Brought To Fans At Whose Expense?

Some years ago, playwright David Mamet wrote an essay for Playboy about how and why he didn’t like Disneyland. He was reacting to news that Disney had refused to pay anything more than market rate for a cow whose color pattern featured a perfect pair of Mickey Mouse ears.

To Mamet, it was one thing to go to some nickel carnival and get taken left and right. It was quite another to be sold on the lavish idea of ‘brought to you at great expense’ when the truth was, it had been brought to you stubbornly and not a penny above the market rate.

Hold this thought.

I’ve finished an informal survey of AHL Season Ticket Holder (STH) packages available for 2012-2013 and for my money there is a clear winner, and it is not the Texas Stars.

It is the Providence Bruins. Far and away, it isn’t even close.

Now, one could cherry pick this or that benefit from just about every club. For instance:

  • A lucky Marlies fan re-upped early and in a drawing won an evening in a Toronto luxury box with Brian Burke
  • Some clubs, such as Rockford, have summertime activities. Considering how long the off-season is, this ain’t bad.
  • Clubs like Hershey offer free parking
  • The Checkers are holding a raffle for those who re-up early that includes too many cool things to list here
  • The Oklahoma City Barons are offering a personalized warm-up jersey for people who re-up early

Texas, meanwhile, is offering free first-round playoff tickets for re-upping early. Please, hold your guffaws. When they made this offer, the Stars needed to win 19 of their final 27 games just for an outside shot at the playoffs. Who are we, the Norfolk Admirals? We’re dead last–they could have safely offered us Rick Perry’s job for a day. To me, this ‘bonus’ offer was a cynical and insulting add-on that should go down in history as a PR bomb. Instead we’ll overlook it as we pony up our early deposits for next season.

Regarding Providence: STH to the Bruins receive a list of benefits too long to list here– allow me to illuminate the finer points:

  • They receive free playoff tickets no matter how deep (or not) the club goes into the playoffs. This isn’t a conditional offer made with a ticking clock at your back, this is part of the package at the beginning of the season, when no one can say whether Providence will be the ’98 Yankees or the ’62 Mets.
  • They will receive free tickets to the All-Star game they’re hosting next year, along with free tickets to the skills competition as well as various meet and greet events associated with All-Star weekend.
  • Each seat (not account, each seat) receives $50 in ‘Bruin Bucks’ or whatever exactly they call them. Lots of teams do this, but some – I won’t mention who- limit the value of those bucks by making them redeemable at the concession stands only, where the mark-ups on food and beverages are so obscene they belong in porno. In Providence, if you’re a STH with four seats, that’s $200 and you could put it towards merchandise, like an overpriced jersey.

Back to Mamet’s dislike of Disney. To the playwright, Disney had sapped the PT Barnum-style hype of ‘brought to you at great expense’ by refusing to pay higher than market price for the cow, when Disney is precisely the kind of company that should be bringing things to their customers at great expense– in part because they charge a corresponding amount.

That idea, that something has been brought to us, the audience, at great expense, is a valuable one.

This doesn’t mean that I insist all the players are veterans who should be earning high AHL salaries. I know that many prospects coming through Austin have expended a great deal of blood and sweat just reaching the Cedar Park Center, and to me that’s a great expense.

I know they are anxious to be called up to Dallas. This calls for more blood and sweat. Bring it on.

I concede that STH prices are, all things considered, fairly inexpensive. So long as the clubs concede that everything else for sale is outrageously overpriced. I don’t think I’ll get that concession.

Instead I’ll be sold on a team whose idea of filling holes is to dig into the CHL and the ECHL and offer PTOs, not to look around the league for more polished veterans. Shame, because my sense is that pound for pound veterans are actually worth more in the AHL than they are in the NHL. This is after all a developmental league.

When Mamet went to the traveling carnival, he went there to get fleeced. It was part of the fun. Getting fleeced is only fun in nickels and dimes, not in hundreds of dollars and a redefining of the notion of brought to you at great expense to mean our out-of-pocket expenses.

That’s nothing fancy or flighty or worthy of a Playboy essay, that’s just a rip-off.



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4 Responses to “Brought To Fans At Whose Expense?”

  1. Brenda Reiss
    March 17, 2012 at 11:00 am #

    Well done Ross.

  2. Brian Moran
    March 17, 2012 at 7:27 pm #

    Hi Ross.

    I’m a Providence Bruins season ticket holder, and while I agree our package is great, I’ll correct you on one small thing. Free playoff tickets for the CURRENT season in progress are the incentive to renew for the NEXT season. The team has not made the playoffs the last few years (and not likely to make it this year), and we all sort of joke when they run the commercial to renew (PLAYOFFS?), but they have made this offer for awhile now and I got to enjoy our run to the conference finals in 2009 for free just for renewing for the following season.

    The Bruins Bucks are for the team store only, but I was able to buy a $100 replica jersey for free last year, as well as take a huge chunk out of a game worn authentic based on them…….great stuff.

  3. Ross Bonander
    March 18, 2012 at 7:19 am #

    Thanks for clarifying that. It certainly doesn’t diminish the point, as you note, despite the lack of recent playoff hockey there. I should also add that no team ticket rep spent more time talking to me than the one from Providence.

  4. brandon
    March 26, 2012 at 4:16 pm #

    I guess your Stars are still in search of the rare star-hide bovine and using that $7 nachos to fund its quest.