Why I don’t go to major league baseball games

American-League-2010-First-Half-Average-Ticket-Prices1-600x298My wife will tell you that it’s not so much that I love baseball as much as it is part of my DNA. The soundtrack in my car from late March to late October because is whatever baseball game I can find on the radio. On May 20th, 21st and 22nd The Chicago Cubs – a team I have loved since growing up in Chicago – will play The Boston Red Sox – a team I have loved since I was 9 when we moved to Providence, RI, and I decided that it wasn’t cheating on your 1st team if the 2nd team was in a different league – will be playing each other at Fenway Park.

Here’s how much I am devoted to the two:

  • I am still upset that Ernie Banks never got to play in the World Series.
  • When someone asks how long I’ve lived in Boston I reply, “Since the spring after the ‘86 [World] Series.”

Until 2004, I reveled in loving the two most ill-fated teams in baseball. While that had its charms, I am quite content that only one of my beloveds is a constant reminder of the fickleness of probability.

Because of all this and knowing full-well that tickets were absurdly expensive, I went to see if maybe I could afford one in some far-distant bleacher seat with nearly totally obscured view of the field. The least expensive price for just such a seat: $99.

Out of curiosity, I went to see the cost least expensive ticket I could find for any game Red Sox at Fenway. So I looked at the cost for tickets to a Wednesday day game vs. The San Diego Padres, a team that will be lucky if it finishes above Baja this year. $46 for a seat in that weird little triangle in the center field bleachers.

Meanwhile, 45 minutes away in Pawtucket, RI, the best seats in the house for the Sox AAA farm team go for $11. For the AA team in Portland, ME: $9. For the single A Lowell Spinners $10. For the independent league Brockton Rox: $15 and that includes waiter service. If you want basically the same seats and are willing to get your own damn snacks: $9.50.

brockton-rox-main-logo1I’ll see you in Brockton. Bill Buckner, whom I have truly always admired, is managing and I’m pretty sure he’ll give me an autograph for no extra charge.

Why I’m over “Breast Cancer Awareness” marketing

tng-badge10 Back in the day – in this case the early ‘90s – I had many friends with HIV and/or AIDS. One of whom, a true gentleman named John Kelley, wore on his jacket a Star Trek badge (right) and a red ribbon which many people were wearing then to show they knew AIDS existed. When asked about this heraldry he would respond, “Because Star Fleet cares about AIDS.” (RIP, dear John.) Which is pretty much where I’m at with all the pink that washes over marketing each October.

Let me make one thing very clear: Like everyone else, I know many people who have had breast (and other types of) cancer. One of those is Mother CollateralDamage. So it will not surprise you to learn that I, like everyone else, don’t like cancer. Now plenty of companies have done a lot to help fund research into preventing breast cancer and to them I say, “You may stop reading now.” The other day the family was driving by the HQ of New Balance sneakers and we noticed a large pink ribbon affixed to the building. Mrs. CollateralDamage: “They’ve earned it.”

But the problem is that many companies are now just slapping pink on the product or advertising and claiming they support “Breast Cancer Awareness.” As a commenter on a wonderful NYT column about Pink Ribbon Fatigue put it, “Buying stuff with pink ribbons will send some money to research and/or outreach, but it hard to tell how much that yoplait helps. Posting ‘awareness’ status updates on facebook does absolutely nothing – I have yet to meet a person that wasn’t aware of breast cancer’s existence."

pink-your-drink1-250x255 My current favorite bizarro pink item is the Chambord special breast cancer edition liquor bottles. They were brought to my attention via this wonderful blog post at Change.Org by Brie Cadman entitled “Pink Ribbon Hypocrisy: Boozing It Up For Breast Cancer.” Ms. Cadman is understandably irate over companies that contribute to the causes of breast cancer then trying to earn good will via the Big Pink:

The biggest offenders are fast food and alcohol companies. According to the National Cancer Institute, both obesity and alcohol are associated with an increased breast cancer risk. Yet that hasn’t stopped these companies from claiming their goods help support or even prevent the disease. First off is KFC, the company that seems to know no bounds when it comes to using women to sell their products. The last time we checked in with the fried-chicken-slinging folks, they were using college women’s bums to promote their own buns. But they’re also capitalizing on breast cancer by selling pink buckets and donating $0.50 to Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

While I don’t agree with all Ms. Cadman’s arguments, I think they are part of a much needed dash of reality. Consumers need to be a lot more diligent about what a company means when it says it is “supporting” a charity.

