Two weeks ago, I got a call from Chris in the Rockies ticket office. I hadn’t renewed my Flex Ballpark Pass, and he was calling to see if he could be helpful. Poor guy. While I wasn’t ready to renew, I was eager to tell him what was on my mind as a frustrated—bordering on furious—fan.
I’m pretty clear-eyed about how this works. The Rockies cultivate my loyalty by marketing players (Chuck Nazty; #NolanBeingNolan; the Gray Wolf) and (hopefully) a winning team. To do this, they tap into my love of baseball and my affection for the player personalities they’ve constructed through an astute marketing program and social media campaign. They also hope my loyalty is driven by nostalgia—maybe I attended games with my grandparents or met the love of my life at Coors Field—because those indicators suggest an emotional attachment to the team that can be exploited.
To keep fans engaged, the Rockies interact with us. There are Twitter polls and games—for example, if @Rockies get 5280 retweets, the owner and director of brand management and social media will make snow angels on Coors Field:
Next time we'll ask for more retweets... pic.twitter.com/y9EA2tTzQf— Colorado Rockies (@Rockies) October 30, 2019
@Rockies Twitter gets all the in-jokes (taco’s); they have give-aways and contests; and they tweet games using only emojis. I’ll be the first to acknowledge this is very fun. In theory, the point of this is to support the team and build community, but really, it’s about generating revenue.
The Rockies monetize my fandom in a number of ways. They make money when I watch games, buy merchandise, spend money at Coors Field, or purchase a Ballpark Pass, which is why Chris called.
As good as the Rockies are at fan engagement, they are very bad at communication—and it turns out that in a time of Web 2.0, communication matters as much as engagement. Fans expect to be heard, not just consume corporate messaging. They also expect to have their concerns taken seriously.
Remember how bad 2019 was for fans? We had the Jeff Bridich “brain surgeon” comments early in the season (which have never been walked back). Then there was the slog of a 71-91 season. Following that came the depressing post-season “not a press conference,” which told a fandom desperate for hope not to expect too much (a “lack of financial flexibility” and all that).
And now we have the perpetual Nolan Arenado trade rumors. Which potential home for Arenado interests you? Perhaps it’s the Cardinals. (See here, here, and here.) Maybe the Texas Rangers make a more attractive trade partner? (See here, here, and here.) What about the Atlanta Braves? (See here and here.) Any thoughts about the #RockiesEast New York Yankees? (See here and here.) I could go on. Not only are Rockies fans not allowed to imagine a better team in 2020, but we are also forced to endure other teams fantasizing about signing our third baseman. Through all of this, the front office remains silent.
Enter Chris calling to ask me about my Ballpark Pass.
Here’s the problem with the Rockies’ fixation on a self-imposed salary cap: It takes me out of my purple-haze fandom and reminds me of the business of baseball. It is also suggests that the best leverage I have as a fan is economic. The Rockies have ignored my articles and tweets; the lapsed Ballpark Pass, however, got me a phone call.
No one expects the Rockies to tell us everything, but surely they could offer us something. Cleveland manager Terry Francona recently said of the Francisco Lindor trade rumors, “We can’t control the rumors . . . . I would say from this winter, 99.9 (percent) were false. Just because a team called you and did their due diligence doesn’t mean there’s a 50-50 chance this guy’s going to be traded.” That sure beats Dick Monfort’s text last week to Patrick Saunders: “Really don’t have any comment.” That was very much not what I needed to hear.
If the Rockies want my fandom (which is really just a proxy for my money), then I need them to be honest. I’m more willing to spend money when I’m excited about something. Right now, I am very much not excited about 2020 Rockies baseball—and I am even less excited about a Nolan-less Colorado Rockies.
Here’s what I told Chris—who, by the way, was terrific and should get a raise. I said I couldn’t spend money to support a general manager who is contemptuous of sports writers and bloggers (and, by extension, fans). I told him I couldn’t financially underwrite an owner who doesn’t understand streaming or why it matters to fans. And I told him I couldn’t financially support a team living under a self-imposed salary cap.
Chris listened and said he’d pass it along. I felt better, but I knew it wouldn’t make a difference. And I didn’t renew my Ballpark Pass.
I really love this game and this team—that hasn’t changed—but I really don’t like how this front office treats fans. Dick Monfort can put on his purple Carhartts and make snow angels at home plate until the cows come home, but fans aren’t after viral content. They want a front office committed to winning and to having an honest relationship with fans. And they want the Rockies to quit yanking our chain about trading Nolan Arenado.