Monday, May 28, 2012

Horseshoe Casino Cleveland

Last night I finally made it to the Horseshoe Casino in downtown Cleveland and let's say it was interesting.

I like to consider myself a person that knows casinos. I have gambled in casinos in Vegas, on boats, overseas (that was an interesting story), at racetracks, in basements, internet casinos and at OTBs (off-track betting). Hmm...after typing that I'm hearing Kenny Rogers in my head.

Walking into the Horseshoe, I expected it to be somewhere between a Vegas casino and something like Mountaineer. 

I walked in with some family members without any fuss at about 8:30 pm.  The guard greeted us and shuffled us along out of line and into the casino (sadly, there was no question any of us were under 21). We tried to make a beeline for the rewards counter to sign up for a new card and we abandoned that idea when we saw the line. A suggestion to the Horseshoe - since it is so ridiculously crowded right now, set up a few temporary tables to sign up more guests. There has to be a way to move the process along. 

I wanted to try my hand at blackjack, craps or roulette, but that was out of the question. The tables were full and there was a secondary circle around most, waiting to pounce the first open chair. All of the tables I saw were at least $15, which was a little more than I wanted to pay. I'm not that big of a player. 

That was something that I heard from my aunt and her slot machine posse. The games were too high. They were griping that the slot machines were too high. That if you are playing .01 or .02 machines, you have to pay at least .40 a spin. I won $50 on a .02 machine playing .40 a pop, so I'm not griping, although I see their point. *shrugs*

As far as the staff, the greeter/security guy at the entrance was friendly. I didn't order any drinks, so I can't comment on the wait staff. The folks around the slot machines were a mixture of smiling faces or group gripers. There was a pair of staffers complaining about something or someone while hanging on the back of slot chairs. I had to break up their grumblefest so I could get to the game I wanted to play. A job like that is hard, with every move in the public eye. That is why you go to the breakroom to complain, or the bar. 

The crowd was interesting. It *felt* like a casino in Vegas on a Friday night.  There were lookie lou tourist types, hardcore gamblers and bachelorette parties. And the partiers. The partiers is a group that will be a problem later on. I didn't have a problem with it, but some folks in my party were a little concerned about safety. There were so many groups of partiers that I thought there was a nightclub in the casino (there is not).

In general, I didn't mind it, but I'm fairly certain I don't want to be in the casino during the late night hours. While I have full faith in the security staff, it is a matter of time before we see about a major fight in the joint on the news.

Would I go back? Absolutely. I have heard great things about the restaurants and I do want to go back and play a little craps.

Sounds like a personal day to me.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A Cleveland Indians Tweetup?

My last post was trying to determine how to get fans to the ballpark.  The idea that everyone latched on to (myself included) was a tweet up of monumental proportions. In my post I commented on how cool it would be to try and break the world record, that is currently held by Ndamukong Suh of the Detroit Lions. Before I go in to what it would look like, let's chat about how people would find out about it.

If the Indians were to try for some sort of record, the city, in addition to Indians fans can get behind it. The tribe would need to work with their corporate partners to share it on their social media feeds. Get everyone talking about it. Include Positively Cleveland or other similar organizations to get the message out.

To be consistent, come up with a hash tag ahead of time, maybe #SocialTribe (or something cooler) and have people tweet and post the beejezus out of it. With some advance work, you won't be able to scroll down without seeing the hash tag.

Indians players, staff, fans - everyone would have a role in promoting the event. It is about beating Michigan after all.

In my humble opinion, the event should be free. 

Pick a weekend day and invite everyone to the ball park for the tweetup.

Through corporate sponsorships, offer tshirts for the first 2,500 people (crushing the old record). The shirts should be cool so people will wear them and hop in their cars and motor to the park once pictures start being shared. 

The best day would probably be an away game, so why not have a dollar dog afternoon? Put the game on the jumbotron. Give fans a chance to sit in a seat, dog in hand and check out the park. 

Open up the kids area for the rug rats to romp around. Have tours available of the ballpark (or certain sections). For the grown ups, how about a photo op at home plate? The tribe provides the bat, you provide the camera.

Involve the community, allowing the Horseshoe Casino to take over the wheel of fun. Various other groups (if they make sense) can have giveaways and games. Indians ticket reps would be on site everywhere, selling tickets to attendees at a special rate (could be the social media rate). Have some players like Mike Hargrove and Carlos Baerga on hand for autographs.

These are just little ideas, and it is late, but what do you think? Would you participate in a Tribe tweet up? Does it matter if it is for a record?

