Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Anatomy of a Rain Delay - Revenues at the Ballpark

I had circled today's date on the calendar weeks ago. A midweek after baseball game during my kids' summer vacation?  I was looking forward to taking the afternoon off, picking up some tickets and beers and taking the kids to see the Red Sox play the Seattle Mariners at the Fens.

But then the rains came.  First a little drizzle on Sunday.  Then downpours on Monday.  That's ok I thought to myself, my lawn and flowers are getting some much needed water and the obnoxious water restriction sign nailed up a couple of houses down might come down.  But then it continued to rain on Tuesday.  So much so that the Red Sox called the game moments before the first pitch.  When I saw the weather report for Wednesday, I begrudgingly reconsidered my decision.  I didn't want to sit in the rain and even more importantly, I didn't want to haul the five of us into Boston, just to find out that the game is postponed.  Unfortunately, I've been on the wrong side of these game decisions and that's okay, but to subject the kids to a game that may or may not be played?  Bloodbath.  It did get me to thinking though, particularly after listening to some sports radio this afternoon.  What is it with the Red Sox and rain?

A couple of things that maybe you didn't know...

1.  Until the first pitch, the umpires may delay the game until weather permits (I don't know what that means either, I guess it means until the last Mary stops complaining about getting wet).  But the home team can decide at any time before the first pitch to call the game.  What inevitably happens is that throughout the day, weathermen make half hearted predictions that the weather will clear up (or hold off, depending on what is needed) in time for the game, to lure patrons to Fenway.  Since the doors open up at a little after 5pm for a 7pm start, that means that at least half of the ticketholders will come to Fenway no matter what its doing outside.  Incidentally, once the game starts, only the umpires can postpone a game or call it final before 9 innings.

2.  Terry Francona said it best himself after a rain shortened game against the Twins in 2009 - although I might be reading between the lines here.  Rain delays and rain shortened games are manipulated by the Red Sox front office to maximize revenues because otherwise it could mean "some lost revenue" for the ball club.  This lost revenue takes the shape of the enormous amount of concessions that are consumed at Fenway on a regular game day.  Over a million dollars in concessions, and that doesn't even include beer and other alcoholic drinks!  Presuming that only 50% of the fans show up to a game that is about to be postponed, pretending that the game will be played, Aramark and Larry Lucchino will net about $500,000 (after overhead) more than they otherwise would have if the game were played.  Remember the ticket is the only non-sunk cost for a ticketholder, because almost everything else is consumed on game day, only to have to be replaced at the next game the ticketholder goes to.

3.  Red Sox Rainout Information.  According to the rainout policy on the Red Sox official website, if a ticketholder has tickets to a game that is rained out, and the game is rescheduled, there are no refunds; that ticketholder has to go to the rescheduled game or lose the value of his or her tickets.  If the game isn't rescheduled, then you will get similarly-priced tickets to another game.  Interestingly, what the policy doesn't go on to say is that the ticketholder will get their money back if the game is not rescheduled AND there aren't similar tickets to distribute (such as at the end of the year).   

4.  Social Media Strikes Again.  Now back to that sports radio show I was listening to this afternoon.  Mike Felger - whose whole schtick is to be a contrarian and a little cynical about both players and ownership - took a minor story about John Henry's wife tweeting some time before the game was actually called that the game was being postponed and ran with it.  While normally I disagree with his positions (while still finding him entertaining), I can't help but agree with him on this one.  Do you think that Linda Pizzuti was instrumental in the decision to call the game?  Of course not! She surely got the information before we did, but I'm also sure that Larry Lucchino didn't go from a conference call with MLB to call Linda and told her not to bother showing up.  So whether that tweet was half an hour, fifteen minutes or even an hour before the game was called, the decision was made at least half an hour before she was told - maybe more. 

In retrospect, the easiest thing to do to make money is to do nothing at all.  Make sure "friendlies" get their information about the rain, but otherwise, let's make some money!  I don't blame the Red Sox, mind you.  But try telling kids that the game they've been looking forward to won't be played.  What I did learn is that maybe I should start following Linda on Twitter to get my Red Sox news.

Some folks, like Jim Chandley at the Democratic Fanatic want us to give big business the benefit of the doubt when it comes to their own rain out policies.  Like I said, not with three excitable kids who don't understand that when it's a little wet their heroes don't play baseball.

"Hey Dad!  Can we go to the game next Friday?"

"Wait, let me check the weather forecast."

