Dec 3, 2009
Blackouts, Don Draper, Johnny Mathis, Charlie Brown, self-gratification elbow, the Haitian, and a stagecoach robbery
So as I sit here on this Tuesday night, word from the Bengals website is that their 50-game sellout streak is in serious jeopardy this Sunday with over 6,000 seats still remaining. If you’re in charge of the Bengals ticket sales, I’d imagine you have to be scratching at what’s left of your hair right about now. You’ve got a rare quality product to work with and yet if it wasn’t for Browns fans, Bears fans, Kroger, Motorola, and Ochocinco, you’d have four blackouts on your resume and staring down the distinct possibility of two more.
You could blame the economy but, pardon the pun, that’d be a poor excuse. First of all, if the economy was primarily to blame, then it’d be your fault for not getting ahead of it and lowering the face value of the tickets before the season began in order to hit an appropriate price point. Secondly, if the economy was primarily to blame, then how do you explain the ease by which teams are selling out in comparative or even smaller markets such as Kansas City, Charlotte, and Baltimore, all of whom have an inferior product to yours right now? The problem isn’t the economy (not entirely) and it’s not your product. The problem is the perception of your product. The way I see it, you’ve got a high percentage of your client base that looks at an 8-3 record and envisions an 8-8 finish.
So what do you do to create excitement for upcoming games against the pitiful Lions and hapless Chiefs? Do you play up the idea of being at PBS for a possible division-clinching victory? Do you get the message out through players and coaches that they “need” a packed house to help inspire them to victory? Do you put one hand behind your back, fingers crossed, and take out an ad thanking your loyal fans for their support, extolling the accomplishments of this year’s team, and inviting fans to come join in more of the fun? Do you do nothing, save a little cash, and hope that the product sells itself? Do you do nothing and hope that another corporate sponsor puts on a tiger-striped cape and flies in to the rescue? What do you do? What can you do? What would Don Draper do?
Don would likely light up a Lucky Strike, call in the boys to kick around some ideas, end the meeting , pour himself an Old Fashioned, then head out for a midday extramarital encounter before getting hit by a bolt of inspiration on his drive home. My guess is that his solution would have something to do with selling a balance of every man’s desire to be free & unencumbered with his desire to feel like he’s where he’s meant to be. In a sense, that PBS needs to be the Cheers bar. If you’re not there, you’re missing out on something. And even if you’re at home, you’re not really at home because PBS is where you’re meant to be. Maybe he’d come up with a television spot showing a man in his late thirties sitting on his leather couch in front of his big flat-screen high def television, watching the game in comfort when he suddenly gets a call on his cell phone. He looks down at his phone to see a picture message of his buddies, sent by them from the game he’s currently watching. The camera zooms in on the picture, then into the picture, taking us to the game, right there next to his buddies. We see the Bengals score a touchdown, hear the roar of the crowd, get high-fived by our pals, there are a couple of attractive women in the row in front of us for good measure, people are jumping and hollering, music’s blaring, the “Who Dey!” cheer starts to rise, and just as it becomes clear to the viewer that this is an experience you just can’t get from the comfort and convenience of your living room, a graphic appears subtly near the bottom of the scene displaying the date of the next home game, it then dissolves and is quietly replaced by the phone number and web address to purchase your tickets. You’re comfortably stuck at home watching it; your buddies are there, living it.
I’m obviously not an ad man and a real ad man would surely poke several holes in that idea but what I’m getting at is that the Bengals need to create an excitement that for some reason isn’t there right now. And that excitement has to be stirred in the segment of their fan base that is finding it not worth the expense to leave the comfort of their climate-controlled man caves complete with high def 47-inch high def flat screen LG LED televisions (yes, I finally pulled the trigger on one), comfortable couches, a no-wait line for the bathroom, and cheap beer in the no-wait line at the fridge. These are potential customers who can afford your tickets but could probably better afford not to buy your tickets. The goal each season is to convince these potential customers to buy season tickets, or at least a ticket package of some kind, but with two home games remaining, the task at hand is to get this group just to come out to a game. Normally an 8-3 record would be enough to create the excitement, but not this year.