Let me know what you think in the comments or on twitter.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

How To Get Fans To Indians Games

The Indians having a little fun. AP Photo
The Cleveland Indians are a first place team in last place for fan attendance.  For weeks now, the topic of fan attendance has been front and center. Then pitcher Chris Perez offered his opinion.

Twitter exploded, along with heads all over the city, when Perez went on a rampage calling fans out for not showing up to games. Why the premise is fair, his delivery left something to be desired. Bless his little mullet head, I think Perez went to the Lefoolio school of fan relations. As the weekend progressed, the issue didn't go away and team president Mark Shapiro came out to let fans know the team didn't agree with Perez's take. 

The weekend was full of fan vs. fan barking at each other blaming one another for not going to enough games.

For some reason, fans aren't showing up to games. Is it the weather? The economy? The owners? The casino? The midges? I have a few ideas in this post why fans are staying away, but the focus now needs to be how to get fans in to the games.  Filed under the category of putting my money where my mouth is, my suggestions for boosting attendance are listed below.

Leverage Corporate Sponsorship

The Indians have dozens of corporate sponsors. The sponsor, Drug Mart for example, pays to have their brand promoted and in return, they receive advertising and perks such as the use of a suite or free/discounted tickets for employees. As a gesture of goodwill, the Indians need to offer more tickets to their corporate partners for free or a discounted rate.

By doing this for a "slow" day, maybe a week night, people will be in the seats that would normally be home. More people in the ball park means more money for area parking, restaurants and concessions. 

Right now the seats are empty, so why not fill it?

Work the social media angle - a Tweet Up for the ages

The Indians were the first MLB team to fully embrace social media. I know there was some turnover in the social media department at the Indians, and it is now time to start to build new relationships with the internet folks. 

The first thing that needs to happen is someone needs to be dedicated to monitoring and replying to twitter and facebook posts, comments and questions. Make relationships with fans. Encourage interaction. Share their comments and tell them where they can find the carmel corn.

Second, have a one of a kind event. I personally think it would be a great idea to have the largest tweet up in history. The San Francisco Giants had one and the Detroit Lions Ndamukong Suh broke the world record for a tweet up with almost 2,000 fans showing up. The Tribe could hold the event on an off day at the ball park and include tours, hot dogs, mascots, grounds crew, music and maybe a few players. 

The publicity surrounding thousands of people tweeting and then hundreds of people blogging is buzz that the Indians can't buy. You want to get people fired up? Present a challenge that the city of Cleveland could win. I really like this idea if I do say so myself.

Connect Fans and Players

I love my Tribe, but from a fan's perspective, it seems like some of the players aren't exactly fan friendly. At Spring Training in Goodyear, there would be anywhere from 15-50 people watching batting practice begging for an autograph or a photo with their favorite player. Most guys were receptive. Most guys, would stop and sign autographs, even though you could tell it wasn't exactly their favorite thing to do. In the week that I was there, going to batting practice every morning and then to each home and away game, I only saw Asdrubal sign about 20 items. Period. On the flip side, I saw Hafner sign some little kid's pink fuzzy whale. 

In contrast to the Tribe, at the Angels game (and they did this last year, before Pujois as well) the players high five and sign on their way from the buses into the stadium. The number of people lined up went on for 5 or 6 blocks. Then, the team walked through a path in the crowd, through the stands and on to the field. 


If fans are connected to players, they are going to come out to the game.

Honor the Fans

Let's face it, being a Cleveland fan is rough going. We get called out for being too fired up and then for not being fired up enough. So, why not have a promotion, again, take a few games that might not be as well attended, and offer tickets in one or two sections for $4.55? It would be a nice gesture on the Indians' part and it would give people a chance to get to a game that might not otherwise. 

The economy is still rough and while $10 for a ticket seems inexpensive to me, there are families that still can't swing that.

Paper the City

This is a tricky proposition. You never want to devalue your product, but people need a taste to see what they are missing. Give away more tickets, for less desirable games, in less desirable sections to various non-profits or volunteer organizations.

Concerts and minor league ball parks have been doing this forever. The idea is the seat would have otherwise been empty, so why not fill it. If a person received the ticket for free, they might be more inclined to buy a hot dog, soda, and maybe a t shirt. Sales that the Tribe would have missed.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

When Will Indians Fans Show Up?

