Posts Tagged With: Yankees

Overpriced tickets, empty seats, and clueless management

The fact that sports ticket prices are completely out of hand is far from a new revelation, and my favorite club in any sport, the New York Yankees, falls among the worst offenders, possibly even occupying the top spot.

Go team go!

Empty seats, especially in the premium sections, have become the norm, no matter how big the game, or how nice the weather. And as clueless as management at some of these teams can be, they are trying to remedy the problem. But are they trying hard enough?

I became a Yankees season-ticket holder (half-season through 2008, full season for 2009 and 2010) in 1997, and I gave my seats up after the 2010 season (click the link for the long list of reasons why). The Yankees have managed to treat me better as a former ticket holder than when I actually had the account active.

I have received several calls over the past few months from the Yankees ticket office, gauging my interest in rejoining the fold for the 2013 season. I am actually surprised that the club is putting that much effort into cases like mine. When I go to Dunkin’ Donuts, I usually drop the coins I receive as change into the tip jar. The $4,000 or so that my season tickets cost means less to the Yankees than those coins mean to me.

I don’t even bother answering anymore because, in all fairness to the Yankees, I am in no position to commit to tickets of any sort, and many of the factors have nothing to do with the team or its pricing. We are moving, which would make attending weeknight games virtually impossible, and our family expanded, which completely changes the priorities of our budget.

But the few times I did make last-ditch attempts to keep some kind of ticket plan, the seats they were willing to offer me at a reasonable price were pure crap. I may have tried to plead my case with Mrs. 9 if I could have gotten something in the first few rows of the 400 level, in the infield, but when I was offered high rows in the outfield, my response was, “Dude, I have a 50-inch TV. Why would I sit all the way up there?”

And it’s not just the Yankees: A good friend Is part of a group that splits premium (and I do mean premium) Mets tickets, and the Mets actually lowered their prices significantly. Still, the skeptic in me wonders: If the Mets had been a playoff team in any of the three seasons since moving to Citi Field, would they have extended that offer? My gut says no.

Another good friend stopped by tables that the New York Giants and New York Jets set up at an event, and he received the big-time hard sell from both teams. When they asked,” What’s it going to take to get you in these seats?” sounding like desperate used-car salesmen, his response was, “Drop the PSL.” Naturally, they refused.

For years, the only way to get Giants season tickets was to put your name on a waiting list and wait several years (my name was on one prior to the new stadium opening, and I was told to expect a 15- to 20-year wait). I find it almost laughable that I could pick up the phone today and become a season ticket holder if I wanted to, but that would require an investment beyond my means, especially when I don’t root for the team.

For those not in the know, PSL stands for “personal seat license,” which is the biggest scam in the sports ticketing industry. A PSL basically forces fans to pay a large lump sum of money, simply for the right to shell out more money for the actual tickets.

Some PSLs offer owners the right to purchase their seats for other events (concerts, other sports), but the Giants and Jets can’t even do that. When Bruce Springsteen plays MetLife Stadium, who gets the seat: The Giants fan, or the Jets fan? Those teams’ PSL holders receive perks, such as early access to ticket sales, but is that enough?

One of the most irritating things about PSLs is that teams pitch them to fans as investment opportunities, touting how much the fans can profit if they resell the PSLs. I realize running a sports team is running a business, but being a sports fan is an entirely different story. If someone is enough of a fan of the team to consider forking over several thousand dollars per seat for PSLs, selling those rights is the furthest thing from their minds.

Back on topic: It’s obvious that teams are recognizing the fact that the prices they are trying to charge in an economy that is still scuffling are completely out of hand, leading to the large pockets of empty seats in very visible locations (field level behind home plate for baseball, field level between the 40-yard-lines for football), but are they doing enough about it? My experience Saturday, which prompted me to write this blog post, suggests otherwise.

$275? Seriously?