Some parts of this all this pinkosity I enjoy: Like the sight of professional baseball players having to make the Freudian subtext obvious by playing with pink bats. I just wonder how much good this actually does. I would be more impressed if more emphasis was put on helping an actual person cope with cancer treatment. Bring them a meal, if they want one. Hang out after the chemo when they have no energy and feel like crap and don’t want to be alone and are afraid they’re of being a burden to family and friends. Take them to a movie. Be available for middle of the night phone calls. Run errands, etc., etc., etc. Let’s move “cancer awareness” from the generic, wholesale level to a more personal, retail experience. It’s easy to support “people” with cancer, it is much harder to support an actual person.

And remember, Star Fleet cares about people with breast cancer.

Or, to quote DeathStarPR: “Earth, we can help you #beatcancer. Side effects may include loss of: sunsets, life on Earth, Earth itself. Because we care.#deathstarcares

In a time of worry and woe, at least we still have The Mets.

It is reassuring to know that no matter what happens in the world, The New York Mets are working hard to cheer me up. For the second straight year they have committed one of the most impressive chokes EVER. This year they managed not only to lose the division but also blow the wildcard race — ALL IN ONE WEEKEND!

Please forgive my evil chortle over this but you have to understand that The Mets were on the winning end of two of the biggest heartbreaks of my sporting life: The collapse of the ’69 Cubs and the ’86 Red Sox.

Why is this man smiling?

Why is this man smiling?

Although I am the son of two Mets fans (former Dodger/Giants fans who refuse to let their allegiance head west when their teams did) this is in no way a knock at either parent. (Although in the winter of ’86 my mother did make a point of wearing her Mets jacket way more than might have been supported by the weather. My father at least had the grace to say, “If the Mets are so good how come God had to give them the Series?”) Nope I just hate the Mets. It would seem to me that the time is perfect for someone to write a sequel to Jimmy Breslin’s wonderful book on the ’62 Mets, Can’t Anybody Here Play This Game? That team at least had the charm of being really really bad. (And wouldn’t that be the perfect title for a book about the Fed?)

On an intellectual if not aesthetic level I am sorry to see the end of Shea Stadium. As Breslin put it:

And now it hits you. Now you realize, for the first time, what this is all about. All of it, all of the workers risking their lives, and all of the huge payrolls and all of the political wrangling. There is a reason for it all:

They are building a brand new stadium for Marvin Thronberry.

Thank you to the Mets for giving me cheer on a gray day when the news continues to be supremely unnerving.

As to the playoffs, here is my prediction: Angels vs. Cubs in the series. What happens then is anyone’s guess.

Frontier Airlines makes the best of a bad (World Series) situation

The Denver-based carrier is running ads in the local papers with the slogan: “Now you know why we don’t fly to Boston.”

frontier2“It was a way for us to throw our support behind the Rockies and in a tongue-and-check way say we’ve got their back,” said Joe Hodas, a spokesman for Frontier, which sponsors the team and showed World Series games on seatback televisions during flights. When pressed, Hodas admitted that the airline stopped flying to Logan International Airport in 2002 because of gate constraints, scheduling issues, and high fuel prices, not the Red Sox. 

The Red Sox or, when your brand changes underneath you

“You can’t be lovable if you’re not losers!” — Jon Stewart on the Red Sox, 10/29/07

That is exactly what is going on with Red Sox Nation. The brand identity until three years ago was The Cursed Ones. For a while after that we were The Redeemed Ones (until The White Sox took that mantle). Now, we are The Successful Ones. The first two had significant qualities that really differentiated the brand from everyone else. They also inspired huge amounts of loyalty among consumers.

