- The Washington Times - Friday, May 15, 2009

The District is filled with polarizing issues. Health care. Government spending. Taxes.

And the latest series of commercials from the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network.

Area baseball fans are divided in their opinions about MASN’s “Defining Moments” campaign, which features fans cheerfully providing accounts of their favorite moments from the Nationals’ and Orioles’ 2008 seasons.

To some viewers, the commercials are clever, cute and downright funny because of the full-fledged enthusiasm of the fans. To others, they are irritating, silly and serve only as reminders of how unexciting the Nationals and Orioles have been in the past year.

Like it or not, MASN is asking fans to submit their own “defining moments” on a special Web site, MyMASN.com, and is holding an open casting call May 23 at Nationals Park and May 30 at Oriole Park. MASN plans to produce about 20 new spots to air sometime around the All-Star break.

“The fact that we’re using real people, real fans to share their passion and love of the game gives an authenticity to the campaign that has been very well-received,” MASN spokesman Todd Webster. “These are real people and they’re sharing their stories, and that really comes through in the end.”

The spots are slickly produced and feature some of the more notable fans out there, including bloggers Jeff Saffelle (Nats 320) and Cathy Taylor (“Miss Chatter” from the Just a Nats Fan blog.)

There weren’t a ton of dramatic moments to choose from in 2008, given the Nationals’ record. But MASN managed to find most of the memorable events: Ryan Zimmerman’s walk-off homer on Opening Night, John Lannan outpitching John Smoltz, Elijah Dukes’ 5-for-6 game that included a game-winning hit.

That said, there are a few other “defining moments” that don’t quite match up with the enthusiasm of the fans presenting them. A home run by Wil Nieves? A walk-off walk? A handful of nice defensive plays by Willie Harris? Eh.

A recent blog post on Nationalspride.com featured the headline “I can’t take the ‘Defining Moments’ commercials anymore.”

“It’s gotten to the point where I change the channel just because I see the commercial coming,” Nationalspride.com co-editor Michael Kanick wrote.

Maybe it’s wise that MASN is looking to update the ads with something other than year-old highlights. The good news for the network is that, despite the Nationals’ bullpen struggles, this season has not been without its share of excitement. MASN could film three commercials about Ryan Zimmerman alone. A spot featuring Adam Dunn’s four homers in two games would work well. Jordan Zimmermann’s debut was great. Cristian Guzman and his batting average are worth a commercial, and it will be interesting to see what the fans come up with.

Not every advertising campaign can be a home run, and it’s worth pointing out that in the past two years, MASN has won nearly 30 awards, including a number of Addys and Emmys, for their advertising and promotion campaigns.

But in the District, it’s hard to please everyone.

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