A friend from college was nice enough to give me two tickets to Saturday afternoon’s Yankees game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, and we took 0.9 to his first-ever Yankees game. They were fun seats, especially since I usually sit upstairs: section 117a (field level, behind the Yankees dugout), row 30.

However, when I looked at the ticket price, my jaw dropped. The face value of the tickets was $275 apiece. I am not by any means trying to sound ungrateful for the tickets, and I was happy to learn that my friend received them as a gift, so he didn’t shell out that ungodly sum of money for them, but seriously?

First of all, they were technically field level seats, but they were nowhere near the field. As I said, they were in row 30, but the Legends Suite seats are in front of the field level seats, so they were really about 40 rows up.

Second, they were in the back row, and the condiments station was directly behind us. I joked about getting something spilled on me when we first got there, and somebody with an $11.50 cup of Miller Lite soon obliged.

Third, the section to our right had a handicapped seating area in place of rows 26-30. I am all for ballparks having as much handicapped access and seating as possible, and I applaud the existence of this seating area, and all of the others in the ballpark. However, because of the location of this particular handicapped seating area, I could not see anything hit down the right field line.

Charging $275 for those tickets is beyond criminal. I would have been irate if I actually paid that silly price to sit there. And despite the beautiful weather and excellent opponent, there were plenty of empty seats around us.

Also, I have no way to prove this, but if you look at StubHub, there are usually thousands of tickets available for every game. In the case of Saturday’s game, there were more than 2,400 available on the morning of the game. Yet, despite the fact that StubHub users can assign any price they wish to their tickets, there are often large groups of listings at the exact same price, all for seats in sections like 117a, and all from a handful of user names. So, either a few people are rich enough to own several-hundred field level season tickets apiece, or the Yankees are flooding the secondary market with tickets they can’t sell. You decide. I already have.

Sports teams have a choice: Either take a serious look at your pricing policies, or continue to see more and more empty seats. But despite recent economic struggles, the teams’ management remains far too arrogant, for the most part, to admit that the current structure is out of hand. It will be interesting to see if this ever changes.

Categories: baseball, business, life, sports, venting | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

As much as I hate to say it, giving up my Yankees season tickets was the right move

Whenever a long, emotional relationship ends in a breakup, there’s always a tendency to question whether it was the right move, and whether more should have been done to salvage the relationship.

$95? Not worth it.

My breakup with my Yankees season tickets was no exception. Ever since I made the decision in January (see link above for the reasoning behind it), I’ve had lingering doubts as to whether it was the right move, and whether I should have done more to try to keep my seats.

The Yankees are now midway through the first home stand of this young 2011 Major League Baseball season, and there is no doubt in my mind that I made the right move, although I still wish I wasn’t driven in that direction.

I posted an entry last month about how the Yankees ticket office — usually abrupt, condescending, and not the least bit flexible — has been changing its tune. Now I see why.

The number of empty seats in the field level (and not just the Legends Suite ultra-expensive seats, but throughout the 100 level) is embarrassing. And the huge pockets of empty seats in the terrace (300) level have been equally embarrassing.

My theory: People who had field-level seats in the real Yankee Stadium were priced out when the team moved across the street, and many were fortunate to grab seats in the main (200) level. The same goes for people who had seats in the tier boxes (600 level) in the old ballpark, and were able to secure the only affordable seats in the new stadium, the grandstand (400 level).

Throughout this home stand, the 100 and 300 levels have been virtually deserted, while the 200 and 400 levels, along with the bleachers, have been packed. And it will likely stay that way. On Opening Day, during the fifth inning, I counted exactly 10 people in one of the Jim Beam Club sections, behind home plate in the 300 level. Seriously?

I realize it’s only the first few games of the season, and baseball attendance throughout the league tends to heat up in tandem with the weather, but, Opening Day aside, the Yankees have enjoyed comfortable weather, along with games against two stellar, playoff-caliber opponents (the Detroit Tigers and Minnesota Twins).

