Monday, March 19, 2012

"The Faith of Fifty Million People"*

Baseball fans, I mean serious fans, are not the easiest folks to fool.  We are trained to look for the subtle things, the things that make baseball the most cerebral of athletic pursuits.  We watch the catcher set up for a pitch....does his shifting slightly indicate that it will be a fastball high and tight?  Or is that just messin' with the batter who will be caught flat footed by the big, slow curveball over the outside corner?  No, we are always on the lookout for trickery, we fans of a sport that actually allows a low level of cheating so long as you do not get caught.

(seriously...if a baserunner misses a base you will not hear a peep out of the umpires unless the fielders make a point out of it, ask for the ball and stomp on the base in question.  Then and only then will the umpire call the runner out!).

So those of us who were paying attention were not fooled for an instant when "my team" the Minnesota Twins tried to slip something by us.  Specifically:

"Beginning March 9, the Twins will apply demand-based pricing to all seating sections of Target Field for the 2012 season. Demand-based pricing, which prices tickets according to fan demand, is a practice that is becoming standard across sports and entertainment industries."

Now this is an interesting concept, things being driven by fan demand.  So does this mean if a significant majority of fans vocally demand that an underperforming pitcher be send down to the low minors, that the slacker will be on the bus forthwith?  Well, no.  Read on:

 "In 2012, expanding our demand-based pricing will allow the Twins to adjust all ticket prices (except in the Our Family Section) upward or downward on a daily basis based on real-time market conditions such as team performance, pitching matchups and the weather."

Ah, so that's how it will be.  In a nutshell this means you willl be shaken down for an even more outrageous sum of money if you want to see the Twins play the New York Yankees on a marvelous summer evening when both teams are actually in contention for a playoff berth. 

So many questions, so few answers. 

If, and I pray it not be so, the Twins are as bad or worse in 2012 as they were in the misbegotten 2011 season, how far "downward" would it be fair to adjust ticket prices?

Once you accept the premise that prices are mutable based on the above factors, where do you draw the line?  Parking will be at more of a premium for popular games, shall we reprogram the meters in downtown Minneapolis?  It is hard to imagine the prices of brats, beer and such ever being higher than the current "ballpark prices" but why not?  If it is what the traffic will bear, I see no reason that prices might not vary during a game.  Hey, the sun came out, according to my i phone app update beer just went up by a nickle.  Ooops, that was a stupid error, all memorobilia of the players involved is on half price clearence for the next inning......

And what pray tell is the ethical justification for putting the National Pastime further out of reach for a larger percentage of the Nation everytime the sun shines and a good team is in town?  Well...

"The Twins will utilize Digonex's Sports and Entertainment Analytical Ticketing System (SEATSTM), a robust and proven dynamic pricing system that optimizes prices based upon a number of factors, to provide greater value to fans, maximize ticket sales, and mitigate the impact of ticket scalpers."

Ah, we shall mitigate the impact of ticket scalpers.  That would be those unscruplous folks who having access to a large number of tickets, run up the price of same based on whether it is a nice day, and whether it is the New York Yankees in town, and whether the home team is in the hunt for a playoff berth.

Such scoundrels deserve a sound thrashing.
*The title of this post is straight from the Great Gatsby.  In that novel there is passing reference to a character who is a very thinly disguised version of Arnold Rothstein the gambler behind the 1919 Black Sox scandal in which the World Series was rigged.

 "It never occurred to me that one man could start to play with the faith of fifty million people--with the singlemindedness of a burglar blowing a safe."

Oh I suppose tampering with ticket prices is only mundane theft, but recall that even in these times where baseball is no longer the defining sport for America, we are still talking about way more than fifty million fans.

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