November 23, 2010
The curly fry is the professional hockey of potato-based side orders. They resemble the standard, mainstream French fries, only slightly odder and with a level of spice that may be off-putting to some. They're unpredictable in form. They're unorthodox in consumption. Like the NHL, they aren't easily located in all U.S. markets.
They can be found in Detroit, however, at Arby's restaurants. In fact, the Detroit Red Wings partnered with FOX Sports Detroit and the burger chain for one of those "free food for offensive achievement" offers that every arena seems to have these days: When the Red Wings would tally a hat trick, every Detroit fan could snag free curly fries the next day at Arby's by printing out the box score and handing it to the cashier.
"If you've ever watched a Wings broadcast on FSD, Mickey Redmond goes nuts about the curly fries," said Wings blogger Chris Hollis. "When Henrik Zetterberg(notes) got his [hat trick] against Edmonton last year, and beat the buzzer with seven tenths of a second left, the first thing Redmond said was, 'Bingo: Curly Fries!'"
Seriously, check it out:
"And then we found out that Arby's isn't actually doing that any more," he said.
Indeed. Showing a tin ear (or bad taste buds) for the quirky pleasures of hat tricks and curly fries, Arby's has changed the promotion to the decidedly unhip free Junior Roast Beef Sandwich.
A change that has inspired a fan-driven campaign to reinstall the curly fry to its rightful place of honor at Red Wings games.
"We won't rest until they are distributing curly fries for a hat trick," said Hollis.
The curly fry promotion was, in the grand scheme, in its infancy. Hollis said it's only been around for the last couple of seasons, but it caught on fast with fans -- and not only in Detroit.
"I don't live in Detroit. I live in Seattle," said Hollis. "But I've actually gone to an Arby's in Seattle, taken my box score, explained to them I wanted my curly fries and I've gotten them."
He's not alone. The Red Wings fan community is one of the largest in the U.S., and the Cult of the Curly Fry knows no borders. Witness this bit of awesome from Redondo Beach, Calif.:
"Mmmmm, love these ... Junior Roast Beef Sandwich." See, it just doesn't work.
So Hollis, Michael Petrella and Rob Discher of The Production Line decided to take a stand, publishing a rant this week that protested the demise of the curly fries:
I'm sure Arby's has a good reason to have changed their Hat Trick giveaway. And I'm sure it has something to do with money. Perhaps it's cheaper to give away a Small Roast Beef Sandwich than it is to give away Curly Fries. Perhaps they're hoping people will try a Sandwich and make Arby's their meal of choice when they've only got a few minutes. My question to them is this: is it worth the extra few cents when it's only been utilized three times -- and your target audience is a little bit annoyed that they can't get curly fries? I'm willing to bet a Curly Fries shirt that they simply don't know people have noticed things have changed...
Exhibit C is courtesy of my wife, a noted vegetarian and the designer of more than one of the TPL Store's trademark shirts -- including Curly Fries. She caught wind of the changing Arby's landscape during the last telecast and offered this: "I'm pissed. As a vegetarian, I'd much rather get my hands on some curly fries than dead animal flesh."
This week, the Twitter tag #operationcurlyfries started popping up among Wings fans, and the campaign picked up instant momentum. "There is a movement afoot," said Hollis. "It may not be on the tin foil hat flash mob level, but we're working it."
Part of that work: Reaching out to Arby's in the near future to express displeasure and negotiate a compromise.
"Even if it's 'take your pick between the curly fries and the roast beef,'" said Hollis.
In the meantime, The Production Line continued to rally the troops Tuesday:
Message received. Operation: Curly Fries will reverse this...this senseless atrocity...this feeling of helplessness that someone, somewhere, is replacing something we know, love and value with an impostor. Billions (assumption) of Red Wings fans depend on Arby's as a source of nutrition...no...make that justice! and dependability! ...in these unpredictable times and while the better half of me wants to believe this swap was made with good intentions, the patriot in all of us here at TPL can't let this atrocity stand without a full-scale response.
Damn the Junior Roast Beef. Long live the curly fry. Godspeed, Red Wings faithful.