A Real HeadScratcher

Scott Watson

I really don't get this crowd running the new stadium.

Of course, I am the fat man who cried "wolf" -- I've enjoyed going over the top talking about the fascists running the place, and yakking about the ushers being a drag. But anyone reading can tell that I actually understand that there has to be discipline, and that it's not a simple thing to simultaneously be considerate, and to corral, contain, and control a crowd. So I do get it. But I'm now legitimately so fed up with the Nats that it's affecting my thoughts about renewing season tickets.

My friend Kurt has been a season-ticket holder since . . . well, since Bud Selig announced that MLB had selected Washington as the dumping ground for the Expos. His family has owned season tickets to the 'Skins since Sonny was losing games and waiting for Lombardi. That means that he's seen it all, and has lived with Dan Snyder for ten years, knows how bad it can get, and is generally positive about the Nats management. But a recent Saturday game was a turning point for him.

That evening, like a lot of folks, he arrived at the park early and made his way to the Red Porch Lounge, knowing it would be crowded there. I say "early" because, he like a lot of other sports fans, wanted to see the Belmont Stakes and a possibly the first Triple Crown winner since the Little River Band ruled the AM airwaves [try thirty years]. He correctly predicted that a lot of folks were there to see the race, and despite the heat, they were a generally calm, collected crowd. The Red Porch had a few TVs tuned to the race. The rest of the sets were tuned to the pregame show featuring the remarkable, energetic, unintelligible Clint. The baseball game was about an hour away.

The large crowd that gathered as the race was getting close was nicely asked by one Nats employee to move to a different spot. The crowd dutifully shuffled out of the way, into the designated area. Moments later, out popped another Nats "worker" who started angrily yelling to move. Kurt calmly explained that they all *had* just moved, on the Red Lounge's instructions, and that they would stay put until the race was over - within the next four or five minutes. The new "worker" responded to the calm by getting angrier, and threatening to "clear out the whole place." Kurt lost it, and concedes that after yelling back and asking why they were intent on offending season ticket holders, he was gonna dare her to throw them out. Instead, he hit on a solution, and asked to see a manager to offer a way to defuse a problem that never should have happened. A very nice young woman managing the lounge was quickly summoned.

He took a deep breath, and explained to the manager that if she would just retune half the remaining TVs to the Belmont Stakes, the broiling crowd [after all, it was 100 degrees out there] would watch the game from wherever they could stand in the Red Porch, that people could move and still see, and that within minutes the problem would be behind them.

The manager said "no."

She was quite nice, and agreed that it would solve the problem, but she said that she couldn't turn off the warmup show. My friend, who routinely refers to "that %#$^@$% Clint" when talking to ME, was charitable, only asking her "you can't tune away from this insipid babble and T-shirt giveaway for just three minutes when you know it'll solve this problem?"

"I know that you people want it, but I'm not allowed," she replied.

My head still aches.

I know, I know - it's another whining blog post about the crummy Nats not letting us get away with whatever we want. Except it's not. It's about an absence of flexibility on a painfully-hot day -- an unwillingness to cater to a large crowd of enthusiastic people who wanted a few minutes of accommodation. And not because it was technically difficult. Not because it would disenfranchise and dispossess the rabid Clint fans who had huddled in the Lounge to hang on his every word. Not for any stated reason - save one. Because she "wasn't allowed."

If there really is a rule about the pregame show, shame on the Nats. If there's not, and the manager was just unimaginative, well, shame on the Nats. Why in blazes wouldn't the team bend over backwards to make it an enjoyable experience for everyone when the request was so simple?

Argh.

By Scott Watson  |  June 22, 2008; 2:51 PM ET  | Category:  Scott Watson
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Comments

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There was a week there when the lineups were shown on the scoreboard along with the insipid Clint pregame froufara, but that only lasted a day or two before the entire HD scoreboard was once again given over to Clint's fratboy antics.

And have you noticed that the sign for the new Scoreboard Walk bar that faces the field distracts from view of the linescore on the scoreboard? I don't understand why the bar needs a brightly lit sign facing the field anyway.

I wish the team's focus on the fan experience went farther than opening a new bar just down the aisle from the existing bar to further separate us from our money. For example, it would be nice if the Taste of the Majors stands actually had the out of town foods they were supposed to have when selected teams came to town.

