NEW YORK, NY – A couple of weeks ago my friend Liz hipped me to a company that puts together focus groups and was looking for people interested in sports to participate in a 2-hour discussion on baseball and corporate sponsorship for which you would be paid 125 smackers. Sounded like easy enough money to me so I threw my name into the ring, as did my friend Mikey “Ed Kranemule” Thornton. Funnily enough, we were both selected two participate in the same group, and the whole thing was about the New York Mets and Citibank.
Six of us (four men, two women) entered a conference room with one of those two-way mirrors usually reserved for real life police precincts or old reruns of Law & Order featuring Matt McCarthy.
The first thing we all noticed was that the temperature of said conference room was somewhere between Ice Station Zebra and a Dean Martin/Jerry Lewis reunion. Nevertheless, we left our sweatshirts and sweaters on and got right down to talking about corporate sponsorship of events, stadiums, just about anything. I immediately opined that I thought stadium sponsorship was a monumental waste of money, I mean did anyone ever decide to bank with Citibank based on the fact that they have their name on the home of the Mets? Later I corrected myself and suggested that I would maybe pull my money out of a bank if it were the “official bank of the New York Yankees” or gave McCarthy any kind of homeowner’s loan. Anyway, even though we all agreed that corporate sponsorship has pretty much gone past the saturation point, no one in the room thought it would stop there. Wearing company names on team jerseys has been done in soccer for years and perhaps that will one day be the solution for the Washington Redskins, when they simply become, The Federal Express.
But easily, the most fun part of this panel was simply talking about the Mets. One of the first questions asked was, “How did you become a Mets fan?” My favorite response was the girl who said that her boyfriend introduced her to the team and followed, “He’s gone, the team stayed.” Then we were asked to come up with biography titles to best describe our experience as Mets fans. I was so excited by this idea that my brain completely locked. Later I thought of such titles as “The Joy F**ked Club” and “Ya Gotta Bereave.” Then we got into adjectives and any other words or phrases that came to mind to describe the team which was mostly negative stuff along the lines of “frustrating,” “snake-bit,” “also-ran,” “horrible ownership,” etc. Though I am sure the folks behind the two-way mirror were mostly ad and market research people, it was nice to imagine that one of the Wilpons had to sit and listen to this. Seriously, you get six Mets fans in a room and the Stockholm Syndrome is palpable. Why are we here? Why do we love this team? We must be crazy. In any event, we then got to talk about CitiField itself and what were our favorite and least favorite things about the stadium. While most agreed that the openness of the concourses and being able to watch the game as you walk around was a good thing, Mikey and I protested that there were way too many sight line problems where you can’t see entire portions of the field from certain seats. Everyone also felt that the concession offerings were much better but still way too expensive. I also got sidetracked talking about how bad Met Life Stadium is. Sure, CitiField ain’t perfect, but it’s not the clusterf**k abomination that sits in East Rutherford.
Finally, they wanted thoughts on how the stadium could be made better. The two general components they were focusing on was celebrating the fans and celebrating the city. Even though we didn’t have to sign any non-disclosure agreements, I won’t get into specifics. I will say that the name of Dr. Jonathan Zizmor came up and the thought of The Matts possibly one day being enshrined into a Hall of Fame made me shudder. Anyway, the two hours went by quickly and we all suffered only minor frostbite. When we finished we bundled up and made our way out. I took a slight detour to go see the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree before heading home. It made me feel good. I just got 125 bucks for being a Mets fan. Christmas had come early.
Come back tomorrow for jolly Ol’ Reliable.