Feb. 7, 2011
There is a lesson in the steaming disaster that was the Super Bowl for the San Francisco Giants, if they are prepared to absorb and act upon it.Which, we would bet heavily, they are not. The moneys too good the other way.
The Super Bowl was a spectacular failure on all but football grounds. The ice that crushed the Metroplex, the people hurt when the stadium burped up part of the icy roof, the turbulent undercurrent of the labormanagement spit-fest, the tickets-that-werent-for-the-seats-that-never-existed, Christina Aguilera (who we thought was already retired) shrieking in some unknown code, the Black-Eyed Peas and their interpretation of an airport runway at night, and in all, the rigors of greed unchained and unashamed made this one of the worst Super Bowls ever. Except for Aaron Rodgers, and Mike McCarthy, and Ted Thompson, and the state of Wisconsin, that is. They had a hell of a time.
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So what does this have to with the Giants? Im glad I asked. As you may have noticed from FanFest, the Giants are hotter than theyve been since the day they got here. They turned away almost as many people as they admitted for the annual slap-and-tickle, and that may be an accurate gauge of the demand right now.
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But heres the thing. The Super Bowl crushed its own mordant avarice. Charging hundreds for a party pass that allowed you to get close without seeing the game, setting up temporary seating areas that people who paid full retail couldnt use, and putting up a show of purest malignant excess all of it the karma that comes of squeezing the money lemon until the seeds explode in your eye.
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And theres the lesson. There is money the Giants dont want, and that money is too much. Finding new ways to choke a guys wallet ought to be beneath them. Charging for everything you can charge for is not only unseemly but antithetical to what Bow Tie Billy Neukom says he believes. And this requires an ongoing examination of how they deal with the marks . . . er, the customers. In short, where the Super Bowl asked the question How much can we charge for even stuff that has no value? and got the response, Heres a record-breaking ice storm, the Giants have to ask the question, What can we afford not to charge for? Its kind of a zen question, in fact, because the Giants need money to feed their pet Lincecums and Cains and Poseys. But they have also flogged the brand to a fine gray paste, to the point where they are either nudging the line of excess or treading merrily over it, depending on your position relative to your checkbook. The Giants have two choices here striking while the iron is hot, or gently nudging for a prolonged and triumphant future. Every kid who couldnt get into FanFest had a lousy experience, and it doesnt matter to him whether the team or the fire laws kept him out. There will be other moments where the customers dont get serviced, either, and thats where the creativity comes in. When someone gets shut out of an event, they should get something free in exchange. A T-shirt, a stuffed Machine, a suite for the Pirates series, something. And charging for everything is what they do in the Mob. The team orientation at this, their finest moment, should be, What can we not charge for? because those moments linger a lot longer than the Visa bill. Fans sign up for a lifetime when given something they didnt expect. This is the law. Conversely, fans walk away when their favorite team has its hand in the fans pockets at every turn, and they dont come back. The Giants are as close as theyve ever been to owning the market, but the more they try to own, the worse it will get. If fans are born through the influence of their parents, their parents get hooked on their kids being handed something for nothing, even if that something is as small as an autograph or just a smile. Which is why not charging for everything under the sun is the way to go here. The Super Bowl is the example of what happens when your appetite for other peoples money outstrips your ability to dance for it. And the task for the Giants is to find ways to put the price gun away. Can they do it? We suspect not. The instinct to double-down when youre hot is almost Pavlovian with most enterprises. To go the other way takes more discipline, but it also makes better sense in the long run. Even barflies know this -- buy the first round of drinks, and it wont be your turn again for quite some time. And thats what the Giants can take from Super Bowl Week. Well, that and keeping Christina Aguilera from showing up to yodel Battle Hymn of The Republic.