Baseball’s Balancing Act – Fans vs VIP’s

Now, to understand where this article comes from, you’ll probably have to have known me for a few decades.  So if you didn’t know me in 1988, you’ll need to imagine two high school kids going to a Mariners game, buying $3 GA tix, going up those big grey ramps at the Kingdome, and climbing the fence that separated the good ramp from the bad ramp.  Fast forward a few years later, when a friend (who I won’t identify) created fake press passes.  We were able to get into Mariners games for a few years before the jacka$$ screwed it up.  (And that’s a different story.)

So what I’m saying is, I believe that a team should let its real fans support it, even if they can’t afford to.  And the entire experience about attending a ball game should be about FAN EXPERIENCE.  No more no less.

Now, baseball is kind of unique because it is something passed down from generation to generation.  People like or dislike baseball when they are 3 years old because their parents like or dislike baseball.  And their parents like or dislike baseball because of their parents and etc… In the grand scheme of things, the Seattle Mariners marketing department has really had little impact on whether I like baseball or not.

Which leads me to my issue.

I’ve shared season tickets since 1996.  I really don’t care that much that the team has stunk for 10 or 11 of those 15 years.  It’s just something I pay each year, like insurance, energy bills and gas.  I own a little piece of real estate inside Safeco Field.  I go to my little 2 seat condo every 6th game, pay too much for a beer, and just enjoy my 3 hours.  And for 15 years or so, it’s been realtively peaceful.

So enter 2011.  On one hand, I’m excited again.  I’ve seen Pineda and Felix throw gems.  I’ve watched the Yankees and Phillies.  Dustin Ackley hit a home run.  Life is exciting. What could I possible complain about?

Ushers.  Yes ushers.  Or more accurately, ushers crushing fans.  Ushers becoming part of MY game experience.  Ushers who seem endorsed by the Mariners to make the ballpark experience kind of stink.

We sit right next to the VIP section – scouts, wives, execs, etc…. And most of the time, NO ONE sits in these seats.  I mean, no one.  Mariner wives seemed to be on a collective cruise in April and May, because they sure weren’t at Safeco.  And you didn’t see many scouts around charting Milton Bradley, Ryan Langerhans, or Michael Saunders.

Now the last 3 games I’ve attended, I’ve lost at least a half-inning each game as the same Mariners usher booted people who were minding their own business.  Incident #1: A group of 10 boisterous fans who were spending a fair amount of money at the concession stand on beer.  I give them full credit.  They recognized that there were a bunch of kids sitting near them in their assigned seats in Sec 128.  So as a group, they moved ONE section over to Sec 129, where there were 80-120 empty seats, so they could enjoy themselves without disturbing the kids.  I think that’s heads-up fan behavior.  And for this act of courtesy, they got booted.  For being in the wrong seats. Because in the 7th inning, there was still the chance that one of the wives would be showing up.  

Incident #2: Two fans are discussing the poor performance of Chone Figgins in 2011.  I’m not sure this is really a debatable point.  But there was one woman who took offense – Figgins’ fiance.  Not his mom, not even his wife.  His fiance didn’t appreciate that someone who was actually at the game, had noticed that the guy wasn’t exactly earning the money he was spending on her Gucci purse.  So, the fans got booted.  Apparently, you aren’t allowed to talk poorly about a player having a poor year if his fiance is in the same section as you.

Incident #3: 4 Phillies fans have tickets in Sec 129, row 30.  Now, that row is super cramped, so they shoot forward 4 rows to Row 26, where only a couple of people are sitting.  One of the Phillies fans starts a debate with a Mariners fan about how much better the Phillies have been since 2001 than the Mariners.  Again, I’m not sure how this is debatable.  The best response from the Mariners fan should have been, “But you live in Philadelphia.  I’m actually glad the Phillies exist so you have a reason to get up every day.”  Instead, they got booted.  Apparently debate between fans isn’t allowed at Safeco either. 

So my question… I love baseball. I like to go to a game and experience it the way fans in other cities do.  But, do I need to just accept that the Mariners VIP’s have thin skin? Or is this uber-usher out of line for continually looking for people to boot?

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