Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Valley Taking a Hit Over “Hitmen”

What’s in a name?

If it happens to be “Mahoning Valley Hitmen”…well, need we say more? The recent wave of press regarding Valley native Maurice Clarett—who was negotiating a contract to play with the Hitmen—has only intensified everything that was already wrong with the name of the proposed Eastern Indoor Football League team, but, we are jumping ahead of ourselves; more on that later.

Putting aside Clarett all together, we are perplexed and offended that Hitmen Owner Jim Terry would even give such a name to his team, which, by the way, has all of two players on board and no takers willing to offer up a location as a playing field. Maybe he thought “Hitmen” was amusing (in addition to the team’s motto, “Get Whacked Indoors,” and the logo of a mob-type figure wielding a pistol), given this area’s history, but that’s just it: it’s history! We have said and written time and again about the numerous ways the Youngstown-Warren area has progressed and improved its image over the past decade. The mob activity has been gone for some time; aesthetically, the Valley has never looked better; and we’ve seen a great deal of private and public investment in the area in the form of government centers, restaurants and buildings such as the Chevy Centre. We know the going is slow, and we still have matters to address and work on, but the point is, we are moving forward. And, while the rest of us are doing that, Terry is taking a huge step backward, and he’s bringing the residents of this Valley down with him.

And how far and low will he go? Lately he’s been spouting off to the few people who will listen to him about all sort of things, trying to win any support for his team. We don’t mind saying, it doesn’t appear to be working.

Unfortunately, his association with Clarett is just adding to the drama. Clarett’s story is tragic unto itself, since the Warren native was positioned for a great pro career in football until alleged criminal activity began his downward spiral and led him back to the area. And, since he gained fame nationwide from his football-playing days at The Ohio State University, his negotiations with the Hitmen garnered nationwide attention through the media. His recent arrest and pending trial for past alleged criminal behavior just added to that media frenzy.

Media outlets from ESPN to USA Today, along with bloggers all over the Intenet, have seized the opportunity to ridicule Clarett. And, of course, with that comes his association with the Mahoning Valley Hitmen. Which, in turn, brings negative publicity to our community—many of those outlets mentioned the irony of the team’s name, logo and motto, although, in relation to Clarett, not the Youngstown area.

The point is, if Terry had chosen another name, the satirical commentary on the team would not have accompanied the media’s issues with Clarett. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out—or to figure out that the people of the Mahoning Valley might just take offense, as many have. We couldn’t have been more pleased to see that the Thunderplex recently nixed any possibility of the Hitmen playing in its facility, and we sincerely hope any other facility considering giving the team a home also reconsiders.

The Valley is filled with a myriad of great professional sports teams that have a full roster of truly dedicated players, a facility in which to play and thousands of genuine fans, and they all give this community a sense of pride that even good media coverage can’t buy. It’s these teams that deserve, and have earned, our patronage and support.

From the Regional Chamber column, How We See It, from the inside cover of the Business Journal, September 2006.

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