Mr. Grumpy Redux

Scott Watson

Well, the blog entry earlier in the week criticizing the planning and execution of concession sales apparently struck a nerve.

First things first:

Thank you to everyone for the thoughtful and detailed comments. It's clear that a lot of you care about the Nats, and care about the experience that fans are having at the new park. This city has a discerning audience that's going to insist on value for its entertainment dollars, and that crowd will ultimately demand satisfaction. A careful review of the comments revealed three general categories:

The first told me to sit down, shut up and just watch the game. They generally view the game as the sole reason to attend, and food and stadium niceties seem to be irritants to be tolerated while getting in to the game. To those people, I say: I'm closer to you than you might think. But the quality of the game, and the health of the franchise, can't be divorced from the broader fan experience. I, like you, am pretty happy just sitting and watching the game, but we're probably not the fans that the Nats need to lure and keep.

The second group told me to stop being mean and critical, and how DARE I criticize the park when it's so new and shiny?!? To that set, I can only paraphrase my hero: "These are the jokes, lady; if you're waiting for Billy Graham to write something, forget about it."

And finally, the third category: Observant, caring baseball fans who want to cut the Nats some slack but have consistently been disappointed. Some examples: "Long lines are fine when you see movement behind the counter. But the staff WERE NOT working together." Or, "How can you only have 1 person working a stand during a weekend game with 32,000 in attendance?"

And, "RFK was better with respect to concessions. . . The [new stadium] had a YEAR to order tea." Even after a case of the Mondays has subsided, and the grumpiness has waned, these remain serious problems that the Nats must address. First impressions, or at least early impressions, are everything, and the Nats should be breaking their backs to fix these problems. Let's hope they're working 'round the clock while the team's away. Thanks to all of you for stepping up and doing your part to let them know it.

By Scott Watson  |  April 16, 2008; 9:46 AM ET  | Category:  Scott Watson
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Actually, I had one follow up question from the earlier post. Someone in the comments seemed to imply that there are not roving vendors in the stands at Nats Park. Is this true?

To me, that's a crucial part of the ballpark experience: vendors shouting clever lines to hock their goods as they trot up and down through the stands.

PS... Great call on the quote today. Rickles is a god.

Posted by: Pompous Magnus | April 16, 2008 10:30 AM

There are definitely roving vendors in the stands; in fact, they all wear blue Hawaiian shirts. :)

Scott, I totally agree with this post and your last one. I'm a season ticket holder who will be spending quite a lot of time in the stadium this summer, and crappy concession service definitely affects my enjoyment of the experience. I also worry that it could earn Nationals Park a bad rep around the league, which would be a shame since the quality of the food (and the stadium itself) is good.

Posted by: Section 312 | April 16, 2008 11:12 AM

Rickles quote... a classic.

There is a little something I like to say when talking about relationships, but I'll skip the R-rated version and give offer the PG version here, as it is appropriate.

When things are going great at the ball park (read: the team is on fire and we are winning ever night), we are not necessarily focusing on concessions. However, when the team is down and out (read: losing), we will pick at everything else about the experience.

I'm not saying we can't turn this around. It's only April, and we have to win more games. At least statistically we have to.

I also think the ball park can turn things around, too. Things will get better. It just has to.

(And that kind of optimism is why I am a Nats fan and not a fan of any sports team that calls Philly home... you transplants know what I mean.)

Posted by: Kyra | April 16, 2008 1:54 PM

Rock on Captain Grumpy! Yours is a needed perspective.

Posted by: AlexVa1 | April 17, 2008 9:59 AM

While I agree with some of your points, I think they are still in the honeymoon period. I have had to wait to a little longer than I did at RFK, but I think the quality of food and much larger attendance contributes to that. We need to be patient and realize this park is not even a month old and I would expect them to have their gliches worked out by Mid-May, if not by then, then you may see me write an article like this.

Posted by: Eric Dunlap | April 21, 2008 1:44 PM

I went to the Mets game on Wednesday and the lines were TERRIBLE. I ended up missing more than 2 full innings while waiting for a sausage (which was lousy, after all). There must have been 20 people waiting, while a single old man slowly served us, with absolutely no sense of urgency. There were no fries near his station, so he'd have to walk a ways down to the get them. Everything was in slow motion. They need to hire many more people and demand that they act more quickly -- the lines are just outrageous and unacceptable. Plus, the Nationals are losing sales and money.

Posted by: Sec235 | April 26, 2008 12:02 PM

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