Monday, April 09, 2007

In-Game Fan Experience (Not The Product On The Field)

Obviously, The African Queen and I attended each and every home game at RFK Stadium during the first week of 2007 Season. And, some less than stellar play by Our Washington Nationals, combined with some brutally cold early spring weather, took some of the enjoyment out of The Baseball Experience. Sitting through a blowout in 32 Degree weather takes alot of heart, let me tell you.

But, what really bothered us was some of the new choices by Management for IN-GAME Fan Experience. I am talking about The NatPack, The Trivia Games, The Music and Events played throughout course of A Nationals Game, between innings, like The Presidents Race.

No doubt, "Teddy Roosevelt" zip lining down from the Roof of RFK on Opening Day was TREMENDOUS TO SEE!! Just a terrific stunt. Unless "Teddy" Parachutes In during the 4th inning of a Nats Game, its going to be hard to top his Opening Day Performance. Fans and The Media are still talking about it. Yet, for 2007, Our Washington Nationals are trying out some new things. That's OK, but some of those new offerings do not seem to be grabbing fans attention.

First, there is this nice young man with a Red Curly "W" Polo Shirt, Wireless Mic with Curly "W" Mic Flag that is now THE HOST of Nats TV. The problem is, its hard to understand him, so much so--We have yet to catch his name (That's hard to do if you have attended every game, like Sohna and I). He talks fast, and while talking with fans between innings, he turns his head away from the mic, muffling his sound. My man--just keep the microphone in front of your face at all times.

When the DC "IQ" and Time Machine portions of the program begins, the host only reads the question. If few can understand him, why not just put the question on the Video Board in Right Center, just like has been done the previous two seasons. Few can play along, if no one understands the question. This is all about fan participation, right?

In the first two seasons, The NatPack were more involved in those questions, standing behind the fan answering, along with Screech. Now, its just the host and the fan. On The Video Board, the new setup looks "nothing special", more like a Used Car Salesman hawking his wares. And, no clearer does that stand out when the Host goes to The Home Plate Suite to introduce The Corporation using it for the game. Talking about the Home Plate Suite, promoting the Corporation is fine. But, when the host starts chanting "LET GO NATS"--NO ONE IS PAYING ATTENTION. It sounds so fake.

The Capitol Shuffle, the video game where a baseball is placed under one of three Domes and quickly shuffled back, forth and over each other while fans attempt to follow the hidden ball has been replaced by Abe Lincoln. Abe shuffling three Playing Cards, with one having a Red Curly "W" on it. Its a good idea, but all week long, Card Number 1 was where the hidden Curly "W" was placed. Did anyone make more than one video? Just asking? On Sunday, I didn't even look up, just saying Number 1. Sure enough, Abe revealed Card Number 1 with The Curly "W".

Bustin'Loose was one song that fans enjoyed each and every time it was played last season. This song is a DC Institution. After being announced with FanFare, Screech would dance to the song on the dugout roof. Many fans would get up to dance with Screech. In fact, Screech would usually grab a fan to dance with him on the dugout. Yet now, Bustin'Loose is just sort of thrown in after the DC IQ for the few seconds before the first pitch of the next inning. Total waste of a good fan involvement song.

And, during the 7th inning stretch, after everyone gets up to sing "TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALLGAME", no longer is the "JUMP" tune played that got everyone bouncing up and down to form the sea wave of heads along the third base line at RFK Stadium. Now the music is "Twist and Shout". This is the very last season of baseball at RFK Stadium. By a quirk of construction, the bouncing heads are treasured images at every Nats Home Game. Why not take advantage of that added excitement? The "JUMP" Tune is great, and everyone enjoys it. Perfect fan involvement tune while The NatPack are throwing Tee-Shirts to the crowd. "Twist & Shout" doesn't fit here.

Finally, as I stated in yesterday's game post--The XM Satellite DJ JAM needs to be more compelling. Why put Screech on top of The Nats 3rd Base Dugout, if Management is going to play a song he and everyone else can not dance too. Makes no sense to The African Queen and I.

Oh, and "You Gotta Have Heart"--Has Gotta Go. Few are going to sing it traditionally. Too hard for folks to bellow out. Just a thought.

There are some very good things, too.

The President Race is FABULOUS, still! We loved the game where Abe, Teddy, GW & Tom wore Nationals Jerseys with corresponding uniform numbers to their place as Presidents. GW-1, Tom-3 Abe-16 & Teddy-26. Good use of history with baseball. Although I wonder how long Teddy can continue to lose and not run out of ways to do so in an interesting manner. We like seeing The Presidents outside RFK, near the Gates taking pictures. Fans are enjoying that, and seeing The "RUSHMORES" in the tunnels before the 7th Inning Stretch. All Good ideas, as well as The "Geico" Photo Stop near The Diamond Club during the 5th Inning to take a picture with all four Racing Presidents.