Four years ago, the Bengals were also 8-3 at this point in the season and this town was going out of its collective mind. Bootsy Collins was writing Bengals songs and making videos, people were flying Bengals flags and painting their mailboxes orange & black, Bengals merchandise was the must-have gift for Christmas, I even remember a store opening up down in Colerain that sold nothing but Bengals items, and it was constantly packed. This year, not so much. So what’s different? That ‘05 team had Chad Johnson unveiling a new end zone antic every Sunday, their other wide receiver had a cool name and a long pony tail, Carson Palmer was putting up huge passing numbers, they had a running back with a chant-friendly name (Ruuu-di!, Ruuu-di!), and Marvin Lewis was still in his honeymoon period around here. This year’s team has a fairly muted Chad Ochocinco flanked by some workmanlike receivers, Carson hands the ball off more than he throws it, their featured running back is a quiet guy named Cedric, and Marvin’s now got his fair share of skeptics. Maybe that’s the reason for the lack of excitement. Maybe this team isn’t exciting enough.
I’ve always been told that we’re a lunch pail sort of town that likes the player who isn’t afraid to get his uniform dirty, the player who always gives 110%, the player who just goes about his business and produces without a lot of flash and self-promotion. We prefer workmanlike to glitz and glam. That’s what I’ve always been told but that’s not what I’ve ever believed. Who was the most popular player on the Big Red Machine? Pete Rose. And who was more blue-collar than Pete, right? True, but Pete’s very nature of being hard-nosed and being the uber-hustler made him into something he probably never intended to be; it made him a spectacle. “Hey kids, let’s go see Pete Rose. He’s that guy who runs to first base after a walk and dives head first into bases!" Who was the most popular player on the Bengals ’81 Super Bowl team? Chris Collinsworth, the shaggy-haired “Aw shucks” skirt-chasing wideout with the nickname “Cadillac”. Who was the most popular player on the Reds wire-to-wire championship team in 1990? I’ll argue it wasn’t Barry Larkin or Eric Davis that season, it was Chris Sabo. Sure, he was gritty-gutty and hard-nosed but he also wore goggles, was nicknamed “Spuds”, and was always good for a quote. And don’t forget about the Nasty Boys. They were as sideshow as a bullpen has ever been. What about the Bengals ’89 Super Bowl team? For some it was Krumrie but for most it was Boomer or Icky. Do I even need to go into why they support my claim?
The ‘70’s Reds had superstars, the ’90 Reds had Sabo and the Nasty Boys, the Bengals Super Bowl teams have had not only Collinsworth and Boomer and Icky, but also the so-mad-his-head-was-about-to-explode Forrest Gregg and the space age offensive stylings of the not-so-microphone-shy Sam Wyche. Those teams were entertaining. This 2009 Bengals team is workmanlike. They run the ball, they play tough defense, they control the clock, and they don’t mind winning games while only scoring sixteen points. When the Bengals were bounced from the playoffs four years ago, all I kept hearing was “If we only had a good defense…”, “If we only had more balance on offense…”, “If only this team were mature enough to win the close games…”. So now we have a team which possesses those qualities along with an 8-3 record and we could be looking at a nationally embarrassing blackout this Sunday.
If this town is what it has always claimed it is, the tickets will get sold without a corporate bailout and the blackout will be averted. If this town is not what it claims it is, then the Bengals marketing department had better find a way to create some excitement out of this “boring” team and move some tickets. I don’t have any skin in the game but I certainly hope that the fan base steps up to the plate. I hope that enough step up and decide that they want to be where the action is, soaking in the possible history of the moment, being the buddies that send the picture message from PBS instead of the guy sitting on his couch receiving it. I hope they do because if so, I’ll be that guy sitting on the couch saving my money and watching it in crystal-clear high def.
Now, on with the matchups….
Jets at Bills (in Toronto)-
Congratulations Torontonians, you get the esteemed privilege of acting as the home crowd for the fantastically awesome Bills of Buffalo whilst exposing your beautiful city to an unruly and unsavory group of traveling Jets fans and a pissed-off group of jealous Buffalonians. If I were you, I’d cover everything you can in plastic and move your wallets to a front pocket. This is like the cool kids in school convincing the new kid to throw a party knowing all along that they’re not going to show up but instead spread word of the party to all the band geeks and shop class stoners.