Posted by: Kevin | June 22, 2008 9:41 PM

I don't know if its the management style of the team or inexperience of the employees. One other thing I noticed in Seattle is that most of the people working the Safeco Field concession stands are not Mariners or Centerplate employees--they are volunteers from local organizations (band booster clubs, volunteer fire departments, etc) who get a cut of the proceeds for their groups. Maybe that makes them more crowd friendly and not so beholden to strict team rules and procedures.

Posted by: Ed Ramras | June 22, 2008 10:07 PM

They're so geared to the contrived atmosphere, in order to please the casual fans, that they go out of their way to offend the regular customers. Do they actually think we're that stupid?

Too much more of this, and your regular customers won't be so regular anymore.

Posted by: Vincent | June 23, 2008 1:04 AM

Fire Clint! Fire Clint! Fire Clint! Fire Clint! Fire Clint! Fire Clint! Fire Clint! Fire Clint! Fire Clint! Fire Clint! Fire Clint!

Posted by: Fire Clint | June 23, 2008 8:09 AM

I'm really confused about the geography of the situation. So your friend sat in the Red Porch/Centerfield Lounge and did or didn't have tickets for those seats? Or are you talking about the Red Loft or Red Porch restaurant?

The Belmont was on the HD Scoreboard, he and the rest of the crowd could've watched it from about anywhere in the stadium.

Posted by: Confused | June 23, 2008 9:19 AM

Maybe Clint is Mark Lerner's nephew which would explain all the mug time he gets on the Big Screen. Actually, I think it is time to place Clint and his lovely helpers, Shriek and the Rushmores into the Nationals line up to shake things up.

Proposed roster moves:
Shriek- Clean Up hitter
George Washington - Pinch runner
Thomas Jefferson - Pitcher
Abe Lincoln - 3rd base
Teddy - New Nationals Skipper!

Having been to games in both the Club Level and the proletariat section of the park, I can tell you that no one would have been forced to move in the Club Level.

I have noticed a certain totalitarian undercurrent to the Nationals organization. If you ever listen to the Nationals call-in post game show, the host becomes very confrontational when callers criticize the team or Jim Bowden. The host makes Joseph Goebbels seem even handed in comparison. The Nationals advertising slogan is Pledge Your Allegiance to the Nationals. I say -Nationals fan unite!!! You have nothing to lose but your chains!!!

Posted by: El Rey | June 23, 2008 9:55 AM

I really hope you do not renew your season tickets. I love the games and the experience and am just sick of those of you that don't! Stop going, find something else to do with your pathetic life, and stop complaining about the Nationals. You aren't a FAN, you're a blow hole with a new focus. GO AWAY! YOU ARE RUINING THE EXPERIENCE, NOT THE STADIUM OR THE STAFF! How stupid to complain about not being able to watch another sport while there in the ball park. I agree the employee shouldn't have yelled but that's about the only part of your story that has any validity. Maybe you should go to Baltimore and enjoy their ballpark experience?!?!?! Just shut up about your stupid and ignorant gripes and maybe try to enjoy yourself otherwise explore other options.

Posted by: Happy Season Ticket Holder | June 23, 2008 11:13 AM

Wow HSTH....looks like somebody has a case of the mondays.

Posted by: Fushezzi | June 23, 2008 11:22 AM

so, if the TV's were showing something else (another MLB game, a Seinfeld rerun, whatever) and the mob crowd REALLY wanted to watch it, then it would have been okay for the manager to switch it?

I understand that it was the Belmont and all, but there are rules, and without rules there would be chaos.

Posted by: devil's advocate | June 23, 2008 11:54 AM

All that your friend had to ask was "Where should I move to please?" Defiance only escalates the situation.

And I was in The Red Loft, watching the Belmont on one TV, and listening to Clint on another. The margaritas were excellent that day.

Watson - please. Write about something POSITIVE.

Posted by: Happy Season Ticket Holder II | June 23, 2008 12:33 PM

I've been to about 10 games so far this year - I've never had or seen a problem with any of the ushers. I asked several of my friends - all of whom have been to many games - they've never seen a park employee yelling at a customer either. Odd that it only seems to happen to you and your friends. Hmm - I wonder why?

Posted by: JMAC | June 23, 2008 12:39 PM

People often ask me why I don't work in baseball anymore. Mr. Watson just hit on something that's a major problem in baseball. The lack of communication and the lack of teaching someone their proper role. Then the lack of credibility on the part of the team to back-up the fan instead of the employee. It shows here that the "company" will back the manager because the fans were probably drunk, stupid, yelling, or any other excuse to make the manager look good to every one else. This is unacceptible and not only did I get out of pro baseball, I haven't been back. No use giving someone my money that's not appreciative of it.

