were driving home, she said, “Have you heard that Ogori is going to become part of Yamaguchi?” “That’s great,” I said, “think of how convenient it will be when the ‘bullet train’ comes straight to Yamaguchi!” She looked at me suspiciously. She might have been trying to decide if I was stupid or just really not funny. On the other hand, she might have been trying to figure out what this mysterious “bullet train” thing was, since of course, the Yakitoriya is not really called the “bullet train.”

Eventually, we moved on to other topics. She’d heard enough of my crazy train gun schemes, and I was ready for a hot bowl of Shinkansen and some rest. As far as I know, Ogori is still fiercely independent and Yamaguchi residents still have the inconvenience of driving to another town to catch the “bullet train” or Tamanegi, as its known in Japan.

Thanks to TV, many people in this country are now aware that there’s a place called Orange County, or “the O.C.” somewhere near Los Angeles. In Orange County, there’s a city called Anaheim. In this city, there is a professional baseball team that used to be called the Anaheim Angels. Before that, they were called the California Angels. Before that, they played in Los Angeles and were called the Los Angeles Angels. That last one makes sense in a way, since “Los Angeles” means “The Angels.” It’s like calling your team the Lumberton Lumbermen or the Rocket City Rockets or the Piranhaville Piranhas.

But Anaheim? I admit it doesn’t have quite the ring that “Los Angeles” does, and to my knowledge, it doesn’t happen to mean “Angels.” To me, it sounds like a town in Wisconsin where they brew beer and cook a mean bratwurst, but for all I know, it means “stomach cramp” in German. Or it could be a curse, like Shinkansen.

Last year, a man named Arte Moreno bought the Anaheim Angels, and his strategy has been to make them into a team that’s not just for the overly dramatic, very adult-looking teenagers of “the O.C.” and their clueless, self-indulgent parents. Instead, Moreno wants a team that truly belongs to the City of Angels, which is more than big enough to pick on pipsqueak towns like Anaheim.

As a first step, he sent his multi-millionaire players out to commit vandalism. They might have thought it was a loyalty test to the crazy, rich weirdo who just bought the team. Perhaps, but they also made TV commercials of their crimes, painting halos on the “A”s of signs at the city limits of Los Angeles County towns. For example, Pasadena’s three A’s all got a halo, and each of the three players who defaced city property got a day in jail. More than worth it for a good commercial, especially if you’re rich enough to be able to get others to do the time for you.

Now, he’s decided to go all the way and just change the name of the team to the Los Angeles Angels, though they’ll still be playing in that other place. Sure, he made an agreement to keep “Anaheim” in the team’s name, but that’s no problem. Moreno just hired a couple of sharp marketing guys, a band of lawyers, and probably a good caterer, and pretty soon, they had a solution.

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim were born.

Huh? Sure, Moreno agreed to keep “Anaheim” in the name, but he didn’t say where and he didn’t agree not to add some other words in. Words like “Los Angeles.”

He should have hired me though, because Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim could use some work. How about: Los Angeles Angels, now with Real Anaheim. Or take a page from the College Bowl Games: Los Angeles Angels, Presented by Anaheim. Finally, he could just be obnoxious and say: Los Angeles Angels, No Way are We from Anaheim. Hey, he just said he’d keep the word “Anaheim” in the name.

Is it a good strategy? I’m guessing it is. Laugh if you will, but words influence how people think. Moreno may be a sneaky rat, as the City of Anaheim alleges in its lawsuit, but he’s probably got this one right.

Hey, and think of how convenient it will be now that we have two baseball teams in Los Angeles. If only I could get to the games on a “bullet train,” which is actually called the Teriyaki.


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