Monday, June 25, 2007

Utterly insane

Edit/update: I don't want to bump this story from the top spot but I do want to mention tonight's CanAm game... the Cutters beat the Pride 5-4 on a walkoff wild pitch in the 10th. Jeeeeeeez.

In late July of 2005, when I hadn't received any of the merchandise and special opportunities with my season ticket package that I was supposed to get in April [some of which NEVER wound up coming], my mother urged me to contact the Better Business Bureau and press the issue. I didn't, however, because I thought (and still think) that the relationship between a sports team and a fan is different from a typical business-consumer relationship - it's one of mutual passion, respect and dedication. Unfortunately, I've come to learn over these five seasons that respect and dedication is not a two-way street with the Spirit organization.

I'm glad I wasn't at the game yesterday (which in and of itself speaks volumes -- I used to be pissed whenever I'd miss a game), because if I was, I would have been followed and harassed by Spirit staff solely because they know who I am and I am always there.

I will repeat what I said last night in the chat: If Nick and the Spirit want Fraser to be a morgue with no fan support, that's their decision and that's OK. It's a dumb decision, and one that's destined to fail, but it's theirs, so whatever.

But that is an entirely separate issue from following around and harrassing repeated paying customers and treating them like criminals or hooligans - especially since none of us have ever caused trouble at any game, at home or on the road.

What especially troubles me is that security was hovering around ERNIE.... ERNIE!!!!! Seriously, what would/could Ernie do? Is that how the Spirit treat an elder member of our community who has spent god knows how much money and time coming to see the Spirit over these past 5 seasons?

And all of this was done while Eddie "Triple Whopper" Lantigua and his band of Capitales got the VIP treatment that season ticket holders are supposed to get but never do.

The fact of the matter is that we are not the only people who are sick of the way the Spirit run their organization. If I had a dime for every time I heard someone say "I would have renewed my season tickets if I received even one call from the Spirit over the off-season," I would have... well... 40 cents, because I've heard that from four separate ex-season ticket holders. I'd imagine that they are not the only ones.

I have traveled on the road MANY times to see the Spirit play and not ONCE have I EVER been acknowledged or thanked by "The Big Boss," nor have we been acknowledged by the minions without going up and initiating conversation at them. I think the idea is that we are supposed to bow down and be thankful to the benevolent boss for bringing the team into existence, and that gratitude isn't a two way street.

The issue seems pretty clear to me. In the business world, "The Lopardo Way" 'was always successful. He never had to listen to anybody and he could hire mindless minions to do his work for him. But in this business you can't be cold and ruthless and impersonal. And in this business, 'the way things are done' has failed. The team has failed to win a Can Am title and attendance has never reached a solid level (and god knows where it would be this year without Slugger's reading freebies). The disrespect of the fans isn't helping things. And the jettisoning of quality employees like the Seguin brothers hasn't helped either, but I'm sure that they didn't fall in line and perhaps they forgot to Heil.

It's not just us. Last season someone was thrown out for not standing up during God Bless America, which is not, for the record, our national anthem. Again, if that's the way the Spirit want to run their organization, more power to them, but it's bound to fail. And in fact, if rumors are to be believed, it IS failing and Nick is bailing out before the season is even over. It seems to me like the only reason Nick didn't take his ball and go home after last season is that doing so would be admitting the failure of "his way or the highway." But it looks like it's about to be the highway (for them, not for us, because I can assure you, we will be in Worcester or Nashua next summer if/when the Spirit fold... there is no shortage of baseball in New England).

The Spirit have never been receptive toward ideas that could increase fan connection and passion. I emailed them before the 2005 season about sanctioning a semi-independent fan club, and I got an email back saying, basically, "not interested." I have gotten the same response when I've requested that the Spirit set up a message forum, or link to ours, or NEFANs, so that fans can develop a connection and talk about the games. Nope, not interested.

Why not? I'm guessing it's because someone might say something that's not 100% positive and worshipful. That's certainly part of the reason why we get the disrespect we do. Despite our constant displays of respect and dedication to the team, sometimes, on the blog, we call a spade a spade.

I'm calling a spade a spade here - the treatment received by fans yesterday was absolutely despicable.

Like I said, not wanting people to be vocal is one thing, but being the Fun Police is an entirely different issue. But beyond that, having actual security shadowing people who have not caused problems in 5 years is simply uncalled for.

Perhaps they should get security to surround the idiot parents who let their kids run amok through the aisles and constantly run in to people.

