“Everybody wants to get into the act!” – Jimmy Durante

Michael Buffer

I’m watching the Pens Devils game and a commercial comes on for some insurance company. All of a sudden there’s a guy in a tuxedo and they’re lowering a microphone down to him from the ceiling. Stretching the words out like a monk rendering Gregorian chant, he sings “L-l-l-let’s get ready to rumbl-l-l-l-le!” Then it dawns on me. That’s Michael Buffer, the ring announcer for all the big boxing matches.

I’m not sure when he started doing it, but it’s become his signature line and he’s done it so regularly that I think the promoters must hire him to announce just so people will be convinced that it’s an important bout. I wanted to find out why he says that so I looked him up. The interesting thing I found out is that he trademarked the phrase so that any time it’s used, at least in a commercial context, Buffer gets paid. The other thing I found out is that he’s made hundreds of thousands of dollars on the trademark. So in a sport where two large, well conditioned and extremely hostile guys spend a few hours punching each other in the head, the ring announcer is scoring six figures for two minutes work? Interesting.

Apparently he’s not the only one to do something like this, but he is among the most successful. Pat Riley, erstwhile coach of the L.A. Lakers trademarked the rather repulsive word, “three-peat” when his team was trying to win a third consecutive NBA title in 1989. They didn’t, but the Chicago Bulls did, in 1993, and Riley got paid even though he had nothing to do with that team. I don’t think he’s moving to Sewickley on it, but it couldn’t have hurt the old bottom line either. Naturally this got the Idler thinking about his current retirement plan in which the weekly Powerball drawings figure prominently. Because, on the odd chance the lottery strategy proves less than adequate, it might be nice to have an income stream from a sweet trademark phrase to fall back on.

As an experiment, I tried motivating my wife by singing out “L-l-l-let’s Get Ready To Defrost The Bro-o-o-ccoli!” when she was making dinner. She’s a million laughs, the little dickens – she asked if I’d been drinking. So I tried out, “L-l-l-lets Get Ready To Take A Na-a-a-a-p!”, and even though it’s practically a metaphysical imperative for the Idler, it didn’t actually make much sense, what with the high volume and the tone of urgency.

My final trademark idea was an inspirational phrase that I would go into the kitchen and sing out, a la Michael Buffer, to motivate short order cooks at breakfast, to-wit, “L-l-l-let’s Get Ready to Scraambl-l-l-le!” You know, I can see how any random Eat N Park assistant manager might be a bit short-sighted in the employee motivation department, but I don’t understand why they had to threaten to have me arrested.

Anyway, Eat N Park’s loss might be the Steelers gain, After all, who says a tradmarked phrase has to be all inspirational and uplifting? Why not one designed to trouble and discourage a designated audience? What if, when the Ravens offense takes the field on Thanksgiving this Fall, they are received with the following trademarked phrase, rendered by tens of thousands of inebriated, er, I mean, motivated Steeler fans: “L-l-l-let’s Get Ready To Fumbl-l-l-l-le!” There must be at least one modest little Cape Cod available in Sewickley Heights.

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