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Opinion: Canceled 'Hourglass' Promotion a Silly Stunt

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Copyright 2017 The Salt Lake Tribune
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The Salt Lake Tribune

 

The Ogden Raptors' scheduled "Hourglass Appreciation Night" promotion revolved around the historic notion of baseball's being played without a clock.

That's fairly clever. The problem is that the nature of the minor league franchise's scheme went too far back in time — almost to the era of the team's dinosaur mascot. This is 2017, and such a sexist promotion is incredibly misguided in Utah or anywhere else in this country.

The Raptors intended to bring 18 models (one for each half-inning) from a Sandy-based agency to Lindquist Field in Ogden and have each of the "gorgeous women" provide commentary during the broadcast of an August game vs. Billings with live-streaming video in the press box. The models also would pose for photos with fans, according to a news release with accompanying drawings of women in bikinis (one of the cartoon figures was a black woman, although nobody should be crediting the Raptors for diversity).

The item was pulled from the Raptors' website after the team absorbed widespread criticism, then the team issued a statement Tuesday saying the promotion was not approved by ownership or management. Assuming that's true, how did it even get that far into the process? Raptors president Dave Baggott must absorb blame for letting the idea come anywhere near completion.

The release cited the visiting Billings Mustangs in the context of "real thoroughbreds" who would appear at the ballpark. The Stars Talent Studio, which markets itself as "Utah's #1 Talent Agency for developing healthy role models in the media," also should take some hits for agreeing to this kind of event.

Considering the history of women's involvement in some sports, wearing scanty costumes and performing duties such as presenting trophies to auto racing drivers and walking around boxing rings, "Hourglass Appreciation Night" does not quite rise to the level of the Orem Owlz's "Caucasian Heritage Night" on a scale of egregiousness. Yet that context is exactly why Baggott, who has been celebrated in Salt Lake City and Ogden during his nearly three decades of pro baseball for drawing big crowds and generating clever ideas, should have known better.

The June 2015 fallout of Orem's scheduled promotion came just as the Owlz were opening the season in Ogden. Baggott placed himself in the middle of that controversy by defending the Owlz in interviews. He also created a misleading impression about the role of the Orem staff member who resigned in protest of the planned promotion — which had been booked in August, almost on the exact date of "Hourglass Appreciation Night."

That's another story. The point is, Baggott should have learned something from that episode. He's the lovable "Bags," famous for having fun with promotions and testing the limits of good taste, but he crossed the line this time.

This is a clear case of his judgment regressing, and it cannot be dismissed merely as "Bags being Bags." As he told The Salt Lake Tribune two years ago, "Minor league baseball will try anything, any time, anywhere. Some of them work, some don't. But none of them have done anything to be malicious and chastising toward any specific race or gender or anything else."

Oh, no. Of course not. And in creating his latest promotion, Baggott apparently believed he was showing "appreciation" for women's bodies — notably, their "curves," as the baseball-themed release highlighted.

That's antiquated thinking. Baggott's place in Pioneer League history is secure, after his outstanding work with the Salt Lake Trappers and his 1994 founding of the Raptors, who perennially dominate the league's attendance race. His ideas such as "IOC Bribery Night" have been fun over the years and even this season's weekly promotions, including Raptor alumni bobblehead giveaways on Mondays and "Ugly Outfit Wednesdays" with prizes awarded to fans, are good stuff. But he got this one wrong to a stunning degree, in advertising the women as "stunners."

The Owlz's experience showed that fans are forgiving, or at least forgetful. The irony is that "Caucasian Heritage Night" is back in the news cycle only because of the Raptors' plans.

So it is likely that "Hourglass Appreciation Night" will be remembered the next time somebody in minor league baseball comes up with a similarly bad idea. Baggott will go about his business this summer, writing off this failure as one of those schemes that just didn't work, and the Raptors will draw another 125,000-plus fans for 38 home dates.

But he'll have to live with some criticism for a while. In defending the Owlz two years ago, Baggott said the rival franchise's well-intended effort "bit them in the rear end."

That body part, coincidentally enough, is mostly covered by a bikini.

kkragthorpe@sltrib.com

Twitter: @tribkurt

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June 8, 2017
 
 
 

 

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