3 years ago a kid crawled on to the dugout and stayed up there for 5 minutes. Finally, despite the fact that I knew I would probably get kicked out for going on the dugout, I went up there and got the kid down.

I got no thank you from the moron parents or from the idiot usher despite the fact that I did his job.

But at Fraser Field, I'm used to being treated in an ungrateful way, so it didn't really bother me.


wooden said...

Joe - A couple of comments.

I agree with you about 2005 and how they treated season-ticket holders, but I attributed that to Brent and Seth's incompetence. I can't speak to 2006, so...

Nick has been kinder to me, but there's a reason why I post under a pseudonym... I suspect if I'd glad-handed him in AC, he'd have been nice to me, but I was too busy watching the game.

Leahy has been more than nice to you guys, so I don't think it's endemic to the entire Spirit staff.
If you really feel that you're being discriminated against, I'd suggest composing a letter to Uncle Miles and cc:ing Nick and Brent. Hint strongly that a copy of this may be sent to the Lynn Item and the Salem Evening News. It's one thing to shout to us, your friends, it''s quite another to have your feelings heard by the league itself.

DaveCo said...

You sir get round of applause from me.

Jack Suslak said...

Great post Joe, I totally agree with everything you said, They definitely have dropped the ball over the last couple years with promotions, marketing, and ticket sales. Like Joe said I have no doubt they lost season ticket holders by not reaching out to them, and thats just unexcusable. I mean if they truly really wanted to they would make a real effort to come up with interesting and unique promotions and advertisments to get people in the seats. I mean you got Fenway and Lowell filled to capacity every night, so there isnt any shortage of baseball fans in the Boston area, but we cant consistently put 3k in the seats, something must be wrong.

Now the issue with the staff, I have for the most part gotten along pretty well with the staff of the Spirit all the way up to Nick, now that might be connected to my connections, but they seem like good people who want the team to do well in Lynn. So to hear what they said and did to my friends by watching every move they did and saying to Ernie, if you dont like it tough, is just not right. We have never been the problem, we are the diehards, the Spirit crew that I proudly mentioned in the program, and for them to take out their frustration on our crew is just wrong. Ernie is a true fan and for Brent to go off him, someone who is at almost every game isnt right. Now I do understand that the play on the field hasnt been that great this year but you cant take out your frustrations on the people who are always here. But some of the best staff are gone, Seguin brothers, Robin Wallace, and just this year they got rid of Wayne Kerrins who was the director of disabilities for the spirit in charge of allowing all fans no matter what their mobility or other issues to be able to enjoy the park. He did a great job in 2004 when i had surgeries to make sure I had a seat up top to watch the game. And that service they used to provide I know cant be the same anymore without him. I fear that the end might be soon for the Spirit in Lynn, which would be a shame because I have had a lot of great times there and met a lot of great people including the staff. I wish there is a way we all can rally behind this issue to get more people to come in to see a game and get the team going and we all to have a good time. Cause at the end of the day we are all baseball fans and thats whats important.

Anonymous said...

Challenge to spirit staff:
Let's hear SOME KIND of response.
We all KNOW you guys read the Blog (whether you will admit it to Nick or not).
Show us that there remains some integrity in the front office. How 'bout it Brent?. What was the mindset behind this act, which on the surface is really insulting to us LOYAL fans.

Anonymous said...

While we are all aware of the past...let's call them shortcomings in Spitit staff's dealings with Season ticket holders and Fraser regulars, what we are concerned with now is something altogether different.
I, for one, would like to know what the mindset of management was with this latest "problem".
Were there concerns of violence toward Caps' players?. If so, why allow them in the stands?. In fact, what is the league policy re: having suspended players on site for a game they have been suspended from?; are they even supposed to be there?.
certainly catering to Lantigua and his other hoodlum friend while shadowing faithful fans, pulling down (what I feel) were appropriate signs for the event, and instructing or in any way dictating what fans can and can't root, cheer or boo about during the game seems, on the face, ridiculous.
These are just the types of things that prevented me from buying season tix again this year; and I KNOW I am not alone in this feeling.
The previous anon poster has it right me thinks; let us hear from Spirit management about this. Who knows?, maybe their explanation is a valid one and will be widely accepted.
For Me, I will be spending the lion's share of my entertainment dollars @ spirit games that are on the road, and at other venues, watching other teams as I have done so up to this point in the season.
Lowell, Portland, Worcester and Nashua.... even Brockton are all viable alternatives for me, although I understand that may not be the case for everyone.
What of it Spirit staff?. As stated earlier, we are all aware that this Blog is read by different Spirit staffers; why not give some sort of explanation as to the thinking behind what seems to be poorly handled instance at best, and a downright slap in the face at worst.
The crowds will surely get smaller, and folks who are already displeased will no doubt have their #'s grow w/o some sort of response.
Personally, and I can only speak for myself, Nick lopardo has never been anything but nice and cordial to me in my interactions with him. He acknowledges my presence @ road games and says "Thanks for coming".... can I really expect more?. Other staffers have left differing impressions..... from nice to full of __it, and everything in between. I imagine that is to be expected.
Ignoring this Fan faux-pas will only do more harm than good... seems to me.