The biggest issue, in my opinion, is that a lot of the tickets are just plain overpriced. I recognize that the Yankees have the highest payroll in baseball, and that no other team has been in contention every single season since the strike-shortened 1994 campaign (you could argue that 2008 doesn’t qualify, but it’s not like the club finished 62-100). But when it comes down to it, $95 to sit in fair territory in left field on the field level is ridiculous. You are a minimum of 350 feet from home plate, and the only thing you have a good view of is Brett Gardner’s ass. I am a huge fan of Gardner as a ballplayer, but I don’t roll that way. Even if I wanted to look at his rear end, his size-nine head would likely distract me.

$55? Why bother, when I can sit in the same section for $15. Hello, StubHub!

The same goes for the terrace level. The 300 level in the new Yankee Stadium is higher and further from the field than the tier boxes at the old park, and one of the reasons why I gave up my tickets was that I felt that sitting that high and that far simply wasn’t worth $55 per seat. I would have gladly moved to the grandstand or the bleachers, but the latter are thoroughly sold out (at $12 per seat for season tickets, there’s no need to explain why), and the available seats in the former were in the top rows in the outfield. As much as I love going, I’d rather sit on my couch or in a bar than behind the foul pole, four rows from the top of the stadium.

I mentioned in my earlier blog post about giving up the seats that by basically forcing people into buying season tickets, the Yankees created a culture of “ticket brokers.” Those ticket brokers are getting their asses handed to them.

I looked up my old section (314) on StubHub for tomorrow night (Wednesday, April 6). The forecast is quite comfortable (59 degrees, no rain), and CC Sabathia, the clear ace of the staff, is pitching against the Minnesota Twins, a perennial playoff team. My old seats were in row six, and the face value was (and still is) $55. Yet, if I wasn’t going bowling that night, I could sit in row eight for $15, in my old row for $17, in row three for $17, or in row two for the princely sum of $19. Translation: The people selling these seats are taking losses of $36-$40 per ticket on $55 tickets.

A common argument whenever I bring this subject up is the opportunity to sell tickets to the “big” games at a hefty profit. Yes, that opportunity exists, but one of the main reasons why fans want season tickets in the first place is to be guaranteed seats for Boston, or the Mets, or Philadelphia, or Tampa. Being forced to sell them in order to make up for losses on other games defeats the entire purpose, and the same applies to the postseason. Guaranteed playoff tickets are one of the biggest attractions of season tickets, but some of us would actually like to go to the games, and not sit around monitoring StubHub and figuring out how much we can make.

I’d love to think that the Yankees will have an epiphany and realize that the pricing structure is completely out of whack, similar to what happened with the most expensive seats in the ballpark during the inaugural 2009 season. The thought of hooking up with an old flame again is truly appealing. But I know that sort of thinking is completely unrealistic.

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The New York Yankees ticket office is now humble and flexible? Did anyone down in Hell order an ice scraper?

I got an interesting phone call yesterday from none other than the New York Yankees, regarding my cancellation of my season tickets. As I suspected, I am clearly not the only person to go in that direction. The woman I spoke with was thoroughly professional and polite, but judging by the answers to a couple of my questions and some of the concessions she was willing to make, I sensed a trace of desperation.

Section 314, Yankee Stadium

I’m not going to rehash the numerous reasons why I am no longer a season-ticket holder. For those who aren’t regular readers, click here. And while the compromises the Yankees were willing to make were definitely a step in the right direction, they didn’t make enough of a difference in my particular situation (through no fault of the ball club).

But it was almost gratifying to have an organization that has historically conducted itself with extreme arrogance toward its fan base — even in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when the team was God-awful — going out of its way to sell tickets like used-car salesmen. For the record, the arrogance comment does not apply to the person who became my personal ticket representative during the migration to the new ballpark. He was always helpful, friendly, and a pleasure to deal with. Sadly, he was the exception.

