April 07, 2010
Lost in our jaws dropping at the sheer amount of Phillies fans at Washington's opening day was a nuts-and-bolts explanation on how the Nationals could let such an embarrassing invasion occur.
Following up on a scene that conquering Phillie fan Michelle O'Malley documented for BLS and left most Nats fans steamed, the pair confirms that the Nats were extremely helpful in facilitating the takeover.
The main way the Phillies avoided having to build a Trojan horse to gain access? The Nationals ticket office put no restrictions on the amount of group tickets that well-organized Phillies fans could buy before traveling down in buses. These group tickets were placed on sale well before individual tickets were ever made available to the public and allowed the group from Phillies Nation to buy a whopping 530 tickets for fans and friends of the blog.
What's even more galling to Nats fans is Brian Michael of Phillies Nation revealing that he didn't even have to take his own initiative to purchase the seats. He says a Nats ticket rep called him last December based on a previous ticket purchase he had made with the team. The folks at Phillies Nation are fine people and you certainly can't blame them or other Phillies fans for taking the opportunity offered.
The Nats apparently cut off group sales in February after realizing that Phillies fans were going to run amok. But the damage was done and, after this circus show, Nationals fans have a right to be outraged and to lose faith in an organization that doesn't put much faith in them in the first place. It's one thing for team president Stan Kasten to go on a Philadelphia radio station in mid-April to make a ticket pitch for games that wouldn't have otherwise sold out. He did that last season because it's his job to pay Stephen Strasburg's(notes) contract.
Well, that's a maneuver that Kasten won't — and shouldn't — be forgiven for.
And lest you think that the local interest was lacking, opening day officially sold out in seven minutes when the Nationals placed individual tickets on sale in early March.
Now, Phillies fans might counter by saying that Nats fans had the same opportunity to organize a big group for the opener, but why should a dad have to organize a few dozen other people in order to bring his son to the game? Why should a small group of four diehard Nats fans need to assemble more numbers in order to beat out a Phillies fanbase that is naturally going to be more interested on a larger scale because of their recent success?
Avoiding another PR nightmare like this one is a simple fix for Kasten. For one, there shouldn't be any group sales on opening day for games that will sell out anyway. An opener like Nats-Phillies would have sold itself with fans of both teams given the same chance at buying individual seats.
For another, almost everyone knows the way to counter a strong traveling fan base is to make those fans buy tickets to additional games if they want the specific game they're traveling to the city for. Why not stick Phillies fans with a few Nats games against the Marlins and Pirates and make more money while you're busy courting them down the seaboard?
No matter what Kasten decides to do, it's obvious that he needs to offer more explanation than the one he gave Kilgore over email. An apology, too, is definitely in order.
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