Bobby said...


Anonymous said...

(1) On surveillance of fans:

Repeating my comments to Daveco post-game at BK: That you feel you had management's eye on you doesn't mean it's true, doesn't mean it's unwarranted, and doesn't mean you were harmed. Suppose the misconduct spreads into the grandstand and the City of Lynn begins to treat the Spirit as a public-health problem.

After the brawl, I heard that management prepared to eject fans who inflamed the situation. I remind our Moderator that he toyed with yelling obscenities even if it meant certain ejection. The day after, management still sought to control fan behavior that might inflame.

I don't view Ernie as a problem in this regard. Maybe someone does. Would you equip all ushers with a database on which fans try to provoke players? Although that was an excellent poster (for the record: one side was a Master Card ad parody calling whupping Lantigua "priceless" and the other side referred to his being "smoked" by Weed), its presence in the grandstand--and even in the owner's box--was "fighting words" you aren't necessarily free to utter on the street, much less in a private business (the Spirit). It is fine that management took it down.

Shushing Alan when he booed the Quebec starting lineup was unfortunate--This is well within the bounds of fandom--but again, this was a special case, not of managing fans' feelings but trying to prevent a recurrence of what, the night before, led to violence.

Our Moderator would like Spirit management to know him completely enough to know that everything that comes out of his mouth, especially at high volume, including jingoism and swears, is meant well and not only informative but entertaining to other fans. Perhaps management's crowd control in this game is because they DO know you.


Anonymous said...

(2) On misconduct and punishment--

I don't know the league's rules and precedent, but there is a big burden on Miles, in the inherently conflicted roles of Commish and team owner, to "avoid the appearance of impropriety." Especially, I would wait for and review the video, then issue a statement describing each act of misbehavior and how it led to the respective punishment. This would include deliberately hitting the batter, charging the mound, initiating violence, leaving the bench (yes, although we expect our team to do so), initiating separate brawls, and returning after being separated to have another go. The blame is not necessarily equal on both teams, but surely is not solely with Les Capitales.

One discussion we had in the stands: I heard the umps "warned both benches" at or before the start of the next game. By rule, umps are free not to issue a warning; but once they have, they are obliged to eject the pitcher and the manager for any HBP. (A rule change a few years ago clarifies that they have the additional (optional) power of immediate ejection even in the absence of a warning.)

Except for the above, I don't know what the "right" length of suspension is, only that Miles must show consistency with past rulings and even-handedness.

But, certainly, players SUSPENDED FOR MISCONDUCT ought not sit in the "Best Seats in the House" with waitress service, nor in the owner's box. If they are allowed on premises, they can watch the game over the LF wall. (Les Capitales can accompany Jordan on the CF camera perch.)


Anonymous said...

(3) On sportsmanship:

Batting the ball out of the thirdbaseman's hands, though seen and enforced on appeal, is something we complain about solely because it isn't a Spirit player doing it and getting away with it. Me, I'd like a world in which a baserunner confesses to the ump that he was tagged; but that isn't our world; we pay real money and expect our players to do everything they can to win--likewise our politicians and used-car dealers.

That brawling sets a bad example for kids is minor--Parents have to parent, explaining to the kids, with the aid of swift and sure punishment of the players, why it is wrong--and if fights never happened, I'd begin to wonder whether players really cared. In some cases, you brawl; in some cases, you leave the bench to support your team; in some cases, you exercise civil disobedience. You take your punishment and you see how it turns out.

How this turns out is that the Spirit were more rattled than Les Capitales, brought absolutely nothing (pitching or offense) to the rubber game, and lost the game and the series. To comments that essentially say, "They didn't play nice," I say: Get real.


DaveCo said...

I got an email back from the league yesterday saying they didn't need the footage at this point but would "consider it" if needed in the future