Ode to a Crazy Crab
In 1984, the San Francisco Giants were an awful team. They played in Candlestick Park, so renowned for it's frosty nights that every fan that stayed to the end of extra inning night games got a pin commending them, the croix de candlestick (which said in Latin "I came, I saw, I survived.) IT was so bad that a poll of the fans in 1984 found that almost 80 percent of them would boo a mascot if the Giants got one. This lead to one of the most anarchic and anti-marketing ideas in the increasingly anti-septic sports marketing world, the Crazy Crab. Tonight, the Giants are giving out Crazy Crab bobble-heads at their game. I want one. Bad.
First off, a disclaimer, in 1984 a young Ezra was hired to be a voice in a 30 second radio spot for the Crab. I believe my only line was "I hate that stupid crab." I did not. Not really.
See, hating the crab was the whole idea. The Giants took the fans orneriness and used it as a marketing tool. The Crab announced it was a Dodgers fan (a virtual death sentence at the Stick in the 80s) and even did some radio and TV interviews in LA (calling the Giants a "classless organization.) The crab also taunted players, "trashed" their lockers, and (in a stirring return) got on the PA system at the next to last game at the Stick and announced that he hoped the Dodgers won the series. Heck, he even cheered for the umps! The Giants marketing department actively pushed for fans to hate the anti-mascot and it worked better than they could have imagined.
The actor in the crab suit was in no small jeopardy when he showed up during games. Fans threw batteries, beers and anything else they could find at him when he went into the stands. The Giant's manager, Frank Robinson, had to be restrained from going after the Crab in one game (he was clearly not in on the joke) and players routinely tried to hit him in batting practice. As Giants pitcher and broadcaster Mike Krukow says "It was a more sophisticated baseball fan, but a less sophisticated person that came to games back then." One story has the handler who went around with the crab in the stands having to assure the actor that no one in the audience had a gun.
The success of the Crab (despite the danger to the person) was in drawing attention away from the awful team. The Crab brought the fans into the bunker with the players. Here was someone we could all hate together. It's an idea that would not fly with todays image conscious world. In fact, I am concerned that the Giants will bring Crazy back, and he will be cheered (he is a semi-mythic beloved figure among Giants fan now) which was never the point. In fact, there is a whole group of fans trying to bring back Crazy. The only way I want to see him come back is if he stays true to his original self.
I hate that stupid crab. I love that stupid crab.
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