Photo courtesy of Taunton Daily Gazette.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Bring Back the Whale, For One Day At Least - Hartford Whalers Fanfest

For more information on Hartford Whalers Hats, Hartford Whalers Apparel, visit Vintage Team Store's Hartford Whaler's Page.

I endured the laughs, even from my own family.  I endured the jeering from "friends."  I endured resistance from the children - even the 6 year old who wanted to go to his little league game instead of spending time with his Dad, the nerve.  But, I would not be deterred.  Maybe I'm not optimistic about the Whalers being reborn, and I'm on the look out for a new NHL team to root for, but for nostalgia's sake, this is something I needed to do, go to the Hartford Whalers Fanfest.

Even my wife asked me if I was sure that I wanted to take the three kids by myself on the hellish 2 hour drive down to Rentschler Field in East Hartford.  And JUST to go to some fanfast for the Hartford Whalers?  She must have a short memory of that last game in 1997 against the Tampa Bay Lightning - where we stayed late to listen to the Brass Bonanza, with tears flowing, and shaking hands and hugging everyone around us - yeah, I'm going.  And while I'm at it, maybe I'll even forgive Peter Karmanos and Chuck Kaiton for moving to North Carolina all those years ago.  Well, probably not Karmanos.  Incidentally, when I felt my wife's sympathy and mentioned that it would be great if she came too, she gave me a blank stare as if I just asked her to take out the garbage after a two week summer vacation.  "No I can't go, I have to be at work in 8 HOURS!"

11am.  East Hartford, Connecticut.  I had never been to Rentschler Field, so I had a little bit of a "Look kids, Big Ben, Parliament" moment as we drive down the road toward the backside of the field, when it was just a long drive down to the local Cabela's.  A poor man's version of Bass Pro Shops, it was, but the only way out was to drive by the place again, and again.  The elderly man still making his way to Grand Marquis was shaking his head as I whizzed by him a couple of times in the parking lot trying to find the exit.  Christ!   

Despite those couple of detours, eventually we made it to the field with minutes to spare.  I was concerned that we weren't going to receive the free posters that were being given out to the first 3,000 people to enter the fanfest.  As we were making our way to the back of the line, though, I wasn't worried about being too late as I was in awe of all of the fans dressed in Whaler Green and Blue waiting to get in.  Jerseys with names like Francis, Dineen, Burke and Sanderson on them brought back great memories - and permitted me to tolerate one of the first (of many) long lines of the afternoon.

As we finally stroll in, I see that the the Whalers have a new mascot, Pucky the Whale.  Another chance for DLG to be completely freaked out.  I keep trying to get Pucky's attention, but sensing that he was going to be facing a screaming little girl, he wisely went in the opposite direction.  Did I mention that once we got IN, we had to wait in another line to obtain the posters?

Gripping the recently received posters, we strolled around some of the booths for a little while surveying the memorbilia landscape.  I wanted some harpoon or Pucky logo gear, hopefully this was the place to do it.  I can just sense the growing hunger in the kids, so I suggested getting some grub.  "Yes!!" I hear in near unison.  

After a lengthy wait in line for some food for the famished kids (I mean it was 11:30 and they hadn't eaten since 9am) and beer for a stressed out Dad (Sadly, an experienced kegmaster was missing from the fest since all of the beers were foamy messes), we were fortunate to discover that we were feet away from Chuck Kaiton introducing all of the former Whalers who were signing autographs that day.  Believing that waiting for the introductions was cheaper than walking through all of the memorabilia dealers, we staked our place in the front row of the stage. The kids were confused.  "What are we doing here, Dad?" I think I heard one of them say.

Names from the past were introduced by a hoarse Kaiton.  Of the players introduced, Eddie Kastelic was one of the enforcers of the early 90's who quickly became a JMR family favorite, Andre LaCroix got all of the old timers excited (I only had a fleeting memory of his career) and Kevin Dineen (my favorite player) received one of the largest ovations.  I thought that part was really cool, frankly.  Nice touch.  My wife was convinced that I was just taking pictures of the Hartford Colonials cheerleaders when she reviewed the photographs the next morning.  Thanks, honey.

Some pucks and other hockey memorabilia were purchased to pass some time until we were called into the autograph line.  At least a thousand people deep, we slowly trudged our way down to the end of the line.  I figured this would be quick, these guys don't want to spend 6 hours signing posters for fanboys like me, so we waited...and waited...and waited some more.  During the two hour wait, I think I even got into an argument with the guy in line behind me about whether Gordie Howe was charging $30 for his autograph or $70.  I was convinced that his book was $30, but if you wanted a picture and something else signed, it was $40.  He was convinced that Howe was signing his name for $70 a pop.  I also spoke with Jack Earle Haley who was waiting to get Joel Quenneville's autograph, because he was a Chicage Blackhawks fan.  Even my 8 year old son looked at him unevenly.

