Aug. 29, 2011
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Follow @RattoCSNRay Ratto
Jed York sat in the stands at Parco del Candeliere Saturday night to show he was one of the people. Amy Trask sent photos of happy smiling New Orleans Saints fans with small children at Le Colisee dOakland to media outlets to show that Raider games are as close as you can get to Disneyland.And somewhere, public relations experts weep.The owner-as-fan idea was done first and best by Bill Veeck back in the 40s. He would roam the stands in Cleveland and later in Chicago so that people could express their desires directly to the one person who could make those desires come true.Then again, he also sat shirtless in the bleachers on hot days and bought beer for those around him. Taking a walk around the plant doesnt do it, but buying a beer for a section certainly would.
Jed isnt Bill Veeck, then. Okay, weve established that.And fan photos with babies and smiling parents are, well, sort of posed, and in todays hypercynical world, not entirely believable. I should know. I am the man who invented hypercynicism, and defend it against all humanitarian impulses. In fact, every time you use it in conversation today, I get a royalty, so let fly, my children. Daddy needs a new pair of tuitions.REWIND: Two men shot outside Candlestick Park
Now were all for owners commingling with the people who enrich them. Most owners would never ever consider it, and most who have tried stop pretty quickly when they decide that they are attracting exactly the wrong type of clientele for their personal comfort zones.You know. Fans.So while J.E. York and A. (middle initial unknown, though wed happily use it if we knew it) Trask may have had their hearts in the right places over the weekend, there is actually a trick to this that requires more serious and aggressive out-of-the-box thinking.And truth be told, it isnt a photo op as much as it is an attitude.And part of the attitude is this: if youre going into the stands, you have to go into the stands a lot. This means forgoing the suite, even if youre entertaining the other teams owner. This means getting to know some of the regulars. This means being the real deal, or as close as one can get when one is trying to catch up as frantically as York is.Once you get there, you can proselytize all you want about not being crass, crude or violent at the game. The fans will buy that because they perceive you as being one of them as long as you have plenty of other ways to encourage their best behavior. Even Veeck was prudent when it came to securing the atmosphere except maybe on Disco Demolition Night. Look it up. Theres plenty to find.As for Trask, the problem of fan identification is different. Her boss, The Al, used to be that real deal guy. He didnt go into the stands, but he would walk into the stadium and in front of the Black Hole to deal out high-fives and fists of approval to those who worshiped at the hem of his track suit.But Davis health forbids those trips now, and there really isnt a logical, credible alternative. Thus, the Raiders best way to show they make a safe environment is to work the parking lots before and let their customers to know to bring their best selves. An in, You punching that Bronco fan does a lot less for us when the Broncos have a third-and-nine at the Black Hole end than you making all the noise you have in you.Crowd security is an ongoing issue that can never be truly solved and done with sort of like performance enhancing drugs, if you really must know. But trying to change a perception isnt nearly as important as changing the conditions that prevail. Stadium policing and parking lot fan rapport are the minimal standard. Photos and photo ops arent really as useful.But the first step is in breaking down the barriers that most owners have built between them and their customers. And treating them less like customers or P.R. props and more like regular folks and fellow fans is the best way to start.Bill Veeck knew it 65 years ago. But just because he was first doesnt mean he has to be last.Ray Ratto is a columnist at CSNBayArea.com.