One of the concessions offered by the Yankees was offering the chance to buy “full” season tickets that didn’t start until the end of April. My guess is that many season-ticket holders complained that it is easier to sell a six-week-old rotting container of potato salad than it is to sell tickets to night games in April against marginal teams in 40-degree weather.

One of my biggest issues with the stadium relocation was the fact that brand-new ticket buyers willing to purchase full-season tickets immediately jumped ahead of longtime plan-holders in the queue. I thought that was a stab in the back, and I still feel that way.

It’s coming back to bite the Yankees in the ass, though. My hunch is that I am far from the only person who was basically forced into buying a full-season plan, and then found that they couldn’t afford it, or that they got tired of acting as de facto ticket brokers on StubHub, or both. The notoriously inflexible Yankees ticket department is suddenly quite flexible.

The funny thing is, when I was a kid, my ultimate dream was to have season tickets to the Yankees. However, when I envisioned those tickets, I also envisioned myself being married, with two kids, a healthy income, and a nice house. The married part came true, and it has been nothing short of outstanding. The kids will hopefully follow soon. But going without a full-time job for nearly two-and-a-half years and blogging for about one-third of my previous salary wasn’t part of that pretty little picture, and it doesn’t help pay for tickets.

And sadly, being a full-season-ticket holder wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.

Of course, if I experienced a drastic change for the better in my financial situation, I’d jump at the chance to rejoin the club, but I’m not counting on that.

How the mighty have fallen.

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I am now a former New York Yankees season-ticket holder

A long and glorious era ended this afternoon with a quick, painless (but at the same time, incredibly painful) phone call: For the first time since Opening Day of the 1997 Major League Baseball season, I am no longer a New York Yankees season-ticket holder.

I knew my days were numbered when the new Yankee Stadium became a reality. New sports facilities are 100% geared toward corporate clients, leaving the real fan in far worse seats than they enjoyed in the older buildings. Just ask anyone who has upper-deck tickets for the New York Jets or New York Giants. The new Meadowlands Stadium is probably fantastic for those who can afford to shell out the price of a new car for each PSL, and pay exorbitant ticket prices on top of that. But for fans of average means, the upper deck is awful, with “comparable” seats that are actually 40 feet higher and 40 feet further away from the field.

The view from Box 611 at the REAL Yankee Stadium

I had a great run in Box 611 in the real Yankee Stadium. I had my tickets there from 1997-2008, and the Yankees made the playoffs every season except the last one, winning the World Series three consecutive seasons from 1998-2000 (although only clinching the 1999 Fall Classic in the Bronx).

Not only were the seats fantastic, but there was a sense of community in Box 611. Many of the people in the section had the same tickets for years, and I never felt alone at a ballgame on the occasional day or night when I couldn’t find anyone to take my second ticket. We laughed together when the Boston Red Sox choked year after year (until 2004, but let’s not get into that). We cried together when people experienced tragedies, like the loss of the father of one of my best friends during the 1999 World Series. We drank together (BOY, did we drink together!), and we enjoyed the entire experience, whether it was a cold, rainy night against the then-inept Tampa Bay Devil Rays, a beautiful summer afternoon matinee against the hated Red Sox, or time for the intensity of the postseason.

Although the new Yankee Stadium exceeded my expectations when it comes to appearance, the atmosphere has never been the same. As I said earlier, the real fans were pushed higher and further away from the field, leaving embarrassing acres of empty seats on field level, and basically destroying any kind of home-field advantage. Why did this happen? Many fans, myself included, were forced into buying full season tickets in order to get anything resembling a decent location — the seats I was offered to remain in a half-season plan were thoroughly and completely unacceptable. So we all turned into ticket brokers. After all, how many people do you know who can actually go to 81 games, or 41 games?