Fans fighting birds. Chuck Crow Cleveland Plain Dealer
You can't flip on sports radio or turn to the Indians game without hearing about the attendance. Where are all the fans sportscasters cry. Wrong sport, but I can't help but hear Mike Holmgren yelling about not asking for playoff tickets later on. 

The Indians are in first place, yet the Tribe is in last place in the majors for attendance. Where is everyone? What is the problem and is it a big deal?

Tribe CEO Paul Dolan / Chuck Crow Plain Dealer
Some fans have their pockets in a bunch screaming from the top of the Terminal Tower that they are not going to games because of the owner. He is too cheap, wants to sell the team blah blah blah. Anyone that stays home from a game because of the owner is ridiculous. 

This is a small segment as well. I'm not sure that the causal fan knows anything more than the name "Dolan."

This argument is hooey and out the window. 

The next argument is that the Indians aren't for real. That this winning streak is going to bust apart like last year, so why bother.


Instead of enjoying great baseball and umm...winning, sit home on your couch and grumble as your pull cheese doodles out of your chest hair. 

I think that there are some fans that are so used to losing (thank you Browns), that they can't enjoy a winning streak. We are all too young to be that jaded. 

While I don't agree with this, I can at least understand it. It is never a bad time to watch a winner, so get out there kids.
I think it really comes down to money. Fans love the Tribe, but going to games costs some cheese. This season, the pundits have been comparing the fans' butts in seats compared to the Indians of the 90s. For those that may not have been around, that was a time that the city of Cleveland was without the Browns. That was also a time that people had more money burning a hole in their pocket.

For me, I have gone to fewer games this season for a variety of reasons. I went to Spring Training, and I bought an ill advised season ticket package for the Cavs. I can make it to a few a month, but let's face it, my bling has blanked out.

I am incredibly appreciative of the Indians and the $10 bleacher ticket package. But, let's face it, you can't just pay $10. On a mid week game, with the new casino and all, I have had a tough time finding parking under $10. So, let's say I don't want to walk a mile and I cough up $10. I am now $20 into the game.

And, let's face it, I'm not made of stone people, so I would get dinner at the game, conservatively, a soda and a dog. So that takes me around 30 bucks. I readily concede I have spent more than that on wings. But, with 81 home games, as much as I love my Tribe, I can't make them all.

I wish I could, but I can't break out of my cube for a day game.

As the season mores forward, I will probably make it to 20 games or so. If I didn't go to any Browns or Cavs games, maybe I could make it to more, but right now, until I find that tree dropping leaves of twenties, that is the best that I can do.

I think more fans will pile into the Jake as the season continues on. Let's be easy on fellow fans. Think about it for a second, the economy is a black hole and money is tight. If I budget my funds and can only afford to take my family to 10 games, I am going to go to 10 games that are bright and sunny and have a premium. 

I know that there are hardcore fans at games rain or shine and to them, I say God bless. I also say, give the rest of us a break.

Let's go Tribe!   
My spring training pic. Don't yoink.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

If You Catch A Ball - Keep It Or Give To A Kid?

Rangers fan poses with a ball she caught while kid cries.
This is a tough question that comes up every season - if you catch a ball at a game, are you obligated to give it to a nearby kid?

The whole scenario popped up again recently when a Rangers fan excitedly caught a ball and posed for a picture that would be posted on Facebook and emailed to friends all over.  A perfectly fair and understandable response. That is except for this...

A little Ranger fan needs a nap or is upset he didn't get the ball
Next to the couple was a toddler that thought he had a bead on the ball and was going to catch it. The couple was then vilified by the Yankees' announcer (no shock there) because they were oblivious to the crying kid and didn't toss him the ball. The happy ending for the kid is someone from the Rangers got a ball to him and all was well.

But, the judgypants storm around the couple swirled. How could they do that to a kid? How could they be so oblivious? People even questioned the age difference between the couple. The web went into attack mode. 

In the interest of full disclosure, I am a lifelong Tribe fan that *finally* caught my first ball a few years ago.  In all my years of Tribe games, I never caught a ball, found a ball or had an adult give me a ball. But, things were different then. Playground monkey bars were on blacktop, not over wood chips.

So, would I give a kid a ball? That depends. If it was before I ever had an actual game ball, nope. Sorry. If I caught a ball, I was going to keep it. Does that make me a jerk? Maybe.

Now, after being on the spring training circuit for a few years, I have 6 or 7 balls. I like to have the players sign them when I am out there as a memento. So, if I caught a random ball now, and I noticed a kid near me, odds are likely I would toss it to them. But if it were a Kipnis home run ball, I don't know that I could. A Thome home run ball? Good luck prying that out of my cold dead clutch.

