10 April 2008

Don't Be a Jerk

Google has a corporate motto: don't be evil. They have followed it, mostly. And it has worked for them. People not only use Google, but they usually like Google. Google is so dominant now that people might not feel like they have a choice, but that's okay because most people don't want to use something else. The whole point of their "don't be evil" motto was to secure their long-term success, and they appear to have done that.

Frank McCourt should adopt a similar motto for the Dodger Organization: Don't be a jerk. True Blue Dodger fans may feel bound to the team, without any real choice to just stop being Dodger fans. Most of us aren't going to just stop following the Dodgers cold, or become Angel fans, no matter how bad ownership is. But we can be driven away from the team over time, bit by bit. Short term the Dodgers have been increasing attendance from year to year, and might draw close to 4 million fans this year, but if they keep treating fans poorly the trend could reverse itself, maybe years from now.

Don't be a jerk. Don't make regular fans who park in the outer ring be subject to the directions of an army of parking enforcers, while those who park in the inner ring get to park wherever they like without being directed by some martinet. Don't pretend nothing is wrong when your new parking system makes things worse early on. Don't talk about improving the fan experience while doing nothing about the hideously inefficient food service. Don't be so quick to fire employees! Don't interfere with Vinny's telecast by going on the air with him --- we want to watch the game and listen to Vinny call it, not listen to what you have to say. And ... don't prevent kids from getting autographs before the game because their parents can't afford the expensive seats. Frank, do you have any idea how big of a jerk this makes you look?

I first read about the *"water-graph" scandal on Dodger Thoughts. I agree with Jon about autographs. I don't really get the concept of them. But I don't have to sympathize with kids begging Nomar or whoever for his signature to understand where this new policy fits into the overall pattern of how Dodger management has been treating fans lately.

I think a sensible perspective to have is that "water-graph" will produce some cheap outrage, but in the end people really don't care much about it. No one is going to stop coming to Dodger games because of this policy, right? Yes ... but. There is a slow erosion of the Dodger brand going on. There are so many moments when management just doesn't seem to get it. Loyal fans who have been going to Dodger Stadium for years are assaulted by ever more ads, blaring music, parking restrictions, food lines, and worse yet, as the fan experience deteriorates the ticket prices only go up. Don't be a jerk! Treat the fans better.

I'm not going to as many games at Dodger Stadium this year as I did last year. There are many reasons for this that are hard to identify separately. But I think a part of it is how often management acts like a jerk toward fans. I don't feel wanted there. That makes it easier for me to shift some Dodger game out of the budget. And that's a shame. We love the Dodgers. We want to love going to Dodger Stadium so much that we say "screw the budget" and go there even more. Frank, you had us at "Dodgers baseball". There's just one thing you have to not do. Don't be a jerk.

* --- How come the "-gate" part of "Watergate" is the part that got handed down to every subsequent scandal? I think "water-" should be used as well, and so I'm using it.

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