Since the new ballpark opened its doors, StubHub has been flooded with tickets. Sure, some of them are from people who wouldn’t know a baseball if they swallowed one, and who are just looking to turn a profit. But a healthy chunk of them are from people like myself who are just trying to get some money back on tickets we were basically forced into purchasing and can’t use. The easy access to tickets means two things: Season-ticket holders like myself end up selling tickets at a loss, unless they’re for premium games like the Red Sox, the Philadelphia Phillies, Opening Day, or Old Timer’s Day — you know, exactly the type of games that represent the reason most people buy tickets in the first place. And the number of opposing fans in the ballpark borders on irritating.

The view from Section 314 at the new Yankee Stadium

Another side effect of the StubHub frenzy: Unlike the community feel of Box 611, there is zero sense of community in the new Yankee Stadium. I went to about 30 games in my 2010 seats in section 314, and I recognized people in the section a handful of times, if it was even that many. Every time I struck up a conversation with someone in seats around me, the answer was the same: “Oh, yeah, I bought them on StubHub.” Managing the season tickets became a part-time job, and an often unrewarding job, at that.

I’m far from alone in feeling this way. Ross Sheingold from NYY Stadium Insider expressed many of the same frustrations in his very well-written blog post.

However, when all is said and done, the main reason why I didn’t keep the tickets was simple: I have been unemployed since October 2008 and, while I have been making some money by blogging, it’s nowhere near enough to justify buying the tickets. I refuse to let a balance accumulate on my credit card unless it’s an absolute, critical, unavoidable emergency, which Yankees tickets don’t qualify as, no matter how much I love having them. A lot of my friends who were regulars are in equally crappy situations where they can’t get to anywhere near the number of games they used to attend. And my wife and I are trying to start a family, which will add more strain to an already-stretched budget, leaving no room for the kind of financial commitment the Yankees require.

Still, if the Yankees were still playing in the original ballpark across the street, I know things would be different. If I still had my seats in Box 611, I’d fight tooth and nail to keep them. My wife and I never, ever fight, but if Box 611 were still in the picture, the truce may have been broken. I just don’t have the same passion for my seats in the new Yankee Stadium. I hate saying this, but they simply weren’t worth fighting for.

I’ll still go to a bunch of games, via StubHub, tickets from friends, and what-not. But not having season tickets for the first time since 1997 feels like a divorce. It’s been a part of my fabric for so long, that there’s just an empty feeling right now. This sucks.

Box 611, missed more and more with every passing day :(

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No Flash: Just like an iPad, only different (and much crappier)

To say that the PC I use at my freelance job is as useful as a smoldering heap of turd would be an insult to heaps of turd throughout the world. It’s slow, sluggish and lacking many elements that people take for granted, Adobe Flash among them.

Adobe Flash

One of the biggest criticisms of the Apple iPad is that it doesn’t support Flash, which means users of the tablet can’t see a lot of video content on the Web. However, while the lack of Flash support represents a fairly serious issue, the iPad is still much cooler and much more advanced than the creaky Pentium 4 HP with an undersized monitor that I’m stuck with at work.

The problem is that as a freelancer, I’m the lowest person on the totem pole, and I certainly don’t feel empowered enough to bitch about anything equipment-related. When the nice, big monitor I had for my first couple of weeks on the job fizzled out and was replaced by the Etch-a-Sketch I’m using now, I smiled and said, “Thank you.”

My policy as a freelancer is to draw as little attention to myself as possible, because my tenure at this job can end instantly, without the details of letting a full-time employee go, such as dealing with benefits and severance packages.

So while every single person on this planet does personal things online during work hours — and don’t even try to tell me you don’t — I still don’t want to advertise the fact that I engage in that activity. And the lack of Flash hinders me more in my personal use of the Web than it does in my work-related use, although it has definitely tripped me up while doing actual work, as well.

Not having Flash has mostly been a problem when trying to sneak in a little work for my other freelance gig while between stories (hush up now). Tech-related sites tend to use newer technology (not that Flash is that new, but you get my point), so I have a great deal of trouble accessing sites like TechCrunch. I can’t use Scribd to upload documents. I can’t use Seesmic Web to manage my Twitter account (which made me realize just how badly Twitter.com sucks ass).

