The Evil Empire
OCTOBER 2, 2005; BOSTON, MA –The Evil Empire is rich enough to squash most every thing in its path. Unless fate intervenes. And sometimes fate does just that.
The Yankees don’t like the caps we make. Not one bit. The problem is that we have a position of legal (if not financial) strength. Baseball fans don’t confuse our “YH” logo with the Yankees’ “NY” logo. The logos are like night and day. Under the circumstances, it should be tough for the Yankees to argue trademark infringement with a straight face. So they won’t: their high-priced attorneys will.
The Yankees have stepped in the way of our federal trademark application for the “YH with Horns” logo. To be a little more specific: they have asked for an extension of time to draft the paperwork that will oppose our mark. In a show of painful decorum, we agreed to the requested extention with the hope that the Yankees would come to their senses. Time will tell.
Fate, as it turns out, came in the form of a journalist from the New York Daily News. Reporter Kerry Burke ventured to Fenway Park on Thursday, with 20 “official” Yankees caps in his possession. His mission: to get 20 Bostonians to accept the free caps in the area surrounding the park. His mission proved impossible. One fan said that he “wouldn’t use the Yankee cap as toilet paper.” A 62-year-old Sox fan from Oxford, Michigan (who was a long way from home) grabbed the free cap from Burke and stomped it into the ground. Others accepted the caps, then promptly tossed them in nearby garbage cans. In Boston–and in a lot of other places across the U.S.–the interlocking “NY” logo represents the mark of the beast.
I picked up the News on Friday morning and read through the story. A light went on. I was headed to Boston for Saturday’s game. I’ll take 20 of our classic red “YH” caps, I thought, and see how people respond when I offer them up free of charge. Needless to say, my experience was much different than Burke’s.
After parking my car at the Prudential Center, I walked a block and made a left onto Boylston Street. I passed a fire station, and saw several idle firefighters watching the pedestrian traffic move past. Wasting no time, I offered up a free cap to one of the firemen. He quickly and enthusiastically accepted. In fact, four of his fellow firemen swarmed in and asked if they could have a free YH cap, too. Five caps gone, and I was not even to Fenway Park yet.
About a block further up, I noticed a fleet of bicycle jockeys shuttling fans to Fenway Park. I believe it costs $5 or so to delegate the commute between the parking lot and Fenway Park. At any rate, it seemed like a solid promotional move to get one of the YH caps on the head of one of the cyclists, particularly since our website name appears on the back of the cap (for all riders to see). I approached one of the cyclists, said something about getting more tips if he bore his anti-Yankee sentiment, and extended my arm with a cap in my hand. He snapped it up, pulled it onto his head without removing the tags, and peeled down the street in search of a customer. We can’t afford to pay celebrities to endorse our caps (though several big names have donned the caps without so much as a penny of compensation). So guerilla marketing it is.
This continued on the grounds adjacent to the park. A guy with fashionably-long hair was making like a street barker on Lansdowne Street in an effort to divert more of the hungry traffic to the adjacent sausage stand. Here was a culinary frontman. I believe he called himself the Sausage Guy. Not the cooker of the sausage. Nor the actual seller. Just the guy charged with the responsibility of making passersby aware that, gosh darnit, damn good sausage was being sold nearby.
I again attempted to appeal to this vendor’s business side: “More people will take notice of all your shouting if you’re wearing this,” I said, showing him a red YH cap. “Here, go ahead, it’s yours for free.” Few small things in life delight me more than people who make a public commotion while wearing our hats. So I was tickled when he accepted the offer. Less so when he pushed the bill of the cap into his back pocket. Curse that fashionably-long hair. Still, from the looks of it, he would be utilizing the YH gear another day, presumably when not in the presence of thousands of cute Sox fanettes. Seven caps down, 13 to go.
The Boston Fire Department had a hook-and-ladder parked outside Fenway, and several firefighters posted vigil nearby. Having gotten a good vibe from the earlier batch of firefighters, I approached the hook-and-ladder with an eye towards adding a few more of the “protect-and-serve” set to the YH ranks. This transaction was simple: I offered, they (2) accepted.
“Are you allowed to wear baseball caps on the job?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” said one of the firefighters. “But I will until my captain comes over and tells me to take it off.”
And with that, two more caps found a welcoming home.
The final divestiture took place near the front of the “day of game” ticket sale window. The line was long, and many in it were undoubtedly going to be turned away disappointed. But I liked the spirit that I found there. Once young man was playfully giving a little heat to a Yankee fan who strolled by in Jeter regalia. Nice. There’s a YH’er, if ever there was one. So over I went.
“I like your style, I said. “Here’s a free Yankees Hater cap for you.”
He pounced on the cap and threw it on his head proudly, as though he had been kharmetically rewarded for chewing through a Yankees fan. And, in fact, that is exactly what had happened.
The line of fans who overheard this exchange quickly moved over to the ropes to get closer to me. Far enough to obtain a more prominent position in the freebie queue. But not seemingly far enough to surrender a place in the ticket line. Frankly, I was shocked that any of them moved an inch, given what might have been at stake: “No, I am sorry, sir…the final ticket to today’s Red Sox/Yankees game was just sold to the man in front of you.”
I disbursed the remaining caps to the line-standers, using a simple bit of business acumen to differentiate the “gets” and the “get-nots” (e.g., I passed over those who were already wearing caps, as this increased the chances of my handouts actually being worn). In a flash, I was light by another 10 caps. Unlike journalist Burke’s experience with the Yankee caps, my stash of caps was all gone. Frankly, I could have had thousands of additional takers if that had been my wish. But this was a controlled experiment: 20 caps vs. 20 caps. And once again–when it mattered most–the Yankees lost.
The conclusion: YH caps are not even remotely the same thing as NYY caps. There’s no confusion. The Yankees do not lose a prospective sale when someone opts for the purchase of a YH caps. The YH caps do not even speak negatively of the Yankees: the phrase “Yankee Hater” describes the wearer of the cap, not the Yankee organization. So what gives with the Yankees running interference with our YH trademark application? Classic case of big guy picking on little guy. Goliath and David. Big stack muscling the short stack.
Stay tuned for more….