April 7, 2010

Stan to Fans: Come Back When We're Good

"[A]s anyone who has watched bad teams turn into good teams, in any sport, these problems dissipate as teams improve, as home teams followers get more numerous and more enthusiaistic."
- Stan Kasten, President, Washington Nationals

Good news, Nats fans: you can stop caring now! The team is lousy, so it shouldn't bother you that your stadium was overrun by barbarian hordes from the north, or that the ticket office is more interested in selling blocks of tickets to opposing fans than they are in providing single game tickets to locals, even season ticket holders. My only gripe with this Adam Kilgore piece is the headline. Phillies fans didn't have to infiltrate Nationals Park; they were invited in.

"We get the attendance we deserve."
- Kasten

Sure, they somehow ran out of hot dogs and beer on Day 1 of the season, but you shouldn't care because you shouldn't even have been there! Given that they've done nothing to deserve DC fans showing up, it's no wonder they're both surprised and unprepared when we do. Really, it's a little rude for us to just show up uninvited. For all you know, you could have been gatecrashing one of Stan's prized special events.

"We sell season tickets and book groups all winter long. For every game of the season." - Kasten

Nothing personal, just business. Opening Day is just another game, Phillies fans are just more paying customers. But if that's the company line, why did they suddenly pull the plug on customers from the Jersylvaniware market in February? Did someone stop to consider the optics of having 25,000 booing, battery-tossers serenading the President on Opening Day in the Nation's Capital? Did someone think of the children?! Or did someone in the organization realize that they set the stage for a massive clusterf#$k, but it was too late to do anything about it.

I think our proudest accomplishment gets measured every home game during the season, when we see fans enjoying themselves at Nationals Park.
- Mark Lerner, Principal Owner, Washington Nationals

To be fair, he didn't say, "when we see Nationals fans enjoying themselves at Nationals Park." It's undeniably true that lots of fans had a great time on Monday. Lerner and Kasten have always aspired to make the Nationals more than just another local baseball team. Lerner talks about the Nationals as "America's Team" (a moniker that any DC sports fan could tell you has serious negative connotations.)

As I've noted before, Washington, DC is perhaps uniquely suited to become baseball's great neutral site, everybody's house and nobody's home. A Nationals' game could easily become another must-see item on every tourist's agenda. The danger with that aspiration is that you run the risk of turning the home team into the Washington Generals. You'll be world renowned, make millions of dollars and everybody will leave the stadium happy, having seen their hometown "Globetrotters" demolish their opponent.

If that's ownership's vision for the franchise, so be it. But they should tell us so now, so the locals can adjust their financial, and more importantly, their emotional investment accordingly. On the other hand, if the Lerners and Stan Kasten really want to make the Nationals into a world-class franchise, they have to make the team a success for DC, not just a success in DC.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Beautifully done. Keep on this.