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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Baseball Season: The Concession Stand

Baseball season has opened up today.  Seems so long ago that I started with t-ball and moved on to little league, pony league, and on to jr. high/high school baseball.  Those were fun times and it was great to play against neighbors or schoolmates on different teams.  Those who didn't enjoy the game as much, still had one thing in common as those who loved the game more: THE CONCESSION STAND!

You would think businesses would take notice as the best way to market a new product or see what kids were buying was through the concession stand.  We showed up early to buy gobs of gum with are nickels and dimes or got some sunflower seeds to make a mess in the dugout.  After the game was over, whether we won or loss, we raced once again to the concession stand but this time to indulge in candy and soda.  This is where we took notice of all the new candy items, its also where I was first introduced to Mamba's.  I usually picked up a few Jolly Rancher sticks(are these even made anymore???). 

But I think everyone's enjoyment was the soda they were drinking.  I would say the majority of the kids were wound up and thought it was cool, hip, dangerous, and lived on the "wild side" by asking for the almighty "suicide".  For those unaware of what a suicide was, it was a drink of unequal, unmeasured porportions of all the sodas on the pre-mix fountain tank.  I preferred Dr. Pepper/7up/Root Beer/and a splash of diet.  Who cares what it tasted like(actually was pretty good) but it was the drink that made us feel like a popular kid.  It gave us feelings of "coolness".

So here's my thoughts for the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group Inventors.  Make a drink, called "Mixxed-UP" and target it as the The Concession Stand's National Pastime during Major League Baseball.  Let kids relive the glory of a finished ball game with a bottle or can of "Mixxed-UP". 

So did you ever partake in a "suicide"?  What flavors did you use? 

How MLB teams can get a fan...

I was the youngest of four boys in our house growing up in Fort Madison, Iowa. Playing and watching sports was a normal daily ritual at our house and in our neighborhood. After getting home from school, I usually was in the house long enough to drop off my backpack and change into my "play" clothes. Than I darted outside to engage in our own neighborhood sports league.
We played wiffle ball, tennis ball, basketball, boxing, football, and even held our own olympic competition and usually kept stats of our leagues. We would take a break at dinner time, only to continue playing until it was too dark to play. Later the neighbor's added lights for the basketball court to extend our hours of play time outside. It was these games, not an xbox or playstation, that made me enjoy sports. There was no cuts from the team, everyone got to play equal minutes whether you lacked skill or not.
Our family was split on who we rooted for in Major League Baseball. My dad and oldest brother Ken were big Cubs fans. The living room t.v. was always tuned to WGN in the afternoons for Cubs games. When they played away games in the evening, you knew by the smell of a pan of heavily buttered popped pop corn. My brother Matt was a Royals fan and I remember him many times wearing his Royal Blue KC hat. My other brother Brad became a RedSox fan. We always joked with him that he was a bandwagon fan because he seemed to like them around the time they played in the World Series(Bill Buckner fiasco). But to this day, I'm not sure I've ever met a more loyal RedSox fan in my life. I was with him in his first visit to Fenway Park, and I will say it was quite the experience to visit the old park and see the Green Monster and Citgo sign live. My Mom, like a good mom would do for her kids, seems to always root for each of her son's favorite teams when they are playing, but I think she hopes just once, that the Cubs will win it all for the pleasure it would bring to my brother and father.
I, on the other hand, am a Rangers fan. Seems unlikely that an Iowa born and raised kid would grow up rooting for a team in Texas. Well, I'm going to explain simply how a team can advertise to win over a fan for life in many cases.
There used to be a Texas channel on our local t.v. that carried World Class Wrestling and usually a Texas Rangers game was on before that. So each week, I tuned in to the end of the Rangers game until the Von Erich's wrestling show started. I quickly became a fan of the Rangers but I wasn't hooked. I eventually had a Rangers hat and continued to watch and root for the Rangers. But what hooked me for life is simple...
We traveled to Texas for a family vacation and my Uncle took the boys and my dad to Arlington for a Bluejays vs Rangers game. There I lived in a world where some kids would never see live. My first impressions inside a stadium, my first sporting event of any magnitude. My baseball card of Odibe McDowell USA card came to life as he played in center field. I was hooked, I was and am a Texas Rangers fan.
So how can kids become fans... Simple... If there are unused tickets, or if you have a chance to take someone to a live sporting event... If your an owner who wants to give tickets away... If its a promotion on giving tickets away... Give them to a kid who hasn't ever been. Let him and his family enjoy a pastime they may never envision or enjoy as much in their adult life. Gain your fans by showing them your showcase.
So in ending of this blog... Enjoy opening day....... Play Ball! Oh and for me... Go Rangers!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Bleeding Black and Gold

Obviously, Marcus Paige doesn't bleed Black and Gold.  Neither did Nick Collison, Kirk Hinrich, Harrison Barnes, and Raef LaFrentz among others.  The top talent in the state of Iowa usually decides to head to the bigger programs, top coaches, and traditional winning programs.  Its choices these kids make and if its their dream to play at those schools, so be it.  I just wonder if at one time, they didn't play a basketball one-on-one game with a neighbor or have a Nerf hoop in their room fantasizing during March Madness of being an Iowa Hawkeye winning the game with a rim-shattering dunk or a fade-away three pointer at the buzzer.  I certainly did, time and time again. 
I wasn't blessed with skills like these guys.  Brian Pauly, a classmate, would call me Herbie Jr.(His father Herb, also used the hook shot like me and it was tough to stop during a friendly game).  He liked to be called BJ during games(reason- B.J. Armstrong, nuff' said).  As we grew older, I gave up basketball because my vertical wasn't going to get me anywhere but possibly a good 6 inches off the ground(on a good day).  Instead I watched high school and college basketball.  I remember in high school, watching games between Davenport West and Fort Madison or Aquinas vs Winfield Mt. Union or Marquette.  All 5 of these teams were fantastic to watch.  They were all good teams with two of the best players in the area at the time with many very good players too.  Ryan Bowen and Jess Settles were two of those players that I got to watch.  They eventually both accepted scholarships to the University of Iowa to play college basketball.  Some of those other players eventually landed at Northern Iowa, Iowa State University(Klay Edwards for sure), St. Ambrose, among others.  I think if given the opportunity, most of those players would have accepted a scholarship to Iowa in a heartbeat.
Iowa's had some recent basketball setbacks.  Kids who could have made Iowa a top 25 team possibly, have chosen other opportunities in different states.  I don't disagree with them but I also don't agree with them.  Some want to play where Jordan once played and play where the foundation is already built.  I can understand their dreams and desires to do that.  A legacy has already been at North Carolina, championships have been won, and most likely you will always be in the footsteps of Jordan, Worthy, etc.  At Iowa, they are waiting for a legacy to happen.
In 18-22 years, kids from possibly your hometown in Iowa could be looking at photos, trophies, and the legacy that was put together from the in-state Iowa recruit who chose to stay home because he bleeds black and gold.  North Carolina already has had their Jordan, Iowa's still looking for theirs.  You can still make it to the NBA if you play at Iowa, just ask Bowen, Armstrong, Evans, Gamble, Earl, and many many others.   To the group of kids who someday build a legacy at Iowa by choosing their own path instead of following someone else's, thankyou for bleeding "black and gold".