LONGSHOTS: News of the week has people talking
by Dave Long
Here are some thoughts on news stories that got my attention this week.
News Item: To Show Sensitivity to the Fans, Red Sox Won’t Raise Ticket Prices
The Red Sox announced they’re freezing their ticket prices for 2009 at 2008 levels, because, and I quote Larry Lucchino here, “at a time when our fans may be feeling some kind of economic adversity, we should show some sensitivity.” Pardon me for sounding like a grumpy old fan, but Larry, cut the PR spin, would you, please? This ownership group has done a great job since taking over and is a model for what you want in an owner. But this was trying to get something extra out of a sober business decision and not something for loyal fans amid the economic downturn. Not that I’m saying they should, as no one is twisting anyone’s arm to go, but if they wanted to help fans they’d have lowered prices, not kept them the same. Here’s why they really did it. Their best chance for a better bottom line in ’09 lies in keeping it static. If prices go up amid the carnage of the Wall Street mess, it most likely would’ve accelerated the season ticket cancellations and/or downgrades to partial packages they are sure to face. And that would mean, even though prices were higher, less gross revenue from ticket sales and it might put the sellout streak in jeopardy as well.
There were many blog entries following a story about it in the Boston Globe; here’s one from a Bob Lit: “On the surface it gives the team some nice PR, but please don’t assume we are all that stupid. The Red Sox can charge what ever they want for tickets. That is their right. But if you believe that their multimillionaire owners are concerned about whether the fans can afford tickets then you must also believe that picking Sarah Palin was a stroke of genius by John McCain.”
The moral is that sometimes saying what you did is better than trying to get credit for more than it actually is, because the only way to blow the well-earned trust the brass has with The Nation is with transparent PR ploys like this that were so common during the last regime.
News Item: Lightning Strikes Melrose Just 16 Games into Comeback
Apparently somebody in the Tampa Bay front office made a pretty large boo-boo last summer in hiring ESPN analyst Barry Melrose as head coach after he was away from the bench for more than a decade. It’s not unprecedented, as Dick Vermeil was gone for longer than that and won a Super Bowl with the Rams in 1999. But you’ve got to mess up pretty badly to get fired 16 games into a three-year deal. That or they exercised a ridiculously itchy trigger finger after a slow start. But given that they tied the Monarchs’ parent in L.A. for least points in the NHL last year, that would be hard to justify. Since I haven’t followed the NHL since Mark Messier magically led the Rangers to the Cup in 1994 after being turned off by the Bruins’ spending just enough to make the playoffs for years to keep the suckers coming back, I’m not really qualified to say which it is. But I can put it in perspective. During his 20-year reign of terror before Joe Torre came aboard, when George Steinbrenner hired and fired managers as often as deli workers change plastic gloves, only twice did he do it 16 games into a season or less. So either Melrose was really a disaster or whoever hired him should be getting a vacation too.
New Item: Tampa Bay Gambles Tocchet Can Turn Things Around
But that’s really not the biggest story in this. It’s naming Rick (tick) Tocchet to replace Merlrose. I am all ears to hear from anyone who can explain to me how in the name of Andy Bathgate NHL Commissioner Gary (you want to make a) Bettman could allow anyone who has pleaded guilty to running an illegal BOOKMAKING operation anywhere near an NHL bench. Are you kidding me? I have nothing against regular folks betting on games legally or even legalizing it all together. But, even though there was no tampering with the outcome, knowing that the outcome is on the up and up is the most important aspect of any relationship a sports league has with its fans. So it’s incredible they let Tocchet back in hockey in any job, let alone as a head coach. If he’s willing to break the law to run such a ring, that’s one step away from using inside info to set lines, or maybe even fix games if needed. It’s like letting Richard Nixon come back to be president after the Watergate cover-up. Wasn’t Shoeless Joe Jackson available? Some say Tocchet paid his debt and deserves a chance to earn a living. I say he knew what the rules were from the beginning and if you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime. I mean even though he hit .324 and played errorless ball in the 1919 Black Sox World Series, Buck Weaver got life from Commissioner Landis because he knew it was happening and didn’t tell anyone. So, sorry, some crimes deserve a life sentence and being involved in illegal gambling as coach or player is one of those crimes.
News Item: Deciding Games in Sudden- Death Overtime
The Jets won by the rules fair and square. And the Patriots are the ones who couldn’t stop them on the opening drive of OT. But seeing a great game decided when one team doesn’t even get to touch the ball in overtime because it lost the COIN flip reflects a really bad rule. The NFL should amend the overtime rule to let both teams touch the ball once in OT before it ends.
News Item: Pats on Outside Looking in on AFC Playoff Picture
With 10 wins and no losses Tennessee looks like they’re in already. The Jets and Steelers lead the East and North Divisions at 7-3, while 6-4 Denver somehow leads out West despite having scored 23 fewer points then they’d allowed. In the wild card race, the Colts, Ravens, Dolphins and Patriots are all 6-4 and Buffalo could be too if they beat Cleveland after I filed this story. If it ended today, Indy and Baltimore are in on tie-breakers, with Indy’s being their head-to-head win over the Pats, which they let slip right through their fingers. All of which makes Sunday’s match-up with Miami HUGE. A loss drops them a game back of the Dolphins, which, with the tie-breaker it also gives them, essentially means they’re two games back of the rampaging fish who’ve won four in a row.
So the bottom line is they have to win in Miami on Sunday or else.
Dave Long can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He hosts the Absolute Sports Experience at Billy’s Sports Bar in Manchester each Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon that is broadcast live on WGAM – The Game, 1250-AM Manchester, 900-AM Nashua.