The embarrassment of the rich

But the point today is how patently absurd the Yanks decision to price tickets as if they were scalpers during the playoffs. They clearly saw gap between face prices and scalper prices and said “that’s our money“. So they devised a strategy that pegged the potential buying audience (ultra-rich and corporations) with their ability to pay scalper prices. Then the world changed, plus they made at least one tactical error:

  1. The economy tanked
  2. Personal wealth linked to the capital markets tanked
  3. Jobs disappeared
  4. Government bailout of Wall Street behemoths
  5. Many, many Wall Street financial institutions merged/disappeared
  6. Many “feeder” industries reliant on Wall Street (like the lawyers) to pay their hourly rates suffered
  7. Tactical error: The Yanks failed to realize that there were thresholds that firms could spend entertaining clients and the tickets (and dinner and car services) would put the firms over the threshold, making the expense non-reimbursable.

A few weeks back, we went to a friends’ house for an afternoon. While watching the Masters with my friend (a Wall Streeter), we were discussing this and he made an interesting point. He said to me: “Jason, even if I had those great seats that cost $2500 a ticket, I can’t take a client there. It’s not worth the risk.” I asked him about what risk he was talking about and his answer surprised me as I hadn’t thought of that: “If someone recognizes me sitting behind the dugout and it comes out that I used my Firm’s resources for those seats, and we’ve taken TARP money from the government, I don’t want that sort of publicity or getting calls from The Post.” He’s not a famous guy at all, but there’s a fear that someone might see him and he’ll get “outted” for using Firm money to attend a game. He also told me that he’s not alone with this fear.

That’s some scary stuff. So how about some “proof”, courtesy of a great entry on this blog, written by Paul Katcher, who also took these pictures. (h/t to Shysterball for the link)

Randy Levine, this is on you. This is your legacy, a ballpark for the rich, while utterly dismissing your loyal fan base. Your pomposity, your utter disdain for anyone and anything that doesn’t agree with you, your bullheadedness in not doing something about this when it became obvious to everyone that there was going to be a problem.

This is hard for me as it’s my childhood team, but I feel no sympathy for the organization. Sure, it fuels the spending to try to put a quality product on the field, but I can’t help but chuckling as the spears and arrows are mid-flight towards Levine & Co.

Now, this is not solely a Yankee Stadium problem; attendance is down almost 7% across the board. Baseball, and all sports, will feel the pinch from the economy. But it just feels that other markets are being responsive to the economy whereas the Yanks are summarily thumbing their nose at it. Sure, the Stadium was built essentially before the floor fell out of the economy, but had the team used any modicum of common sense, they would have changed their strategy and been more flexible with their pricing schemes. Some teams are offering kid-friendly programs or discounted ticket nights. Not the Yanks. But we’ll have a nice wide concourse, which is nice.

Courtesy of Pete Abraham (the LoHud of the Rings):

There are increasing whispers in Yankeeland that the team realizes they overpriced the good seats and a correction is coming. The issue may be how they compensate those dupes loyal fans who dropped $2,625 a seat already.

We’ll see how that manifests itself.

Not to mention, the Stadium’s inane “seating gestapo” who will not let the kids down close to the field during batting practice to get autographs unless they have one of those pricey seats. Meanwhile, how many kids are getting to sit in those ultra-premium seats? How many suits are showing up 3 hours early to watch BP anyways? Judging by the pictures above, not many.

Speaking of the “seating gestapo”, there’s an article out today that tells us that the fan institution known as “Freddy Sez” is being forced to beg for tickets to enter the game. Anyone who as hever been to a Yanks game knows Freddy, the older man who walks the Stadium with his pan and big metal spoon and lets everyone bang it for good luck. He used to be allowed in free as he never sits down, but now, not so much.

On Sunday he stood outside the stadium holding his frying pan and a sign that read, “Freddy Sez, Yankees say ‘I can’t go in. Must buy ticket!

Shame on you, Yanks. Of course, now they are calling it a “miscommunication”, which, to me means they will let him in only because they got caught. Sorta like apologizing not because they are sorry for their action but sorry that their actions were outted.

The collateral damage from this seating “issue” is that, on a regular game day, the noise created by Yankee

fans will be much less than in years past. Sure, during the Sox games, post-season games (I hope), the Stadium will be packed. But on an average midweek game, those cushy seats will be empty and the Stadium will be quiet. This is not good.

Remember, too, how I noted the profile of the upper deck will more closely resemble Shea… this puts the loud loyalists further from the field whereas once the upper deck essentially sat over first and third bases. Said me, last year:


I love how the upper deck in the current stadium is so close to the field. It’s not a big bowl like Shea or some other stadiums. The fans are closer and louder. Now, as it seems, the new stadium will be a bigger bowl with the fans further away. Maybe the seats will be nicer or have a better “view”, but I’d easily give up the perfect sightlines to be closer to the field, louder for the opposition. We’ll have better bathrooms, though.

All of this will be something to watch and pay attention to going forward.

I hope I am wrong about most of this, but I fear I might be right.

UPDATE: From FackYouk, riffing on the same theme today:

I didn’t take a picture, because that would be weird, but I found out something about the New Yankee Stadium during our descent into Section 112 that really pissed me off (pun intended… wait for it). There are dividers between the urinals on the Field Level, but not anywhere else in the Stadium.

Is it a huge deal? Of course not, but could there be a better symbol of how much the Yankees have bent over backwards to cater to the wealthiest customers and how they could care less about the core fans? By installing the dividers at the field level, they are acknowledging that it matters, but only providing the “luxury” to those purchasing the most expensive seats. It’s an issue of simple human decency, and they can’t possibly cost that much to put them in.

Have you ever had a friend who desperately tried to date someone who was out of their league while ignoring a person who was legitimately interested in them? The object of their affection was strikingly attractive, but even if they gave them the time of day, it was just to be nice. The second option wasn’t as good-looking, but they had actual feelings for your friend and probably would have done anything to be with them. Guess what, Yankees, the corporate guy, who you want to sit in the insanely expensive seats… he’s just not that into you.

Urinal dividers as an analogy for the Stadium’s caste system. Bee-you-tee-ful!

@Jason_IIATMS

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