Friday, November 19, 2010

Bad Business; Good Times

Originally posted on Facebook -- 10/9/10

I should be rolling in some money right now.

When I bought a partial-season ticket plan for the Philadelphia Phillies last December, I did so mainly as a business investment. At the time, the Phillies had over 40 consecutive sell-out crowds, they still appeared to be the team to beat in the National League East, and the pair of seats offered by the team were in a prime location -- Section 421, Row 4 -- almost directly behind home plate.

Tough to beat this location

My original idea was to attend all of the Mets-Phillies games (there were 3 on that particular ticket plan), go to a couple random games (just because baseball's baseball), and sell the rest. That plan was VERY successful. By the end of the regular season, I had attended 6 games at Citizens Bank Park...and my TOTAL cost for the season tickets was $32. That's right, $32!

When you factor in the "dead money" from the games that I attended, I actually finished the season with a $100 profit. How many times can you say that buying season tickets actually made you money?

The Phillies ended up being a sound business investment

Thankfully, my business intuition was right. I may not know much about money-making ventures like real estate or the stock market, but I like to think that I do know a little bit about sports. The Phillies, after struggling early in the season, made a strong run during the summer to gain control of the NL East. The fans, despite a shaky economy, kept coming out -- selling out every game in the regular season. Some of my friends bought tickets to games; others I sold on StubHub for up to three times their face value!

The Phillies captured another NL East title in 2010

With the Phillies winning their division and heading to the Major League Baseball postseason for a 4th consecutive year, I felt that I was sitting on a potential gold mine. If my regular season investment turned out so fruitfully, how much could playoff tickets sell for?

A funny thing happened along the way, however. I wanted to attend a Phillies' postseason game, just to experience the atmosphere for myself...and I wanted someone special to come with me.

The thought of attending a Phillies' playoff game intrigued me

Ever since my father retired in 2007, he's had more time to enjoy life. In the past, whenever I would ask if he wanted to attend a ballgame with me, he'd always been too run down from the workweek to even give it a second thought. It was certainly understandable...he worked long hours at New York Life, and had a roughly 1 1/2 - 2 hour commute to work everyday. The weekends were a time for him to take care of tasks around the house that he couldn't do otherwise, or just relax and mentally prepare for the upcoming week.

Now, things are different. During the last couple of years, Dad has been able to accompany me to numerous sporting events -- Jets games, Mets games, Minor League Baseball games, and Phillies games. Whenever we've gone together, we've had a great time...and there's something special about a father-son relationship when there's baseball involved. Just watch the end of "Field of Dreams" for an example.

Philadelphia had become a popular destination for baseball games with my father

Dad loves Citizens Bank Park, for both its beauty and functionality. It's relatively convenient to get to, he enjoys the sightlines, the food is great, and there's usually some quality baseball involved. When about a week ago, I asked Dad if he wanted to come to Game 2 of the NL Division Series against the Reds on Friday night, I barely even finished the question before he excitedly said, "Yes!"

My father and I were excited to attend the National League Division Series together

After I asked him to the game, playoff "phever" hit Philadelphia. Roy Halladay threw a no-hitter in Game 1 of the NLDS -- only the 2nd in MLB postseason history -- and ticket prices to subsequent games soared. Had I wanted to, those tickets could have been sold on StubHub for FIVE times their face value! It would have essentially paid for my partial-season tickets in the 2011 season! I was faced with the age-old dilemma -- love or money.

Actually, it wasn't much of a dilemma at all.

Playoff time in Philadelphia

At 4 pm on a beautiful October Friday, my father and I arrived at the massive sports complex in South Philly. Upon passing through the gates, we were both handed white "Fightin' Phils" rally towels by the ushers. It was already a festive atmosphere, 2 hours before the 1st pitch, with thousands of people dressed in red. Dad and I immediately bought NLDS game programs, and then headed to Ashburn Alley for an early dinner. When that was done, we wandered around the sparking ballpark before making our way to the seats.

Rally towels were handed out to everyone in attendance

The game itself threatened to be a disappointment. Reds' 2nd baseman Brandon Phillips hit the 4th pitch of the game over the left field fence, immediately spoiling any thoughts of a 2nd consecutive postseason no-hitter.

Brandon Phillips gave the Reds an early lead with a solo HR

Phillies' starting pitcher Roy Oswalt appeared tentative and out-of-rhythm, with Cincinnati touching him up for 4 runs in 5 innings.

Phillies' starting pitcher Roy Oswalt couldn't find the rhythm on this night

The Reds held a 4-0 lead, the near-record crowd of 46,511 was listless and silent, and the possibility of an opening split in Philadelphia was very much real. As October has proven many times before, however, strange things can happen in postseason baseball games.

In the bottom of the 5th inning, the Phillies began making their move, thanks in huge part to the Reds' shoddy defense. Errors by Phillips and 3rd baseman Scott Rolen kept the inning alive, before Phils' 2nd baseman Chase Utley came through with a 2-out, 2-run single to right field. Suddenly, it was 4-2 -- and Citizens Bank Park was alive.

Chase Utley gets the Phillies on the board with a clutch 5th inning single

The Phillies drew even closer in the 6th, as the Cincinnati bullpen showed signs of weakness. A leadoff walk (which, studies have shown, score 75% of the time), a couple of hit batsmen, and a bases-loaded walk made it a 4-3 game. The Phils had seized the momentum, and the ballpark was ready to explode.

The rally towels were out in force during the Phils' rally

After the Reds went scoreless in the top of the 7th, Cincinnati manager Dusty Baker brought in Cuban phenom pitcher Aroldis Chapman to try and regain control of the game. Throwing at-or-over 100 mph, Chapman caused the crowd to buzz after every fastball.

Aroldis Chapman was burning up the radar gun, but the Phillies were unafraid

What then ensued was some of the strangest baseball I had ever seen. Utley, leading off the inning, was "hit" with a 101-mph fastball -- only it didn't hit him. After a Ryan Howard strikeout, outfielder Jayson Werth hit a slow chopper to 3rd base. Rolen made the play, threw to 2nd base to force Utley out, but the Phillies' baserunner was ruled safe! Replays would show otherwise, but the call stood.

With 1 out and 2 runners on base, shortstop Jimmy Rollins hit a line drive to right field. The Reds' Jay Bruce drifted to his right, stretched out his glove -- and missed the ball! Utley and Werth both scored to give the NL East Champs the lead, and South Philadelphia was in bedlam. The entire ballpark was furiously waving the rally towels, the concrete beneath our feet was shaking, and the roar dispensed from the mouths of 46,000+ was deafening.

The crowd goes wild as the Phillies take the lead

At that point, in the middle of all that craziness, my father and I looked at each other and simply smiled. These are the moments that are priceless, worth so much more than whatever money those tickets could have fetched.

The Phillies tacked on a couple of insurance runs, making it 7-4 at the end of the 7th inning. The bullpen then did its job, and Brad Lidge closed things out to give Philadelphia a commanding 2-games-to-none lead in the best-of-5 Division Series.

The Phillies take a 2-games-to-none lead over Cincinnati

During the drive home, Dad and I were talking about the game and its improbable events...and he added, "Thanks for taking me, that was great." Yes, it was.

Just as an aside, I did sell a pair of Phillies playoff tickets for a profit -- Game 1 of the NLDS; the historic Halladay no-hitter. No one ever said being a businessman was easy.

My father and I at Game 2 of the NLDS

No comments:

Post a Comment