With proper skills, anything can sell
By Eric Neel
Page 2 columnist

In the hopes of boosting falling attendance rates early in the 2003 season, the Milwaukee Brewers have recently contracted with a marketing firm to sell game tickets door-to-door.

It's a plucky display of boot-strap ingenuity. Denial would be easy, but the Brew Crew know they're drowning, and so they're grabbing buckets and bailing water.

That's admirable, but you know it ain't gonna be easy for the folks in the field to pull this off. You know it could get ugly out on the sales stump.

Richie Sexson
Hey, who wouldn't want to see the major-league home-run leader?

A guy selling Brewers tix needs a little help. He needs the love of family and friends, a rabbit's foot, an eye of newt, a kiss on the dice from a very, very beautiful girl. Something. At the very least, he needs a crib sheet full of selling points, tips and pitch ideas:

  • Soften them up with talk of tradition. Invoke the sacred names: Yount and Molitor, Aaron and Spahn. Remind them that, at its roots, Milwaukee is a baseball town.

  • Never ever mention the name of the commissioner who shall remain nameless.

  • Sure, the Brewers' pitching stinks, but it's nowhere near as bad as Cincinnati's so far. Step on the poor saps less fortunate than you. Explain how the team is thinking about bringing back slogans like: "Better dead than Red." (Old anti-commie venom always gets folks fired up.)

  • In 1970, a crazy old madman named Milt Mason camped out on top of the County Stadium scoreboard, holding out until fans sold out the stadium. He was there 40 days, until August 3, when 44,387 finally heeded his call. Here's what I'm saying, should this door-to-door thing not work out: See Milt, feel Milt, be Milt.

  • "Richie Sexson. 14 home runs and a name like a rock star. Bring autographed 8x10 color glossy photos for folks who want to get a closer look."

    If you promote it, they will come ...
    MLB teams are always looking for ways to increase attendance. Of course, winning is the best method, but that's no so easy. But Page 2 cartoonist Kurt Snibbe offers up some promotional advice for MLB marketing departments.

  • Remember, lots of strikeouts and weak grounders help keep the games shorter, which means the kids are home in plenty of time to get a good night's sleep.

  • Hand out free stuff. Caps, shirts, fridge magnets and coffee mugs. Beer. Dogs. Parking. Beer. Caps, shirts, fridge magnets and coffee mugs of other teams. Remember what Kris Kristofferson said: "Freestuff is just another word for nothing left to lose."

  • Keep "Glengarry" running in your head: "A-B-C. A-Always, B-Be, C-Closing. Always be closing, always be closing. And remember: We're adding a little something to this month's sales contest. As you all know, first prize is a Cadillac Eldorado. Anybody want to see second prize? Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is you're fired."

  • Offer to drive the vanpool to the park and back.

  • Throw coffee grounds and blueberries on the carpet and then dazzle the customer with the amazing sucking capacity of your special edition Brewer Hoover.

  • Try some stuff from "Salesman," some Biff Loman stuff like this: "I mean, I spend six or seven years after high school, trying to work myself up ... y'know ... shipping clerk, salesman, business of one kind or another and it's a measly manner of existence ... To get on that subway in hot mornings in summer, to devote a whole life to keeping stock and making phone calls, the selling, the buying ... to suffer for 50 weeks a year for the sake of a two-week vacation? When all you really desire is to be outdoors with your shirt off." (This inspires sorrow and pity; makes them want to take you to a game.)

    George Karl
    George Karl writes out his plan for selling Brewers tickets.

  • Declare, without hesitation, that some of the best players in the world play at Miller Park. (Be thinking of Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds and Vladimir Guerrero on road swings through town.)

  • Two words: schlemiel, schlimazel. Say them with a smile and before you know it, you and the homeowner are skipping arm-in-arm across the living room singing: "Nothing's gonna turn us back now/straight ahead and on the track now/We're gonna make our dreams come true/Doin' it our way!"

  • Don't be afraid to beg.

  • Bring George Karl along to question everybody's heart and will to win.

  • Remember the episode of "Cheers" when Coach threw himself down the stairs to get Nina's attention? (You see where I'm going with this ...)

  • Prince Fielder -- Cecil's kid -- talk about him. He's hitting .336 and slugging .552 for the single-A club in Beloit right now. "Tickets to a Brewers game aren't really tickets to a Brewers game," you say, "they're an investment in the future, a commitment to hope and possibility. They're 20 bones laid down for love of what might be, for the chance to drive the bandwagon when it comes rolling back into town and throw late-running bums off the back as you go."

    "Plus," you say, "the kid's name is Prince Fielder -- how cool is that?"

  • Start an adopt-a-Brewer program. "That's right, ma'am, last night Wayne Franklin was getting shellacked by the Expos, but today he's taking out your trash, washing your car, and cleaning up little Timmy's bedroom. That's right, ma'am, today, he's family."

  • Say it every time you approach a door: "Daddy, teacher says every time a bell rings, a Brewer gets his wings."

  • Say it every time a door slams in your face: "I'm good enough. I'm smart enough. And doggone it, people like me."

  • Go pastoral: Explain that it's not about wins and losses, anyway, it's about the thrill of the grass, the sights, sounds and colors of the ballpark. It's about peanuts and Cracker Jacks, about the wide-eyed look on your kid's face when he soaks it all in for the first time, about the sweet, longshot prospect of a foul ball coming your way, about men at play in the midst of this hard, barren workaday world.

    And if none of these things works, screw it -- peddle Yanks tickets instead.

    Eric Neel is a regular columnist for Page 2.



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