Rangers fans hold up their ‘Believe’ towels, which is a better slogan for Game 6 in Tampa Bay than their oriiginal ‘Change the Ending’ motto for this season.
Here’s the thing about sports team slogans, often invented by an overly-ambitious marketing department in search of ticket buyers and a coherent narrative arc: The slogans tend to backfire. And when they do, well, it can be a bit embarrassing.
Consider the “Determined to Deliver” Washington Wizards of 2008-09, who delivered a 19-63 season. Or the “Taking You There” San Diego Padres of 2003, who took everyone to 64-98 and last place.
There is grave danger in a predictive or motivational motto. If the worst comes to pass, as it often does, it leaves the sloganeers open for considerable ridicule.
That brings us to the Rangers, who are headed for Game 6 in Tampa, where a single defeat Tuesday means their season’s catchphrase, “Change the Ending,” will become ironically, woefully true. The changed ending would be a change for the worse, not better, arriving about two weeks earlier than in 2014.
Last year, the Rangers advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals. This year, down 3-2 to the Lightning in the Eastern Conference finals, they need yet another comeback to get even that far. There is good reason to hope for another reversal of fortune. After all, the Rangers have won exactly two-thirds of their 48 games on the road this season, including the playoffs. They’ve won three of the last five playoff series after trailing 3-2, and they are virtual shoo-ins if they can stretch this to a Game 7 at the Garden.
They’ve captured seven straight Game 7s on Eighth Ave., a remarkable feat.
So far, however, Alain Vigneault has been unable to take much advantage of the Rangers’ clear edge in quality depth. Usually, his four-line, six-defenseman waves wear down opponents over the long haul. It may yet turn out that way once more, because the Triplets are just three guys and the goalie has been known to struggle.
“We’ve been successful the last few times we’ve had to do it, and we’re confident we’ll do it again,” Marc Staal told reporters Monday in Tampa, about Game 6.
Still, that slogan is hanging out there, threatening Staal and the Rangers with a comeuppance. It’s a little like when an announcer talks about a no-hitter in the fifth inning, or declares a football game over in the third quarter.
If only the Garden marketers could have a do-over on the slogan, they might come up with, “Waiting for Zuc,” or something a lot less specific. The 2006 Pirates were the masters of ambiguity, with their, “We Will.” You can’t go wrong with that one, unless the whole world comes to an end.
Here’s another one: The way the Rangers always make life tough on themselves, they might have borrowed the 2010 Mets’ slogan: “We Believe in Comebacks.” That phrase was more or less wasted on Jerry Manuel’s Amazin’s, who finished at 79-83 and never quite made it back to .500.
The Rangers, like many pro teams, collect a lot of symbols over the course of a season. They have their Stanley Cup puzzle in the locker room, which requires six more pieces before completion. They have their Broadway Hat, which still requires the heads of six more heroes.
They have their slogan, too, which requires six more playoff victories for a happy finish; or one more loss to the “Be the Thunder” Lightning for an unhappy ending.
The Rangers will not go gently into that good night at Amalie Arena, we know that. They never do, and the Lightning fully realizes what it’s up against.
“When you’re a desperate team, you’re a dangerous team,” said Brian Boyle, who was part of past Ranger comebacks before he switched sides. “We need to match the desperation.”
“Match the Desperation.” Another good slogan, maybe for the Knicks or Jets.
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