Monday, May 4, 2009

Two Strikes Enough for DC Gov't

Two Strikes Enough for DC Gov’t
Commentary by Sanford D. Horn
May 4, 2009

Like petulant three-year-olds arguing over their favorite toy, DC Mayor Adrian Fenty and the City Council should be ejected from their cushy-tushy box at Nationals Park and made to sit with the constituents they claim to represent. In this case, two strikes should be enough for the out.

For the second year in a row, 86 season tickets are the bones of contention. Several members of the City Council assert that Fenty is ostensibly holding the council’s tickets hostage – tickets that neither the mayor nor the council paid for. These are tickets to stadium suites and parking passes valued in the hundreds of thousands of dollars; at 81 home games, that’s a total of 6,966 tickets. The notion of a government body accepting such gifts smacks of nothing short of graft. If the mayor or members of the council want to take in a Nationals game, and they are encouraged to do so, they can pay for their tickets like the rest of the grit-eating community.

Councilman Kwame Brown had the smart idea of auctioning off the tickets – 67 of which are allotted to the mayor and the remaining 19 to the council. Let’s face it, most of those seats remain empty throughout the season. Quite frankly, most seats around Nationals Park are empty with the product that’s being put on the field. Perhaps instead of auctioning the tickets, they should be given to honor role students for setting a good academic example. Perhaps they could be used for Make-a-Wish style give-aways. People are not clamoring for seats to Nationals games. John Lennon and George Harrison could rise from the dead and the Beatles couldn’t fill that stadium. The only prayer of filling Nationals Park was when Pope Benedict XVI paid a visit last year.

Make no mistake, it’s great that the nation’s capital finally has a team after 31 years of dormancy, but this was not an expansion team, but instead the move of an existing team – the team formerly known as the Montreal Expos. And as nice a stadium as Nationals Park is, public/government funding of stadiums is a big no-no. Teams should be footing the bill for their own ballpark; after all, who reaps the rewards? The team owners. If taxpayer dollars are utilized, then the taxpayers ought to be shareholders entitled to dividends, or in this case, tickets.

For as nice as the ballpark experience is, and it is, it’s just too much of a hassle to wait for Metro before and after the game in crowded stations, or afford the parking lot fees, plus the cost of food not to mention the outrageous notion of charging $29.95 for a book of 100 blank scorecards, as advertised while watching a Nationals game on television one night last week. One announcer shamelessly endorsed the blank-paged book by saying there are helpful hints on how to keep a proper scorecard. Folks – here’s a nickel’s worth of free advise: go online, print out a scorecard, bring it with you to the stadium. If you want some helpful hints as to how to fill it out, I’ll post them to my website for free. There you go; 30 bucks saved; buy your friend Sanford a kosher dog next time you see him at the ballpark.

Another Nationals-related travesty is the recent decision that the city will pay the costs to keep Metro running overtime when the Nationals play into the wee hours. This should have been a no-brainer. That should be an E-DC. The Nationals organization should without a doubt be coughing up the dough here. Could the city be kissing the team’s tuchus any more?

Ultimately, when Metro raises it rates to cover the overtime to the tune of $27,000 an hour, all Metro riders will pay the price. Two hours of overtime could pay an experienced teacher’s salary for a year. Apparently the city has been paying the freight on overtime since the return of baseball to DC in 2005 as the Nationals have refused to pay for the service. Nationals fans already pay enough to attend a game as it is. The team is the one entity raking in the bucks during rain delays, extra-inning affairs and double-headers, not that a real double-header exists any more.

The District ought to reverse its call, demand the team fork over the dinero for the overtime or see its fans stranded. Angry fans do not revisit ballparks when the team is the cause of their ire. The team cannot afford to alienate any more fans as it is. It’s high time the Washington Nationals remember their first name is Washington and become a homer.

Sanford D. Horn is a writer and political consultant living in Alexandria, VA. He is a lifelong New York Mets fan.

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