Massachusetts Town Leaders Upset Over Being Target of Jokes

Athol town leaders are sick of being the butt of jokes.

Selectmen in the central Massachusetts town have ordered the town attorney to ask Comcast SportsNet to pull a newspaper ad that features two side-by-side signs that together read: "We can pronounce Worcester ... without sounding like an Athol."

They also urged residents of the rural 11,500-person town to boycott the papers that ran the ad, saying it ridicules the town by linking its name to a similarly sounding vulgarity.

The selectmen say it's even more offensive because the ad requires mispronouncing Athol to make its point. The correct pronunciation is "ATH'-awl."

Selectman Susannah Whipps was the lone selectmen of the five to vote against sending the letter to the network. She said she was not offended by the ad, and predicted the publicity would help Comcast.

She said she was more concerned about vandals who add an "r" and an "e" to town signs to change the name to "rathole."

Skip Perham, Comcast SportsNet's marketing and communications manager, said Thursday he had not seen any correspondence from Athol officials, but added the ad was intended as a humorous play on words.

Its reference to the odd pronunciations of some Massachusetts town names is meant to underscore the ad campaign's tag line: "If you live here, you get it."

Perham said it has been placed periodically -- including Thursday -- in the Boston Herald to promote Boston Celtics coverage on one of the network's regular programs.