Wednesday, May 30, 2007
How to Win
Well, the City of Springfield - Massachusetts that is - has decided to enter the contest put on by the Simpsons TV show to pick one of the Springfield's in the United States as officially the one referred to in the show. There are a bunch of Springfield's to compete for the publicity bonanza the winner will receive, virtually one in every state:
Springfield, North Carolina
Springfield, New Hampshire
Springfield, New Jersey
Springfield, New York
Springfield, South Carolina
Springfield, South Dakota
Springfield, Virgin Islands
Springfield, West Virginia
The creator of The Simpsons , Matt Groening, has always been vague about what Springfield he had in mind. He once said that he chose the name because it is so common, but it is not the most common - that would be the ubiquitous "Fairview." I guess more people prefer to have where they live referred to as having a view that's fair than as resembling fields in spring.
However, some fans have pointed out that Groening grew up in Oregon, which has a very prominent Springfield. However others have insisted that it is Springfield, Massachusetts where the Simpsons reside, based on the fact that the show's former executive producer Mike Scully is a West Springfield native. Some local fans even insist that there are references in some Simpsons episodes to local landmarks.
Whatever the case may be, the debate will finally be settled later this year when one Springfield above all others will be chosen as the official Simpsons hometown, which will translate into a goldmine for that community in publicity, tourism and promotional products. The Mayor will even appear in the cartoon, so tell the artists at the show to have plenty of blue and red ink on hand for Charlie Ryan's most favored outfit of blue coat and red tie.
I'm not sure what useful advice I can offer on what to do in order for our Springfield (the first one in the nation, by the way) to win this contest. But I can tell what not to do. For example:
Do not let Judith Matt, the Chamber of Commerce or any Springfield Redevelopment poohbahs into the project whatsoever. Have security remove them from the premises if they try to participate. I've got nothing against these folks personally, but their participation on any level will guarantee that we lose. That is because these people will act as cheerleaders for Springfield, and that is not what the viewers (who will be the judges) will be looking for.
They want a city they can laugh at, one that genuinely resembles the terribly dysfunctional community in which the Simpsons episodes occur. The good news is our Springfield fits that model beautifully. It is very hard to find any city, named Springfield or otherwise, that is more dysfunctional than our Springfield. We got it all - the crime, the controversial police force, the corruption, the mob, the dumb voters, and best of all, we've got stories to tell about these things that we can entertain the nation with.
The video we submit must talk about Gerry Phillip's stanky hanky. It needs to talk about Francis Keough using the homeless as his personal slaves, both at his out of state villa and in his sex life. We need to talk about the Asselins, who even stole the washing machine quarters meant for the old folks activity fund. We need to talk about the crime and the clueless former police chief whose response was to urge parents to read to their children more. We need to talk about the blind, deaf and dumb media and the brain dead public who slept through it all. In other words, to win this contest we need to put our worst foot forward.
But to do that would require something Springfield has yet to show publicly, which is an honest appraisal of its recent past. The entertainer Cher, at the funeral of her former husband Sonny, made an astute observation. She said people used to ask Sonny how he could stand being the butt of all the jokes on their TV show. But she said what people didn't realize was that he wrote all the jokes for their show, so in effect what he was doing was making fun of himself. What supreme confidence he had, Cher observed, that he could write the very jokes by which he would be ridiculed. You've got to have a lot of faith in yourself to do that.
Springfield can win this Simpsons contest. But it has to have the confidence to acknowledge its own legacy of failure and to learn to laugh at it, plus do it in a way that will encourage others to laugh at us as well. If it does that, it should easily win the contest, and of course in the wake of the contest Springfield will then have the chance to promote all its many good qualities.
But I don't think Springfield is self-confident enough to be capable of that, although I'd love to be proven wrong.
I was in Northampton this morning having coffee with one of my favorite people, Maureen Turner of the Valley Advocate. We did not go to the Dunkin Donuts for coffee.
But if we had, I would have pointed out that it used to be the eccentric music store B-side Records.
I like Dunkin Donuts, but I miss the old B-Side. There was music you could find there that you couldn't find anywhere else, including bootlegs.
For coffee Ms. Turner and I went to The Haymarket, where we sat like decadent loafers as we discussed all things Valley. You'll be reading about some of the things we talked about in the coming weeks, and if any local politicians had ringing ears this morning, now you know why.