As the (hated) Yankees can attest success also inspires huge amounts of loyalty, but it’s taking some getting used to here in the Nation. It’s not a bad thing to get used to — but it is different.

sox ballBefore this year, wearing the Red Sox logo generally got you a certain amount of sympathy and even respect in ballparks outside of New York. Other fans recognized you as someone devoted to the sport. Someone who stuck to your team no matter what and — let’s be honest — someone who rooted for a team that always made the other teams look better. It’s easy to sympathize with fans of a team like that — they’re not a threat. This explains why people outside of St. Louis are so fond of Cubs fans. (Outside of the Midwest, most people don’t realize the antipathy between the Cards and the Cubs. A friend once said that a game between those two teams would sell out even if it was held on Christmas Day during a blizzard. That sums it up.)

Now Sox fans — and their seem to be a lot of them everywhere — are going to have to get used to being reviled. So far the team hasn’t employed any True Villains in the sports marketing sense. Sure Schilling is a blowhard, but he blows just as hard against his own team as he does the opposition.

Stephen (Smarter Than Me) Baker, puts it well:

Hey Red Sox fans. Many of us used to love your team. And now that they’re fabulous, they’re a lot less fun. You may find that it’s lonely at the top. I never thought I’d say this, but I may end up pulling next year for those underdog Yankees.

The real problem will be not the team, but the fans. All this winning is stripping Sox fans of the shreds of humility that used to makes us so much easier to tolerate. We are in danger of collectively turning into what New Hampshire residents like to call Massholes.

Oh, how quickly we forget our four score decades of wandering in the wilderness. Well, if that’s the price of success all I can say is WAIT TILL THIS YEAR!

(BTW: Someone pointed out that the Red Sox didn’t become known as the Red Sox until 1908. Last time the Cubs won a World Series? 1908. Coincidence? I think not. So therefor the Cubs won’t win a Series again until the Sox change their name back to the Americans. While the logic is spurious, consider that I have 99 years of evidence to support it.)

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Stephen Baker is smart and I am dumb

Friday I haughtily derided Mr. Baker (a reporter for BusinessWeek) for wondering IF Royce Clayton had been paid for discussing the Taco Bell promotion in the World Series:

Yeah, if that was a coincidence then pass the tiara because I’m Princess Marie of Roumania.

Well, I wear a size 7 and 7/8 tiara. Quoth the Globe:

It’s Clayton who seems the big loser here – shilling for Taco Bell without getting a dime.

Mr. Baker took a skeptical view of things and was right. I took the cynical view and was wrong. That’s pretty much always the case.

BTW, I’m writing this during the 2nd inning of game 4 and I can say without cynicism or any chance of being wrong that there’s no way my prediction of the Rockies in 6 can come true.

fighting whitiesWhatever the outcome of tonight’s duel it’s been a good day for the area’s sports teams. The New England Cheaters demolished Washington 52-7. I loathe the Washington football team with a passion and love to see them humiliated. This isn’t that enjoyable type of sport hatred like I feel for the Yankees. This is an actual feeling of moral disgust. That there is a team with that nickname never ceases to appall me. I am not sure how any reasonable news outlet justifies printing the team’s name. The only thing that could have made today’s victory better is if the Sox Jacoby Ellsbury, who is of Navajo descent, could have helped. Well at least he got to beat Cleveland and it’s mascot.

Rockies in 6, said the Red Sox fan

soxIf I hadn’t been a Sox fan for the last 36 years I, too, would be rooting for the Rockies. They’re the scrappy, talented underdogs. As my buddy and Spokesmate Tim Susman put it: They’re what the Sox were before the Sox became the Yankees.

Also, the Rockies have frickin’ amazing hitting and far fewer holes when batting than My Team. We’ve got more experienced pitching and some of it is better. Additionally, the Rockies have fate and the fact that they’re too young too know any better on their side.

Go Sox, but I’m expecting the Rockies.

PS: never, ever use fate or destiny as a deciding factor when picking a winner. As a Sox fan I speak with experience on this.

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Patriots & Red Sox are ruining my kid

This is so sad. He’s 11 and he thinks this is how it goes — your teams win. All the time. He doesn’t know what’s out there waiting… the heartbreak. C’mon guys, for the sake of my son’s future you’ve got to start losing. Won’t someone think of the children?

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