At batting practice, there is an unwritten rule that if a player tosses a ball up and there is a kid near you, they mean for it to go to the kid. I get that and I don't fight that one. In all honesty, as a kid I  would have loved to have got a ball, and if you told me that it was from Super Joe Charboneau, I would have cried, wet myself and then passed out. 

Along those same lines, my dad never caught a ball either, so when I got one for him at spring training, I was daughter of the year. We both had a ball and wrangled for autographs and his baseball is now one of his prized possessions. Would I change reaching for a ball? Absolutely not.

Before anyone thinks I am a total jerk, I will let kids stand in front of me for autographs and I will freely let them use my sharpie. I will even grab their ball or pink fuzzy whale and reach it out for a player to sign. And yes, I actually had to help a little boy who wanted nothing more than Travis Hafner to sign his fuzzy pink whale. Much to his credit, Hafner signed it.

I don't have kids, so I don't know if that would change my view. Interestingly, not too long ago, a mom, while holding her baby caught a ball. Memes popped up everywhere about multitasking. Ha. But if you notice in the pic, she is clearly reaching over a couple kids. 

Do I blame her? No. I'm impressed she was able to not only reach out for it, but she did so without dropping the kid. This was applauded, unlike the dad that dropped his daughter reaching for a ball, which was condemned (as it should).

Whew. Try explaining to your wife and 5.5 million people how you could drop your daughter for a ball.

If you are a hardcore fan, waiting for decades to catch a ball, is it wrong that you do so and keep it instead of giving it to a kid you don't know? I don't know. I like to think it isn't. Well, maybe if you are Steve Bartman it might be, but I would rather people let me merge in morning traffic than worry about whether I am a moral monster because I didn't toss a ball to their kid.

What do you think? What would you do?

100 Awesome Things - #90 Playing Catch

William Feller playing catch with his son, Bob Feller.
 One of the greatest and certainly most loved Cleveland Indians was Hall of Famer and war hero, Bob Feller. Like so many other kids, he got his start by playing catch with his dad. Every night Bob and his pop would toss the ball around in the hog lot. 

There is something comforting about the crisp sound of a ball smacking a mitt on a cool summer evening. The leisurely pace of a game of catch lends itself to quality time and casual chat. 

What are your memories of playing catch?

Bob Feller playing ball with his son Steve

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The NFL and Concussions

Junior Seau. Sports Illustrated
Today, NFL legend Junior Seau, was found dead by a suspected self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest. In February, Bears great Dave Duerson killed himself in similar method. Duerson left a suicide note in which he asked his family to make sure his brain was donated to the NFL brain bank for research.

Duerson's fears were realized when Boston University analyzed his brain and found that he had suffered from the same disease as more than 20 deceased former NFL players - Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy.  CTE, a disease that was previously only associated with boxers, is degenerative and incurable and is caused by repeated concussions or lesser blows to the head. The effects of CTE can begin months, years or even decades after the last brain trauma. 

Symptoms of CTE can include impulse control, aggression, depression, memory loss, confusion, impaired judgement and eventually, progressive dementia.

Seau's death was reported on the same afternoon as the NFL Commissioner's punishments were handed down for the the remaining players involved in the Saint's "bountygate."

While it is too early to tell if Seau was suffering from CTE,  it is clear that we are now starting to see the effects of repeated concussions or hits on NFL players. From the Colts' Austin Collie that got hit so hard he looked like a Rockem Sockem Robot, to Colt McCoy getting flattened by James Harrison, guys are getting hits that may later destroy their lives.

Football is by nature, a brutal sport. The athletes were helmets and protective gear for a reason. The concept of the game won't change, but the players, coaches and trainers need to acknowledge the dangers involved.  When a player is injured, as a competitor, they want to get back into the game at any cost. Stars of the game such as Brian Urlacher and Peyton Manning have admitted lying to trainers to stay in the game or tanking their concussion baseline tests. 

Players, like the case of Colt McCoy, may not even realize they are injured until the next morning when they can't remember the previous night's game. That is when trainers and coaches *must* step in and make the call for the player, and pull them out of the game if necessary.

One new piece of technology being tested is called the Intelligent Mouth Guard. The mouth guard measures hits that the athlete has endured, sending the data back to the sidelines. Once a threshold is met, the player gets pulled. Period. 

As more tests and new technologies are discovered, they must be embraced by the teams...and the fans.