When it comes to really personal Web use, the biggest annoyance is the fact that live game trackers like those on ESPN.com or MLB.com don’t work without Flash, so when I’m stuck in the office during a Yankees game — which happens far too often for my tastes — I have to rely on my Droid to keep tabs on the team. In my opinion, if I’m going to be stuck in the office during a ballgame, an HDTV feed, snacks and beer should be provided. Unfortunately, management and I don’t see eye-to-eye on that. But at least let me follow the damn game on my PC.

Sadly, until the IT department at this company realizes that Pentium 4 chips, Windows XP and Internet Explorer 6 ceased their tenures as state-of-the-art five years ago, I doubt I’ll ever see Flash on this heap of junk.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to refresh the browser on my Droid for the 593rd time so I can see how the Yanks are doing.

Categories: baseball, business, life, sports, technology, venting | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Unemployment Nine: Summer is my favorite time of the year but, so far, this one truly sucks

I love summer. I really do. It’s by far my favorite time of the year. But I feel like the economy, Mother Nature and some other cruel forces are conspiring to make sure this summer ranks among the worst of my life.

My mood this summer

I knew I was likely in for an emotional come-down following our wedding and honeymoon. I mean, two weeks in Hawaii represented the trip of a lifetime, so I never expected the summer to compete with that. But I also didn’t expect it to suck a big, fat one, like it has thus far.

First off, there’s the lingering unemployment situation. I’ve been on a whopping total of one interview since returning from our honeymoon in mid-May, and I’ve also had one phone interview. In both cases, I knew right away that the respective positions and I were not good fits. So it’s been months since I’ve even sniffed any hopes of a full-time job, and a very sobering anniversary is quickly approaching. Unless something drastic happens between now and Oct. 2, I will have hit the dreaded two-year mark of unemployment. In my absolute worst assessments of my situation, I’d have never predicted coming close to that milestone.

Anyone who has followed this blog knows that I’m not sitting around eating ice cream and watching soap operas. But I’m a little frustrated with both of my freelance jobs, as well.

The one I began recently basically destroys my Thursday and Friday nights, and I hate the fact that the pace is glacial, and I have no control whatsoever over it. There’s absolutely nothing I can do but sit and wait, and wait, and wait. It’s good in one way, because I get paid by the hour, so obviously, the longer I’m there, the more I make. But there are times when the hourly rate isn’t even remotely fair compensation for the activities I’m giving up, just to sit there and listen to people debate over every last clause that will appear in a medium that I am completely over: print. I don’t believe in what I’m doing, which makes it very difficult for me.

And when it comes to the one I’ve had for a little more than one year, I’m frustrated because I don’t get the sense that any improvement in my situation is imminent, whether it’s an increase in the amount of money I get paid per post, or an offer to come on board full-time, although those were mentioned as possibilities when I started. I feel like I’ve been bypassed by other people, albeit many of them worthy and deserving, and it seems like I’m speeding down a dead-end street. And the vibe in general has been far more negative than positive. I’m not a dog, and I don’t need someone to pat me on the head and say, “Good boy,” after every story I post, but receiving e-mail after e-mail of negative feedback without one positive note is not doing wonders for my attitude or my outlook.

The problem is, with my current financial state, I can’t even remotely afford to give up either job, so I have no choice but to solider on, regardless of how unhappy I am and how unrewarded I feel, whether monetarily or just in terms of fulfillment and getting some enjoyment out of my work.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m very happy to have both opportunities. Having something to focus on and being able to contribute at least some money into the household are both valuable commodities. But I’m just not happy doing what I’m doing right now and, as I said, I’m doing what I can to keep both jobs out of necessity, not out of pride in my work, or enjoying what I’m doing.