"I understand that it was the Belmont and all, but there are rules, and without rules there would be chaos. "
--Apparently, in this situation, even with rules, you have chaos. The proper form of this quote is to mean, PROPER rules. Belmont was a possible historic moment in sports, something that hasn't been done in 30 years. I was announcing a game in Tampa when Mark McGwire broke Maris' record. Remember, I was in Tampa, announcing a Tampa Yankees game, the affiliate of the New York Yankees.

They stopped the game to show the record breaking home run on the video board. Fans were appreciative of that. Good call by the Tampa executives. But for every good call like that, I can think of 10 bad ones.

Get back to customer service and fire the rude ushers. I really don't want that to be the legacy of DC sports, rude ushers. Baltimore has the ushers dressed up in their unique uniforms and always with a smile, nod or tip of the cap. Apparently in DC, it's a "Get out of here now" with a shove from the back.

Those who say they never see it, they're turning a blind eye to it. It happens and Mr. Watson is doing a superb job of pointing it out. If there's a positive, he'll point it out too, but the negatives jump out quicker and shine better.

Posted by: Jarrod | June 23, 2008 1:11 PM

Happy Season Ticket Holders I & II -- I'm genuinely pleased for you that you're happy season ticket holders. And I'll assume from your comments that you have uniformly satisfying, game-loving experiences.

BUT I'll continue to be a stupid, ignorant blow hole focusing on what's wrong with the park. In this groovy newsgame, as your intrepid (not-so-young) cub reportoblogger, I will continue to expose the injustices we, the fan, suffer at the hands of this young Washington Nationals organization.

I'll be all around in the dark. I'll be everywhere, wherever you can look. Wherever there's a fight so hungry people can eat, I'll be there. Wherever there's a cop beatin' up a guy, I'll be there. I'll be in the way guys yell when they're mad. I'll be in the way kids laugh when they're hungry and they know supper's ready and where people are eatin' the stuff they raise and livin' in the houses they build. I'll be there, too.

I bring a lotta love to these Nats. Or did; they're working hard to quash it as they quell us. I've offered love to the ambassadors, to some concessionaires, to lots of transportation options. I've thanked the solicitous usher doing her job. I've tried to impart, in my criticism, that I understand the tough job that the Nats have, but question the way the franchise is leaning -- the "totalitarian undercurrent to the Nationals organization" mentioned above is consistent with descriptions I hear from a lot of people -- people who spend a lot of money supporting their Nats.

Sure, it could all be me. Or maybe I'm a nice, concerned fan who is lucky enough to temporarily have an opportunity to express a view, and I'm doing so in the most entertaining way possible.

And if they were going to show the Belmont on the big HD screen, do you think the Red Loft and Red Porch might have wanted their managers to know that?

Posted by: Watson | June 23, 2008 2:37 PM

Fire Clint! Fire Clint! Fire Clint! Fire Clint! Fire Clint! Fire Clint! Fire Clint! Fire Clint! Fire Clint! Fire Clint! Fire Clint! Fire Clint! Fire Clint! Fire Clint!

Posted by: Fire Clint! | June 23, 2008 3:12 PM

Tom Joad: I been thinking about us, too, about our people living like pigs and good rich land layin' fallow. Or maybe one guy with a million acres and a hundred thousand farmers starvin'. And I been wonderin' if all our folks got together and yelled...
Ma Joad: Oh, Tommy, they'd drag you out and cut you down just like they done to Casy.
Tom Joad: They'd drag me anyways. Sooner or later they'd get me for one thing if not for another. Until then...

Posted by: More Grapes of Wrath goodies | June 23, 2008 3:40 PM

Henry Fonda here for GAF . . . .

Posted by: Hammerin' Hank | June 23, 2008 3:42 PM

I'm not sure if Watson's response was intended to be funny or not, but I found it hilarious. The bubbles in your beer...I'll be there. When there's no toilet paper in the bathroom...I'll be there. When you still haven't learned the ushers are getting paid $6.15/hr and don't know what a horserace is let alone care if you see it....I'll be there.

Posted by: Fushezzi | June 23, 2008 4:21 PM

I think the Nationals should sponsor a Win a Date with Clint Contest.

Posted by: El Rey | June 23, 2008 4:43 PM

El Rey, that would actually be a Win a Date with Clint PUNISHMENT.

