Saturday, October 27, 2007

Royce Clayton Knows About More Than Tacos

Followup to "Taco Smells," "Crunch the Numbers,", "No Quiero Taco Bell," etc..

First, let's note that the Royce Clayton-Taco Bell fallout continues. From the Boston Globe:

[I]t says a lot about the unexpected reach of Taco Bell's "Steal a Base, Steal a Taco" promotion - and the fervor with which Fox Sports has embraced it - that so many people would find this one so dirty. So Orwellian. Whether it is or not....

Jacoby Ellsbury [stole a base] in the fourth inning Thursday night. And not long afterward, Fox Sports played this conversation, recorded a day earlier from the Red Sox dugout, between Ellsbury and shortstop Royce Clayton:

Clayton: Hey, you like Taco Bell?

Ellsbury: (nods)

Clayton: You know, if somebody steals a base in the World Series, everybody in America gets a Taco Bell free . . . taco.

Ellsbury: Everybody in America?

Clayton: Everybody in America gets a free taco.

Could you repeat that one more time? Soon, conspiracy theories were swirling....Announcers Tim McCarver and Joe Buck seemed to chat up Taco Bell at every opportunity. And on Thursday, Fox Sports announcer Chris Myers conducted a fawning interview with Taco Bell honcho Rob Savage, who said, with an impressively straight face, that this giveaway was "for our customers."

But Fox said it wasn't quite as sinister as it appeared, although there were certain obligations:

It was strictly good fortune on Taco Bell's part, insists Fox Sports senior producer Pete Macheska, who chatted by phone while awaiting his bags at the Denver airport yesterday. Yes, Taco Bell's sponsorship carried certain obligations, he said: The announcers had to talk about the promotion, show a logo, and interview Savage in the stands after Ellsbury's stolen base.

But Clayton, he said, was an unexpected, uncompensated spokesman - a guy who happened to be wearing a microphone, and happened to like the Taco Bell deal....

Fox collected footage of Clayton talking about Taco Bell with pitcher Josh Beckett and other players, including Ellsbury. They decided to prepare an Ellsbury clip.

"We thought, just in case this kid is the guy that steals the base, we will have it ready," Macheska said. "We were lucky."

However, it turns out that Royce Clayton knows about more than tacos. And although Clayton's other information won't matter to Pete Macheska, it will matter to Clayton's teammates.

Red Sox players have already started peppering former Blue Jay Royce Clayton with questions about Coors Field.

All of a sudden, the backup infielder has become the resident expert on the park. Clayton spent the 2004 season playing for the Rockies.

"I've talked to guys about playing certain depths and dealing with the altitude, how to prepare for a game and hydration," said Clayton, who hit .279 in 146 games with Colorado. "I tell them how the ballpark plays. But guys will get a feel for it when they get out there."

But Royce Clayton's main job isn't to play - it's to sit. Eric Gagne (whose own playing role has been reduced) talked about Clayton.

"Royce Clayton (with team but not on the roster) has been (in the game for) 17 years. He wants this as bad as anyone on this team," said Gagne. "This is the World Series. Other than wishing I pitched better, I have no regrets."

Back to the taco issue. Even if we buy the claim that Royce Clayton is uncompensated (and I have no reason to doubt it), Fox's admissions about the depth of the Taco Bell promotion (many pre-recorded interviews with players, a deal to interview Rob Savage) point out just how far the whole product placement thing has gone.

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