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Parasiliti: Terps using spring passes as sales pitch

April 07, 2013|By BOB PARASILITI
  • Bob Parasiliti
Joe Crocetta

Sometimes, it’s not what you say; it’s how you say it.

Words — like numbers — are like show dogs. You can make them jump through hoops on command to prove a point.

Any subject’s validity can be proved or swayed with the right words, creating the right images.

In the corporate world, that’s called advertising. In the political world, it’s campaigning. And in sports, it’s known as marketing.

People who can sell ice to an Eskimo or water to a drowning man, have a real gift.

Now, a guy who can sell ice water to a drowning Eskimo has a real talent.

He could sell Christmas at Halloween.

He could also put lipstick on a pig and call it a “Project Runway” contestant.

See the point. It’s like saying an 80-year-old stadium is as comfy and functional as, say, Camden Yards.

That’s another subject for another day.

Still, it happens every day. Organizations create the market and public perception of need of any product daily.

The University of Maryland football team took its show on the road Saturday, trying to prove that very point.

The Terps came to Middletown High School to hold one of their precious 15 spring practices in Frederick County, an hour away from their comfortable home in College Park.

Maryland coach Randy Edsall used the trip as a way to shake things up for his team.

It was a creative way to get the Terps to think road game and adapt to playing at a foreign facility. It changed mindsets and routines, sort of like it will on a number of fall Saturdays.

But Edsall didn’t shy away from the other reasons for driving for a road practice. This was also an opportunity for three subliminal messages — marketing, branding and creating support for the program.

What better way than taking a monotonous practice and turning it into a rock concert tour?

With two hours of controlled action, Maryland got the attention of many fans by coming to them, getting them to come out and watch the action in their red-and-black Terrapins garb, while raising a recruiting flag to young, wide-eyed players who want to play college football someday.

If they are going to play, why not do it near home at the state’s university.

The Terps had two of the best spokesmen in running back Joe Riddle and defensive lineman Ty Tucker, who both graduated from Frederick-area schools. In fact, Riddle got one of the biggest cheers of the day, sweeping right and skirting the sideline for a 50-yard touchdown run.

He did it while wearing a white No. 29 that said “Maryland” across the front.

The Terps couldn’t have planned better advertising. Yet, they did.

Consider that around 1,000 fans showed up to watch a scrimmage that pitted Terps against Terrapins. No matter what, Maryland was going to finish 1-1 on the day.

There was no public address announcing, little music and no time or scores on the scoreboard.

It was like watching a Civil War reenactment in better seats.

It lacked excitement — with the exception of a few “explosion” plays that Edsall was looking for. There were big plays — like Riddle’s — that caused excitement, but not many. For the Terps, it was work as usual.

Yet, Maryland did what it came to accomplish.

First off, the Terps made football a priority on an early spring day, a time when baseball is king.

The Nationals were playing an afternoon game on television and it was the first day of Little League, yet 1,000 people were thinking football.

They had fans in the stands, taking pictures and filming the practice for memory’s sake.

They had a group of fans tailgating in the Middletown Elementary School parking lot.

The practice served as a tap on the shoulder, reminding those fans that the season is just five months away.

And most of all, the Terps were able to play a few commercials to keep the program in the back of each fan’s mind.

At halftime of the scrimmage, a couple of videos played on Middletown’s scoreboard.

One featured a number of Maryland athletes saying “I have Maryland pride,” and included the statement “There are two things Maryland is known for … Crab cakes and football.”

The other was a football highlight reel, capped with the message “Your team. Your school. Your pride.”

Afterwards, Edsall christened the function as a rousing success. The Terps made progress as a team and the program made progress with its fans.

“We’re definitely going to do it next year,” the third-year Maryland coach said. “We’ll sit down after spring and figure out where we’ll go next year, but this has been a huge success for us. We appreciate Dunbar and Middletown for hosting us. ... It’s been great and we’ll definitely do it next year.”

Maryland football put a twist on it all.

It wasn’t how the Terps played; it’s how they played it.

Bob Parasiliti is a staff writer for The Herald-Mail. He can be reached at 301-791-7358 or bobp@herald-mail.com.







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