Basball 101, the video with Nats Players giving pitching, fielding and hitting techniques are extremely well done. Very professional and interesting, and sometimes funny. None better then the very animated Ryan Zimmerman's Baseball 101 with Ryan instructing how to chew sunflower seeds, a ton of them, at once in your mouth and still spitting out the husk. Just hilarious. The site of him stuffing that bag of seeds into his mouth just great. I would love to have that one on DVD for posterity sake.

The weather this past week certainly toned down the volume and attendance during the first week of the baseball season. And, the African Queen and I, are all for Fresh New Ideas. But, please DO NOT TAKE AWAY the few working IN-GAME Experiences that fans enjoy.

Can you imagine if Charlie Slowes no longer said "BANG,ZOOM!! Go The Fireworks!" Or "Another Curly W Is In The Books!" For fans, that would be awful.

PS--Of course, as difficult as Our Washington Nationals came out of the gate this week, winning just one of their first 7 games, We may not hear "Another Curly W in the Books!!" for some time. Just Joking, now.


Chris Needham said...

I don't like the idea of the roving host... it just comes off as too minor league for me. But I can understand why they do it.

Is there anything stupider than the Guess the Pin # thing? Can we pool our money together to rebuy the ad time from PNC or whoever the hell sponsors that?

I rarely pay enough attention to the card shuffle, but they need some sort of intro fanfare or announcement. It seems to just start up quietly and if you don't get it from the beginning, there's no point to it.

And I STILL wish they'd stick with one chant sound effect (like Lets. Go. Nats.) or whatever and stick with it. They trample all over anything organic with the constant music, and then change it up. If they're going to play a sound, consistently play something so the fans get used to it. And, no, the Can Can isn't going to get it done. ;)

Screech's Best Friend said...

Chris: You are dead on correct. They need to stick with things that work. The Host is not compelling. The Guess the Pin# is too The Price is Right. Things start up too quitely and when everything changes no one is prepared or understands the new schtick.

Shawn said...

This is spot on. Ms. Zimmy and I haven't be able to attend any other games besides Opening Day, but the very first time they had this "host" guy, besides commenting that the audio and video weren't synced (not sure if they've addressed that issue or not), we both thought it was rather cheesy and over the top. The used car salesman description was spot on SBF.

They played "Jump" after "Take Me Out To the Ballgame" during the seventh inning stretch on Opening Day, but that's one song I won't miss. Personal preference here, but I could never stand it.

And the President's Race, even if it isn't completely original, is still awesome and very 'Washington', so they could pump that for all its worth in my mind. And I agree about the Guess the Pin # in terms of the game itself being bleh. But I think taking a cue from the Price is Right is a great idea. More games that require trying to understand a shouting crowd (especially if participants ham it up for the camera) is a plus.

JayB said...

While none of this would matter much if we won a game once and awhile.....I concure with all posted to date, the Fan Exprerience is WAY DOWN from last season......Yet another aspect of the organization that is headed in the wrong direction.

SBF? Does Stan get any of this or is in more of the same from him, that is, "it will all be fine at the new park" (Stan Speak for I don't really care about 2007 and RFK)

Chris Needham said...

Hey JB! Don't steal my shtick! You'll put me out of business! ;)

Jim said...


I had many of the same thoughts during the week. There wasn't any kind of oomph or fanfare to grab the attention of the fans, and when the different promos were held, nothing was compelling. To your point...last year, each contest had any questions posted on the screen for everyone to view.

Pretty strange.

I'm not a fan of the stand alone host, either. But if the bits were understandable, I might feel different.

I do agree the Rushmores are terrific. I felt Teddy's Easter Bunny distraction on Sunday was inspired.

Brian said...

They cut out "Bustin' Loose?!?" I'm going to tattle to Chuck Brown -- that song IS a DC institution. Keep it.

Question for Stan Kasten: You keep dropping the ball on customer service/fan experience in 2007. Why should I believe things will be better in 2008 simply because of a new ballpark?

If anything, customer service/fan experience can be worse while you work out the inevitable glitches at the new ballpark.

An Briosca Mor said...

One improvement in the fan experience this year, at least for the two games I've attended, is no sign of Sweet Caroline. Not that I don't like the song or the fans bopping and singing along to it, but it's a Red Sox thing and we shouldn't be doing it here. Hopefully my two games so far are the rule and not the exception on that. I have another 19 games to go in my ST plan, so I guess we'll see...

Screech's Best Friend said...

an briosca mor: No there has been no "Sweet Caroline" so far this early season at home. But, that is a mixed blessing for Section 320, because each and everytime that song played at RFK, The Noise Boys, along with MickNats, myself and others would sing "I Hate This Song!!" in place of "Sweet Caroline" lyrics. Everyone sitting nearby loved the fun.

An Briosca Mor said...

Okay, I would be willing to endorse Sweet Caroline, but only on the condition that you get the whole stadium to join Section 320 in your chant. But unfortunately we can't hear you guys up in 419 where I am. If they play Sweet Caroline, can you grab the host guy with the mic and get him to join you guys so the rest of the stadium can hear you? I bet the majority of us would be on your side, and we can out-yell the others. But let's hope that Sweet Caroline is gone for good and we don't have to deal with it!