Smizik: Fans waging fight against way Nuttings do business
Share with others:
What will be remembered as a six-day perfect storm of Pirates ineptitude, on and off the field, began the first full week of this month. On June 5, clearly for financial reasons, the Pirates passed in the draft on switch-hitting catcher Matt Wieters, the best player available for them. The following Friday, Saturday and Sunday, they played amateurish baseball in losing three in a row to the New York Yankees, embarrassing themselves and the game on the sport's grandest stage.
The organization and the players had come close to hitting rock bottom, and the reaction was predictable. Media outlets were deluged with e-mails, phone calls and letters from outraged and/or frustrated fans. Some outlets said they had never seen the likes of it.
But back home the following Tuesday, the Pirates, facing the last-place Texas Rangers, played to a crowd of 21,158, an increase of 34 percent over their previous largest Tuesday crowd this season. On Friday, 26,647 paying customers came out to watch the next-to-last-place Chicago White Sox. It was the second-best Friday crowd of the season. The next night, they played to their best Saturday crowd of the season, 36,610, which was a sellout. The next afternoon the attendance was 26,830, 11 percent higher than their previous Sunday best.
So much for outrage and frustration. It certainly gives credence to the belief of John Steigerwald, a KDKA sports anchor who long has called Pirates fans suckers for blindly supporting what has been a bad product for 15 seasons.
We can only imagine Bob Nutting, the team's principal owner, rubbing his hands in glee as the turnstiles clicked furiously for his bad team and profits continued to pour in.
It almost looks as if no one in the fan base cares whether the Pirates win or lose. Keep passing out those trinkets, and the fans will come regardless of the quality of play. Since the Pirates are terrible and their opposition in those games was as bad or worse, we can only assume the primary reason for the surprisingly large turnouts were the Max Carey Hall of Fame coin Tuesday, the Bill Mazeroski collectible plate Friday, Pirates Logo Man bobblehead Saturday and an alternate cap giveaway Sunday.
Turns out, though, there are some fans angry and frustrated with the Pirates' way of doing business. They want a good team, not good giveaways. They want to do more than establish Web sites that present the team's ineptitude. They want to do more than call talks shows and complain.
We're not talking about a boycott, which some people are calling for. There's a movement afoot to boycott not only the Pirates but all of Nutting's business ventures. That's mean-spirited and wrong.
Nutting is not a bad person. He is not dispensing social injustice. What he is doing is not illegal, unethical or immoral. What he is guilty of -- in the eyes of most people -- is running his business in a fan-unfriendly manner. He does not deserve to be boycotted and most certainly the people who work for him, be it at PNC Park, Seven Springs or his many newspapers do not deserve to have their jobs placed in jeopardy because the Pirates stink.
Anyone who wants to boycott all of Nutting's businesses needs to take a serious look at their life.
That's not the case with Andy Chomos, who is organizing a fan protest that will take place June 30, when a crowd of upwards of 30,000 will be at PNC Park -- not so much to see the Washington Nationals but to pick up their Bob Walk bobblehead.
It's a great idea. Chomos is not trying to take money out of anyone's pocket -- be it usher, ticket-taker or business owner on the North Shore. He wants to call attention to the way the Pirates are being run. He wants to let Nutting know there are fans out there who prefer good baseball over bobbleheads.
Chomos, 43, is a married father of three who is CEO of a small business in Ford City and also the owner of a beer distributorship in Wexford. He played football in high school at Greensburg Salem and in college at Westminster. He's a lifelong Pirates fan who is mad as hell and doesn't want to take it any more. He's a bright, savvy, articulate guy, who is being helped on this project by Brian Buermeyer, a teacher in the Shaler School District, and Sean Lucas, an MBA student at Duquesne.
Chomos and his group will hold a rally on Federal Street outside PNC Park before the game. During the game they are asking fans to leave their seats at the end of the third inning and either stand in the concourse for one inning -- without purchasing concessions -- or leave.
"This movement is about waking up the fans and creating expectations," Chomos said. "This fan base has been dumbed down. We feel like sheep being led to the slaughter. If [the Pirates] throw enough cheap crap at us, they feel we'll keep supporting them.
"We understand this is not life and death, but it's one last stand for baseball purists. If the Nuttings are allowed to continue to run PNC as an amusement park, we've all lost."
Well said. Bravo and best of luck -- not that this figures to change much.
Nothing anyone does is liable to change Nutting's approach to running the Pirates. But Chomos, Buermeyer and Lucas are waging the good fight, the right fight.
First Published June 23, 2007 11:50 pm