Posted by: NatsNut | June 23, 2008 7:40 PM

Yes, Fushezzi...

I believe the content of Mister Grumpy's response was indeed meant to be humorous.
And I laughed and yours was great too! and I laughed some more!!

I will be there.. when great teachers are made to taught like adequate robots... I will be there...

Love,
Mrs. Adams

Posted by: mrs. adams | June 23, 2008 8:20 PM

I can understand the disdain for Clint, but if it came down to an either-or between him and "Sweet Caroline," I tell Caroline to scoot back to Boston and stay there. At least Clint is ours.

Posted by: Vincent | June 23, 2008 9:52 PM

Clint is one of a kind. Be proud D.C., Clint is in the House!!!!

Posted by: El Rey | June 23, 2008 10:21 PM

Fire Clint! Fire Clint! Fire Clint! Fire Clint! Fire Clint! Fire Clint! Fire Clint! Fire Clint! Fire Clint! Fire Clint! Fire Clint! Fire Clint! Fire Clint! Fire Clint!

Posted by: Fire Clint! | June 24, 2008 8:00 AM

I wonder how many of the Nat Pack broads Clint has bagged so far...

Posted by: Fushezzi | June 24, 2008 9:02 AM

I agree Vincent. Can we also send the usher who leads the crowd in singing "Sweet Caroline" to Boston, too? Surely, we Nat Fans can come up with our own song especially with all the musical talent that has come out of the D.C. area. I miss the Bucket Drummers that use to serenade the crowds by the D.C. Armory Metro stop after games. I park at the Navy Yard for games now so I don't know if there are any Bucket Drummers around any of the Metro stops serving the new stadium.

Posted by: El Rey | June 24, 2008 9:13 AM

El Rey: I don't need to exile the usher (nothing against him personally)...just teach him a new song.

If this practice continues next year, when the Red Sox will likely play a series at Nationals Park (and probably take over the crowd, due to all the damn Ivy Leaguers who have high government positions here), the Nats will look like fools. Change the song NOW. (How about "Land Of A Thousand Dances" by Cannibal & the Headhunters? "I said na, na na na na, na na na na na na na na na na, na na na na...")

Of course, the scary thought is that some higher-up in the Nats organization (one of the Lerners?) is secretly a Red Sox fan, likes "Sweet Caroline," and demands the song be played. Lord, I hope that's not the case.

Anyone at Grounds Crew care to do some investigating as to WHY "Caroline" is played in D.C.? I hope it's merely the lack of imagination shown by the in-game entertainment people (enough "Day-O," please, and don't go back to "Volare"!).

Posted by: Vincent | June 24, 2008 12:59 PM

I wonder how many of the Nat Pack broads Clint has bagged so far...

Even though they're blondes, I'd still like to think they're smart enough to see right through that douchebag.

Posted by: Section 419+1 | June 24, 2008 2:04 PM

I am trying to figure out a correlation between the playing of Hava Nagilla and good things happening for the Nats. On Sunday, they played it 3 times. One home run, one single, and an out. .667 ain't too shabby.

Posted by: Ed Ramras | June 24, 2008 3:04 PM

Another excellent post by Watson, who digs deep into the bowels of this first season at the new ballpark and unearths nuggets for all of us to contemplate.

Even though I wasn't there, I can certainly visualize the situation Watson and others experienced...and it doesn't surprise me. I heard the same howls when, early in the season, a NCAA tourny game was finishing right before the first pitch and fans had to be swept to their seats. "No watching here," was management's cry.

I believe the Lerners are dumb to what's going down and all of this comes from Bowden. I know, I know...he's the "baseball guy," but all of the Gestapo (sp?)-like antics smell of his making.

And oh yeah, did I tell you that the great HD scoreboard STILL does not show players' previous AB history as the game is progressing? Oh, I know where Lastings Milledge was born, but try finding out what he did in the second inning...SHEEESH!

Posted by: Annandale Annie | June 24, 2008 4:07 PM

Fire Clint!

Posted by: Fire Clint! | June 25, 2008 1:17 PM

Hopefully you will choose to not renew your season tickets - then maybe the Post will pull the plug on you.

Boycott Watson! Boycott Watson! Boycott Watson! Boycott Watson! Boycott Watson!

Posted by: Boycott Watson | June 26, 2008 1:06 AM

The guaranteed contract runs through the 2010 season -- the Grounds Crew will be back with their comments come hell or high water

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