And, it was all worth it in the end.  I talked to Kaiton about the irony of him losing his voice.  I spoke to a couple of guys I had never heard of, frankly.  My boys were fascinated by the tag team of Eddie Kastelic and another fighter type, Grant Jennings, signing side-by-side.  "Are they going to fight each other??" My six year old asked me.  I even had a chance to spend 5 minutes with someone who lived in my hometown while the WHA's New England Whalers were based in Boston.  Although I missed Ronnie Francis and Mike Rogers, I did manage to get one of Kevin Dineen's last autographs of the day before he left as my kids and I ewre the last ones in the makeshift line formed as Dineen was walking by us.  It was a fitting end to the day.

I looked at the kids as we pile into the car.  And granted, they were looking at their recently purchased Pokemon and Cinderella cards, but they were a little sunburned and they were all smiling.  That's all I needed to see.  I didn't need to ask them if they had a good time.  I have to admit, the best part was my son' reaction when I told Dana Murzyn that unfortunately, my son was a Bruins fan.  "No I'm not Dad!" he wheeled around and hissed.  "I like the Whalers!"  One Bruins fan at a time. 

So when is the Hartford Whalers Hockeyfest?

photo courtesy of

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Shaq Vs. Our Attention Span

Never in a thousand years would I have watched ABC's "Shaq Vs."  Don't get me wrong.  I enjoy the occasional game show or reality series.  It's just that the Shaq Vs. concept is so strained and unrealistic, that I'd rather watch Man Vs. Food.  At least I can identify with that kind of competition.

Everything changed this week though.  Shaq is on my side now.  He's not the enemy, like he was in Orlando, Los Angeles and Miami.  He's not the washed up Hall of Famer either, like he was in Phoenix and Cleveland.  He's MINE.  He's OURS.  Good or bad, the Big Shamrock will be deadpanning his way to our hearts every night at the Garden.  The question that most concerned us right now was not what we were going to watch on TV, but whether we were going to watch Shaq Vs. Penn and Teller and Sugar Shane Mosely (not together, of course) or the Press Shaqference that we taped the same day. 

"What happens if Shaq gets knocked out?  Will he still play this year?"  my eight year old asked.

"I don't know.  It depends on how badly he gets hurt."  I deadpanned.  Although I'm not only one who gets my impersonation.  My question, is whether we'll know the difference since he's a little old, fat and slow when healthy, anyway.

"Can we watch Shaq get hurt?" my six year old chimes in, obviously thinking the worst.  I think no matter what my feeling is on the subject, I'll get out voted.

8pm.  Caesar's Palace, Las Vegas, NV.  The anticipation is building in the JMR household.  This happens every time we watch the occasional MMA fight, too.  My kids are bloodthirsty, looking for broken bones and blood.  Trying to deflect all of the questions about Las Vegas and showgirls (they'll have plenty of time for that, except for you DLG!), I happen to notice that an old MTV Road Rules alum is one of the hosts - Kit Hoover.  She must be close to 40 by now, and it's starting to show.  Her original facelift needs to be tweaked a little bit, Bruce Jenner-style.  The only other thing I notice is that the hosts insist on Shaq being referred to as "Manny Shaqiao."  Between you and me, I think all of the play on Shaq's name has "Jumped the Shaq," don't you think?  Those of you reading this from New Jersey, yes, I am doing a play on his name too, I'm not teasing you.

To all of our disappointment though, before the big fight, we are forced to watch a ridiculous Shaq vs Penn and Teller skit.  Except for wondering what the "homeboy quarter trick" was, I fast forward this obviously painful time filler.  I made a "Shaq"tical decision, to coin one of Shaq's phrases.  Nevermind, on to the main event!

Prefight.  "Why is he sweating? He hasn't even started boxing yet."  Because he's old and overweight, I think to myself as I stick in my stomach a little bit so my boys don't notice ME sweating.  My six year old asks if any Celtics are going to be at the fight.  My eight year old tells him, like he's an idiot, that Shaq will be there.  I think he meant BESIDES Shaq.

Round 1.  A lot of punching.  Whether stooped over like an old man ((Shaq).  Or jumping like an overmatched child (Mosely).  We do learn that if Shaq loses, he will prance around the casino wearing a pink bikini.  Round 1 to Shaq.

