Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Kudos to Mr. Maday of OnGoal, LLC.

Lest the complaints be thrown around that the Baines Thought Collective is just a bunch of negativists, here are some kudos for OnGoal, LLC.

On Friday, Greg Cotton stopped by the tailgate with an odd gift for the Cauldron – 80 bottles of Kansas City’s finest barley pop (Boulevard) – inspiring comparisons to Steve Pastorino (Real Salt Lake) and Stan Kroenke (Colorado Rapids), both of whom have made a regular effort to contribute to the respective supporters groups, as well as Peter Wilt, a man whose dedication to the fans is legendary within MLS circles. As anyone who has been around the Cauldron in any fashion can tell you, we always enjoy a good beer (or several) before a game. Marcelo Balboa can even attest to the fine beer tastes of the Cauldron, as he enjoyed an Irish Car Bomb with us at the US-Mexico World Cup Qualifier over Labor Day weekend 2005. Not surprisingly, Mr. Cotton’s gift was well received.
But what was more intriguing was a discussion that Greg Maday had with some of the gentlemen who are behind the tailgate itself. After sampling the fine array of smoked goods offered up and proclaiming it better than anything he’d tasted at the American Royal (you know, the big assembly of the “best” competitive BBQ teams in the country held in Kansas City every year), Mr. Maday asked what the front office had done to help the Cauldron.
The reply – nothing – surprised him. True, the reply wasn’t entirely accurate by the letter; the Front Office stepped in to make arrangements for a traveling group of fans to stay at the team’s rate in the team hotel in the Wizards’ visit to the Dick (Dick’s Sporting Goods Park) to play Colorado, and coordinated a bus to transport fans to the game and back in Chicago in more recent memory.
He questioned why. The answer is that we have never asked. After several requests and years of abysmal treatment by the previous ownership group, the Cauldron had learned its lesson. We have had to grow on our own, often fighting Hunt Sports Group and Curt Johnson tooth and nail for every little concession.
What impressed me most about the conversation with Mr. Maday was his sincerity as he said that there has to be something the Front Office can do to help. While there have certainly been some stumbles this season on both sides, the increase in atmosphere and sheer numbers of folks exhibiting real passion for the Wizards has been evident.
Sure, the many season ticket holders who purchased season tickets under the promise (later broken) that the Wizards would be a) playing games in a smaller, temporary venue; and b) wouldn’t be offering any random ticket discounts ala the oft-abused “Zard Card” of years past have a legitimate complaint, one still needing to be made whole and not necessarily by the opportunity to spend more money with the team.
No, the sincerity of Mr. Maday’s conviction that OnGoal can do something to help those who have supported and inspired this team with passion and vigor, traveling hundreds of miles to away games and standing throughout the entire 90 minutes of each home game to lend voice and desire to the men on the pitch, was impressive. Not just because he was out there – Curt Johnson used to come out to one tailgate a year and allow the fans to ask him any question – but because he was earnest and sincere about wanting to support those fans who have given so much in support of this team.
And it’s not just Mr. Maday that has shown that belief either. Neal Patterson and his wife have visited many a Cauldron tailgate, even going so far as to pump the keg for one of the traveling fans in Denver, and Robb Heinemann sported a Wizards away kit with “Cauldron” and the number 1 on the back at Friday’s match.
Whether these sincere promises become fulfilled or leaves us longing for the days of the Hunt Sports Group – where we knew that we were going to be shat upon, but it didn’t cost as much – remains to be seen. On the whole, however, it is encouraging. It is a sign that we finally have an ownership group who “gets it” about soccer.

There are missteps and problems that will need to be worked out as we both grow, but this ownership group finally seems to realize that taking care of your best customers – the ones who are addicted to your product – will have marked benefits in the long run in attracting additional customers. To put it simply, it’s easier (and cheaper) to take care of your existing customer base than it is to generate new customers, and much easier than to win back old customers.
To co-opt a line from a movie, if you build an atmosphere at a soccer game that rivals the atmosphere at a Chiefs game, people will come. You can’t build that atmosphere with corporate suits and soccer moms. That is not to say that the soccer moms, corporate suits and plastic eurosnob scenesters of the Kansas City metro – that made an abundant showing at the LA Galaxy game (you know, the one allegedly set to feature a certain England midfielder) don’t have a place in the success of the Wizards, as they’ve all ponied up and purchased tickets, but they’re not as profitable to the bottom line as the long term season ticket holders and the Cauldron.

So in closing, allow this collective to express a sincere, generous but cautious thank you to OnGoal, LLC. If your actions speak as loud as your words, there is a great deal of potential as we move forward.

This has been,
Baines’ finicky liver.

No comments: