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Thursday, April 11, 2013
The Marlins can learn to love the fans again

By Steve Etheridge
Special to ESPN.com

Florida Marlins fans
It's not easy being green or a Marlins fan, so this guy's dealing with a double whammy.
The Miami Marlins continued their long and pitiless campaign against the happiness of their fans Monday when the team ordered police to escort a group of ticket holders from the stadium for exercising their basic First Amendment rights. The fans, who were holding signs protesting the tyranny of owner Jeffrey Loria, were given the heave-ho before they could even manage to reach their seats.

The Marlins should be aware that while this brand of policing is generally permissible in military dictatorships, it is actually not conducive toward generating fun family entertainment.

But, considering the myriad hardships the team ownership has bestowed unto its faithful, perhaps now it’s time to consider that maybe Loria and his underlings are genuinely clueless about how to conduct themselves around the little people. Maybe they bear no responsibility whatsoever for all their many cruel blunders, and it’s all just happened as a result of them having been hellaciously misinformed about elementary social etiquette.

In light of this possibility, I’ve put together some basic pointers to help the front office treat the team’s fans with dignity and to minimize the fallout of their previous transgressions.

Pay heed, gentlemen. This advice might very well redeem your franchise.

Try talking to fans in a pleasant, colloquial manner, without any litigious undertones or blatant condescension. This will probably feel unnatural at first, so feel free to make use of some of these sample phrases if you need any guidance:

• “Say, you seem like an alright fellow. How ‘bout a refreshing cold one on the house?”

• “Golly, that Stanton character is one special young man. He’s more than just a commodity in my eyes, that’s for sure.”

• “Did you happen to catch this afternoon’s ‘Home Improvement’ rerun? It was the one where Al’s mother passed away. Despite the fact that it’s a fictional program, I’ll admit to feeling some real sympathy for ol’ Al.”

• “It is a lovely day. I feel no inclination toward harming you.”

Call them overly sensitive if you’d like, but regular folks tend to feel sad when you do things like call them stupid or trick them into paying $2 billion for a building. Try doing a little less of that stuff in the future, and perhaps even consider rewarding the fans’ loyalty with some free gum or something.

Judging by the outrage sparked by Ozzie Guillen’s high praise of Fidel Castro last season, it stands to reason that the opposite effect could be achieved by aiming some stern criticism toward the ailing dictator. Perhaps Mike Redmond should consider deploying some of the following remarks:

• “That Fidel Castro is a real stinker.”

• “That Fidel Castro is one rude dude.”

• “I’d sure hate to be a cigar in Fidel Castro’s mouth, ‘cause his breath probably smells rotten.”

(Note: If Redmond feels like any of these are too mean, remind him of some of Castro’s many corruptions.)

DO NOT set any of the fans on fire. This might seem a little obvious, but chances are you’ve considered doing it at some point, and, man, that would really be one heck of a PR goof.

The gaudy home run sculpture in center field cost $2.5 million to build, which is more money than all but three of the team’s 25 players’ salaries (and nearly five times more than Giancarlo Stanton’s). But it needn’t stand as a monument to misplaced excess. Show the fans that even though the sculpture may be worth a lot of money, it’s pretty much just a regular guy like everyone else. Dress it up in slacks from Kohl’s and a sweatshirt repping a lower-tier state college. Recruit some smaller sculptures to stand around it like they’re its kids so that folks know it cares just as much about family as it does dingers. It’s all about being relatable, you see.

Here is a helpful guide to the facial expressions of the proletariat:



This face, called a “smile,” denotes that a person is satisfied with their circumstances and that you are doing nothing to offend them.



This face is an expression of fear or uncertainty, probably signaling that you’re making either the person or their family feel unsafe.



This face is indicative of anger, and people will show it to you if they feel you’ve rendered unto them an injustice of sorts.



This face means that you’ve stabbed the person in the eye with a taxidermied marlin. Only a true scoundrel would ever do such a thing to his fellow man.

I know that this is a great deal of information to digest all at once, and no one expects your Grinch hearts to magically unshrivel overnight.

But if you implement these measures one by one, eventually you will notice that your relationship with the fans is stabilizing. It’s the little things that count, whether it’s resisting the urge to sneer when interacting with the poor or maybe just pawning off only half of your roster instead of forcing every warm body you can find into a boxcar and shipping it north to Toronto.

Not all is lost, friends. You’re not as terrible as you think.