Pick: Jets, 23 - 13
Texans at Jaguars-
Speaking of blackouts, it looks like this will be blackout #6 for the Jags this season. You know, instead of fighting it, they may as well just go ahead and embrace, you know, accept it as a way of their football existence down there. Why not just make every home game from now on a “BLACKOUT” game? The team wears their alternate all-black uniforms, fans are encouraged to dress in black, and all the music played over the loudspeakers is either from AC/DC’s Back in Black album, the Beatle’s Black Album, Metallica’s Black Album, Jay-Z’s Black Album, or anything by the Black Crowes, Black Flag, or Johnny Cash. Honorary captains could include Jack Black, Clint Black, Lewis Black, Ritchie Blackmore, or any black guy of your choosing. They could send the vendors around with black coffee and Blackjack gum, and the crowd could assemble in groups contemplating death and discussing such topics as Goth art and biker fashion amidst the backdrop of the game. Again, I’m not in marketing per-se so this may not be a good idea. I’m just spitballing here.
Pick: Texans, 24 – 23
Eagles at Falcons-
This nice little battle between NFL Wildcard hopefuls will be missing some firepower. Atlanta will have to play without Matt Ryan and also possibly Michael Turner with turf toe and a high ankle sprain, respectively. Philly will also likely have to go without a key offensive player as DeSean Jackson is questionable after being concussed last week. I’ve had more than a few injuries in my day but I’ve never had any of those three. I’m guessing the turf toe would be the worst. From what I’ve seen, anytime they name an injury after the thing that caused it, it’s not pretty- road rash, chemical burn, bullet wound, self-gratification elbow…. all not good to be afflicted with.
Pick: Eagles, 23 - 17
Buccaneers at Panthers-
The bad news for Carolina is that Jake Delhomme has a broken finger on his throwing hand and may miss this one. This good news for Carolina is that Jake Delhomme has a broken finger on his throwing hand and may miss this one.
Pick: Panthers, 23 - 20
Rams at Bears-
It’s Kyle Boller and the Rams vs Jay Cutler and the Bears. I’m setting the Over/Under on interceptions at 6. …For the Rams. …And 6 for the Bears. What I’m saying is a total of 12 interceptions. The good money’s on the Over. The good money’s also on this being one of the few remaining stops for The Lovie Smith Farewell Tour. Upcoming dates will include stops in Baltimore, Detroit, and repeat performances in Chicago. Plenty of good seats are still available.
Pick: Bears, 24 - 13
Lions at Bengals-
Cincinnati’s defense is ranked #1 in points allowed, averaging just 16 per game. Detroit’s dead last in points allowed, averaging almost 31. Cincinnati has the #7 rushing attack, averaging 135 yards per game. Detroit ranks #25 in running the ball, averaging just 95 yards per game. Playing tough defense and being able to run the ball is a winning formula for December. Sorry Detroit. Also a winning formula for December: rophenol-spiked egg nog and a van without rear windows. I’m kidding. I don’t do that anymore. Now I’m into wooing the ladies around the holidays with vodka-influenced cider, a faux Irish accent, and a little Johnny Mathis mood music.
Pick: Bengals, 31 – 16
Patriots at Dolphins-
After each of the Patriots first three losses this season, they’ve followed them up with wins in which they’ve allowed opponents an average of just 8 points per game. Unfortunately for the Dolphins, the Patriots fourth loss was this past Monday night. The Pats are masters at the art of bounce back wins and getting themselves primed for vengeance. You could say they’ve been the Steven Seagal of the NFL.
Pick: Patriots, 34 – 20
Titans at Colts-
Ho-ly crap. Don’t look now but the Titans are back from the dead and on a rampage. Hell, they were not only dead, they were buried twenty feet deep, tied up with duct tape and encased in cement. If they go from 0-6 to 10-6 and knock off the undefeated Colts along the way, Jeff Fisher deserves Coach of the Year, an Oscar, an Emmy, an ESPY, a Grammy, a Pulitzer Prize, an AVN award for best porn ‘stache, and Obama should hand him his Nobel Peace Prize thingy.
