Friday, August 4, 2006
Cheap tickets - how embarrassing
BY PAUL DAUGHERTY | ENQUIRER STAFF WRITER
In Baltimore where I once worked, the local ice cream was named Carvel. Carvel was the Graeter's of Baltimore. Carvel's radio and TV commercials featured a gravelly-voiced old guy, Carvel himself apparently, though we never saw him, who'd end each commercial with a pitiable request:
"Please buy this product."
You pictured Old Man Carvel on the street corner with a double-dip butter brickle in one hand and a tin cup in the other. The ice cream would be running rivers down his wrist and up his forearm. He'd look forlorn.
"Please buy this product."
The pennant-racing Reds are offering half-price tickets to the biggest series of the season. Three of the four games against St. Louis next week will feature clearance sale prices for more than half the ballpark.
Holy Schott, the club is even cutting the price of a hot dog, to a buck.
It's all very nice.
Try to picture this in Boston, New York, Chicago or St. Louis, or any other place that calls itself a Baseball Town.
Imagine the Red Sox holding a garage sale for tickets to a Yankees series. Think of the Cubs, flea-marketing their product in advance of three games with the White Sox.
The Reds led the wild-card race entering Thursday. Ownership has done everything it has promised and everything fans claimed to have desired. Management is serious. Midas Krivsky has been on the phone more than your 15-year-old daughter. The Reds play exciting, if flawed, baseball. The Reds hack, from first inning to last. They're the closest thing baseball has to John Daly. What do they have to do? Beg?
Half-price for a Cardinals series. Whew. When do the Reds hire the Buddy's Carpets guy to do their TV spots? "Half-price View Level seats if you buy by Monday night!"
Maybe, after three efforts at Please Buy This Product Night, the club can offer Baby Rattle Night: Free shakers to the first 40,000 fans who don't go to the games because it's too hot, too expensive, too dangerous, too far, too rowdy or on TV 140 times. Get there for batting practice, receive a complimentary bib.
"I'm patient," CEO Bob Castellini said Thursday. But not to a fault. "Come September, if we're a proven contender and we're not packing them in, we have to go back to the drawing board and reconsider the marketing."
The Reds are hovering near the Mendoza Line of major-league attendance. They're 13th in the NL, ahead of only Arizona, Florida and Pittsburgh. Thank God for Pittsburgh. Those at 100 Main Street are mystified. And, judging from the bribe they're offering you for three games next week, desperate.
Castellini understands the passion that was sapped in the previous six years will not return overnight. He notes correctly that the Bengals in Marvin Lewis' first year did not pack Paul Brown Stadium until late in the season, after their credibility had been restored.
"It took me awhile to get the fever with the Bengals, too. I understand." But, Castellini said, "This is a Reds city."
Perhaps. Meantime, maybe the club could be doing even more for its fans. How 'bout these notions:
Buy a Reds ticket and Ken Griffey Jr. will ride Big Wheels with your children in your driveway. Buy a Reds ticket, Adam Dunn will teach you to bass-fish in your kiddie pool.
Jason LaRue will personally shoot squirrels off your bird feeder.
Bronson Arroyo will let you blast Britney Spears on his car stereo. OK, maybe he won't.
Steve Stewart will host your wienie roast.
Pony rides for everyone.
Don't make the owner of the team parade up and down Pete Rose Way wearing a sandwich board. "Please buy this product." That wouldn't be right.