Round 2.  To make the match more even apparantly, Shaq goes to his knees for a bit to fight Mosely at his level instead of using his reach advantage.  That was pretty funny - if he meant to do it.  Round 2 to Shaq. 

Round 3.  "Is Shaq wearing a shirt because he's too chubby?"  Needless to say that Mosely looked pretty good in this round.  Round 3 to Mosely.

Round 4.  More of the same.  Except I'm sure that Shaq told Kit Hoover, while she was trying to interview him between rounds, to get the Hell out of his face.  Maybe that just would have been me.  Round 4 to Mosely.

Round 5.  Shaq, I thought won this round with a little bit of vigor at the end.  It wasn't meant to be, however as Mosely wins the unanimous decision.  I wonder if the real contest involves who actually gets to win these contests during production - Shaq or his opponent.

*  *  *  *  *

No matter the outcome, I think my mission was accomplished - getting the kids interested in the Celtics and Shaq, specifically, since I think it's going to be an entertaining year.  They were, in fact, so interested that they wanted to keep the show on to see if he ran through the casino with a pink bikini on.  Bloodthirsty, I'm telling you. 

Although the Penn and Teller segment was painful to watch (even at triple the speed), I give Shaq Vs. a score of 83 out of 100.

photograph courtesy of ABC 

Saturday, August 7, 2010

JMR's Distant Tour of the Irish American Baseball Hall of Fame

Suffering through the Red Sox' loss to the dreaded New York Yankees on Fox Sports today, I became intrigued by some banter between Tim McCarver and Joe Buck toward the end of the game.  Apparantly, McCarver was recently inducted into the Irish American Baseball Hall of Fame along with Brian Cashman, Bill James and a couple of other guys I don't care much about.  Fox Sports showed McCarver and Cashman getting plaques in an evening setting not unlike the Heisman Ceremony.  Although I was poking fun at McCarver, I was at the same time wondering what this all about.

But first I had to ask my 6 year old if he he knew what the Irish American Baseball Hall of Fame was.

After giving it a surprising amount of thought, he began to reason with me. "I don't know, Dad.  But do you want to play a game of wiffle ball?"  No.  Just Wii Soccer and Sorry tonight.

I was surprised to learn first that the Irish American Baseball Hall of Fame (IBHOF for short) was founded not in Boston, but in New York.  I would have appreciated Ted Kennedy doing something for ME for once and locate it near the JMR homestead.  On the other hand, I was not surprised to learn that the IBHOF was founded in an Irish Pub located in Midtown Manhattan called Foley's NY Pub and Restaurant.

Opened by self described baseball historian Shaun Clancy, in an historic building across from the Empire State Building in 2004, Foley's NY first gained notoriety when, in March 2008, Clancy banned the playing of "Danny Boy" for that entire month, maintaining that it was written by an Englishman who never set foot in Ireland and was too depressing of a song anyway to be played during the St. Patrick Day Holiday.  In the same vein, I hereby declare that JMR's house shall not play Lady Gaga's "Alejandro" for the entire month of August 2010, which includes the Today Show appearance that has been on my DVR list for 6 weeks.  If that increases readership - great.

That same year, this place somehow got the approval from Major League Baseball to open the IBHOF.  MLB sanctioning an off shoot Hall of Fame in an Irish Pub that before this time was most proud of Joe McEwing's first autograph?  Who's Joe McEwing?  Exactly.  Does anyone in Cooperstown or the New York Headquarters read the memos that come across his or her desk?

And then the list of inductees to the Irish American Baseball Hall of Fame since 2008 immediately jumped off the page.  Important and historic baseball figures such as Connie Mack, John McGraw and Walter O'Malley almost shared this distinction with baseball luminaries such as John Fogarty, Rosie O'Donnell (seriously!) and John Cusack.  Not exactly a group heading to Cooperstown any time soon. 

Said 2009 inductee Kevin Costner upon his induction, "I'm humbled to be included with real baseball historic figures, especially after I released "For the Love of the Game."  I know that my great, great, great grandmother, who endowed me with my Irish descent would be proud."  Next year's class I've heard will include Madonna, Charlie Sheen and Susan Sarandon.
All kidding aside, the owner definitely has a crack PR staff.  This guy and his little bar are all over the Internet when you do a little research.  Not to mention profiles in USA Today and ABC News from the "Danny Boy" brouhaha.  I applaud Clancy's effort and of course the next time we're in New York, you know where we're heading. 

But first and foremost, Foley's NY is a restaurant.  How's the food? A $12 burger better taste pretty good.

photographs courtesy of and