Pick: Colts, 34 – 20
Broncos at Chiefs-
Despite winning two of their last three, KC still has the league’s 27th ranked offense and 28th ranked defense. Meanwhile, the Donkeys seem to have turned things around since their four-game losing streak. As a side note, the Chiefs will be retiring the late linebacker Derrick Thomas’ #58 jersey during the game. That’s a good move. Also a good move would be to retire Chiefette Carol’s uniform. Just take it off of her right there on the field and hang it on the façade. Can I get a second show of hands on that one? Thank you. By the way, are they called Chiefettes? Anybody know for sure? I could Google it but I won’t. If they’re not the Chiefettes, they should be. Or they should just be referred to collectively as The Squaw. Speaking of squaw, it’s Cheerleader Posedown Time!
Pick: Broncos, 30 – 16
Raiders at Steelers-
So let me get this straight; the Steelers doctors told ROFLsberger not to play last week and Coach Tomlin told ROFLsberger he wasn’t to play last week because of the concussion he suffered the week before, BUT they suited him up anyway and had him active just in case Dennis Dixon were to get injured during the game. Did I get that right? Really? In other words, we’re not going to let you play because we don’t want to risk your health but we do want you to risk your health if our other quarterback gets knocked out of the game? You’d think that Coach Tomlin would better know how to handle these situations given the time he’s spent working with Dr. House.
Pick: Steelers, 31 - 9
Shirts (Saints) at Skins-
After witnessing the Saints complete domination of the Patriots on Monday night, I’m ever more convinced that Drew Brees has somehow been instilled with artificial intelligence along with enhanced vision and decision-making skills not possessed by other humans. I don’t know if he was involved in a close encounter of the fourth kind or if he’s got a deal with the devil that my sources haven’t gotten wind of yet, but something is going on there. If I’m the Skins, I’m calling in the Haitian from Heroes to stand on my sideline and dampen his powers.
Pick: Saints, 28 - 16
Chargers at Browns-
I just read this matchup out loud and it made me think of Charlie Brown. And when I think of Charlie Brown and football, I think of him falling on his can when Lucy pulls the ball away as he’s trying to kick it. This Sunday, the Chargers will be playing the role of Lucy and the Browns will, obviously, be playing the role of Charlie Brown. And while I’m on the subject, you ever notice how the other Peanuts characters never call him Charlie? They always use his full name. “Hey there, Charlie Brown.”… “What’s the matter, Charlie Brown?”…. “You’re a blockhead, Charlie Brown.”…. “Hey, get off of my gin & tonic, Charlie Brown!” I could see them referring to him that way with one another if there was another Charlie in the group but he’s the only Charlie. And they all call him by both names to his face. Weird. Except for Peppermint Patty, she just calls him Chuck. And what’s the story with the “Peppermint” moniker? Was ”peppermint” code for “lesbian” back in the day? Is it code now? If not, we should really get that established.
Pick: Chargers, 28 – 10
Cowboys at Giants-
The Giants have been performing like an off-brand microwave whose warranty has just expired. The good news for them is that Tony Romo and the Cowboys are up next, and it’s December. Since ’06 the ‘Boys are 5-10 in December and Romo’s thrown 19 interceptions to just 14 touchdowns on his way to a 71.9 passer rating. So is it something about him playing in the month of December or is it something about the pressure on him of playing in the last month of the season? I can’t say I know the answer to that question with 100% certainty but if I were Wade Phillips, I’d, well, first I’d lose some weight, and I’d be tempted to sneak a couple bennies into Romo’s water bottle.
Pick: Cowboys, 24 - 20
Niners at Seahawks-
Damn the Niners, damn them straight to hell!
Pick: Seahawks, 27 – 17
Vikings at Cardinals-
Kurt Warner is out again with lingering vision problems stemming from the concussion he suffered a couple weeks ago. That’s too bad because I think with him, this game had the chance to be a wild west kind of shootout on Sunday night. Now it’ll likely be nothing more than a bunch of outlaws ambushing an undefended stagecoach. Am I saying that the Vikings are a bunch of outlaws? No. Am I saying that the Cardinals are an undefended stagecoach? No, not really. I don’t really know what I’m saying. I guess I just like Westerns.
Pick: Vikings, 31 - 17
Ravens at Packers-
Seems like the only group of guys easier to get past than Obama’s Secret Service is the Packers offensive line. They’re now up to a staggering 44 sacks allowed this season.
Pick: Ravens, 24 - 23
Posted by Smitty