This being the season when MLB teams normally have some sort of fan event, it’s a reminder that the White Sox once again are going to avoid the (remaining) fan base by not holding SoxFest, instead holding some gathering for the big spenders only that requires season tickets.
Nice move, as usual.
Not a surprise for an organization that treats the riffraff like pond scum by banning those with 500 level seats from the lower deck — even before the game starts — and blames fans regularly for being the cause of Jerry Reinsdorf’s miserly ways because they don’t buy enough tickets to watch a lousy team.
No question, Reinsdorf and his execs have a complete disdain for ordinary fans. Generally, that’s considered a no-no — at least not something you let escape out to the public which you disdain.
But what if they’re right? What if they’d really be better off without all us riffraff around, concentrating instead on the big bucks? The White Sox last year were among the least expensive parks in the majors for families (buying the cheapest tickets and having a drink and a hot dog), so maybe there’s not enough profit for Jerry and friends there.
Pro sports have long catered to the rich or, mostly, to businesses that can write off the price of top tickets and all that goes with them; luxury boxes mean Daddy Warbucks and pals can literally avoid breathing the same air as the rest of us. The Sox have Terrace Suites and All-Star Suites and Fan Boxes and Diamond Suites to bring in the big money, while tolerating the little guy and his family if they must.
Still, you’d think they still need the ordinary fan to buy the occasional ticket, and they shouldn’t poke sharp sticks in the eyes of people who can only afford the upper deck. But what if they don’t?
Plenty of businesses thrive at the top of their markets. GM may have a history of a wide spread of price options, from Chevrolets to Cadillacs, but BMW does just fine scoffing at the concept. Rolex feels no need to emulate Timex. Alinea doesn’t offer a Big Mac.
LET’S FACE IT — MAYBE TREATING THE HOI-POLLOI LIKE DIRT IS THE RIGHT STRATEGY
Fact is, having lots of fans is a big bother, and that’s not just because maybe they would have asked an annoying question had there been a SoxFest.
You have to have a big crew to guide cars around parking lots, then to clean up the mess the tailgaters leave. You have to have people take tickets and scan bodies and hand out those little refrigerator magnets. You have to have ushers and concession stand operators and 50-50 pot sellers and janitors and security. That’s all expensive, and it comes out of the cheap seats as well as the luxury boxes.
What if you could avoid all that? What if, instead of profiting, say, $25 a seat from 20,000 seats, you could make that half million from just a handful of sales? Or just one or two? Life would be so much easier.
There’s an old joke about a used car lot where every car was priced at a million dollars.
“Are you crazy? You’ll never sell any at that price,” said the dealer’s friend.
“Maybe not,” said the dealer, “ but if I ever sell just one, I’ll be rich.”
(That’s if the Sox would still average 20,000 tickets sold per game in 2024 — attendance likely will be much less.)
Could it work? Consider the golden rule of tickets:
THE MOST DESIRABLE TICKET IS THE ONE YOU CAN’T GET
It’s the law of supply and demand on steroids. The principle applies elsewhere, be it for jobs or dates or college entrances (a collector didn’t pay $186 million for a Rothko because he happened to like the color red, he did it because then he alone would have it) but it really applies to tickets.
Just ask Taylor Swift fans. And the rule even applies for non-phenom events, just so they’re sold out.
So imagine if you will a world where the White Sox no longer need anything but a small parking lot, one open gate, one security guard, one usher, one kitchen ... a world where only luxury boxes exist. They could charge really, really big bucks. Americans are nuts about getting something really, really exclusive, and this would be such a situation.
Let’s say you sell just a dozen sets of tickets per game to create the extreme shortage. To get to the half a million you lost by kicking out the peasants, you need just more than $40,000 a set. In today’s America, there are loads of people — and, of course, businesses — that would gladly shell that out for exclusivity. Imagine how they can impress their friends at the next golf outing, and how jealous those friends would be!
You could lay off hundreds of people! What a lark!
You could sell off the parking lots! (No, the White Sox don’t own those, the Illinois Sports Facility Authority does, but you can bet ol’ Jer’ would bamboozle them into handing him a huge chunk of the profits from the sale anyway.)
Naturally, to charge that much you’d need to provide benefits beyond seats and beer and brats, but that would be easy with so few people to deal with.
Given the state of the Sox, since it matters not an iota whether they win any games, you could let the biggest spender play right field for a game — couldn’t do any worse. If the union carps about using up a roster spot or your insurance company frets about injuries or MLB issues a nasty reminder that anybody who plays a single game is entitled to health insurance for life, you might have to move on to Plan B — but you could claim that you tried.
Plan B could involve fans not just being on the field before the game (a common perk around the league), but actually taking batting practice. And infield. And shagging flies. Both for the big spender and offspring. With professional photographs, signed by whoever’s around.
Plus, of course, there would be throwing out the first pitch. And singing The Star Spangled Banner (and, on Sundays, God Bless America). Getting to dunk the Gatorade on whoever scores a walk-off run would probably bring in even more cash.
The sky’s the limit.
Naturally, one of the sales would have to be that box right behind home plate, so TV cameras see real people, but the rest of the stands could be filled up with those cutouts used in 2020. A little canned crowd noise, and everything would look and sound just fine. The players may miss real crowds, but the Sox did just fine in 2020 — much better than usual in fact, so it may be a good thing.
THERE’S JUST ONE SMALL THING TO ACCOMPLISH FIRST
As big a draw as exclusivity is, you probably still need to have a product that people have at least some tiny interest in seeing.
Some day, maybe. If we can convince Reinsdorf there’s a whole lot of money in it and a chance to screw over those incredibly annoying, demanding, ungrateful regular fans.