Summer, however, usually provides the cure-all, as I usually spend it doing some of my favorite things: going to baseball games, playing softball and going to the beach. This summer, however, has not been very good for any of those activities.

My wife and I are finally going down to Long Beach Island for a long weekend in a few days. As much as I’m looking forward to it, I fear that it will only whet my appetite for what I’ve been missing all summer.

And this obviously affects everyone, not just myself, but the weather this summer has been about as miserable as any summer I can remember in my 42 years of existence. It seems like the two weather conditions are high 90s-low 100s with suffocating humidity, or raining, and the latter usually comes up if I have Yankees tickets or a softball game. This weather just makes it nearly impossible to enjoy anything.

Softball is usually one of my best escapes from drudgery, but I just can’t get on track this season. Between having to miss games due to the newer freelance job, or games getting rained out, it seems like every time I start to feel comfortable at the plate, I end up not playing for two weeks, which sends me right back to square one. I’ve been trying to hit the batting cage regularly, but even in slow-pitch softball, there’s a big difference between getting it done in the batting cage and getting it done on the field. And I take it very personally when I don’t play well, often because my game that week was the one activity I’d been looking forward to for days. And naturally, when I don’t play well and my team loses, I feel like I’ve let my teammates down.

The weather has taken its toll on my Yankees experience this season, as well. It’s just that much harder to enjoy a ballgame when you’re coated in sweat and you feel like the sky is pressing down on you. Plus, I’ve had to sell my tickets for a few games I really wanted to attend, thanks to, you guessed it, the newer freelance job. I love Thursday-afternoon ball games, but I can’t afford to give up a day’s pay to go to them.

Look, I know things could be a lot worse. I could still be single. I could have no money coming in at all. I could have jobs that are a lot worse and that don’t even resemble what I’m trying to do. But sometimes it’s difficult to rationalize the fact that just because things could be worse, it doesn’t mean they don’t pretty much suck right now.

I really hope things turn around and I get to at least enjoy the second half of this summer, because Oct. 2 is looming and getting closer and closer, which will not do wonders for my mood or state of mind.

Categories: baseball, business, life, sports, travel, venting | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Unemployment Nine: A little clarity in an otherwise-confusing situation

My confusing work situation is a little less confusing, but I’m still very confused. Confused? Good, join the club.

confusion

It appears that I will spend two more full weeks at the freelance copy-editing job I started practically seconds after my return flight from Hawaii landed. After that, I will come in for the publication’s two busiest days, Thursday and Friday.

The good news: I will regain some of the flexibility and free time I’ve gotten all-too-accustomed to in the past 20 months, allowing me to resharpen my focus on my blogging gig and giving me the time to interview for the elusive full-time job I’ve been chasing since October 2008, as well as to get things done around the house and run errands. And, most important, the hours I put in on Thursdays and Fridays at the copy-editing job bring in more money than an entire week of blogging, so I’d be a fool to turn down the opportunity.

The bad news: For as long as I have this Thursday/Friday gig, I basically have no life on Thursday or Friday nights, which happen to be two of the most popular nights for things like games, cocktails, dinners out and the like. I’ve been here for three weeks, and my departure times have ranged from 9 p.m.-9:15 p.m. on Thursdays and 7:30 p.m.-8:15 p.m. on Fridays. Even though Fridays don’t end that late in comparison, by that time of the week, my brain is completely fried and my body is totally exhausted, and I’m not great company (Note: To anyone who was about to comment, “When are you EVER great company?” go get bent.) Only coming in two days per week will definitely help the energy level, but it’s still pretty draining work.

Plus, I still can’t get used to one aspect of working on a freelance basis, although it’s perfectly logical. I hate the fact that taking time off, or even a holiday, means forfeiting potential earnings, unlike working on a permanent basis, on salary, when holidays and vacation time are built into the compensation structure and don’t eat away at my bank account.

One might say, “You’ve been out of work for 20 months. Why do you need time off?” And I might tell one to go fuck one’s self. While I may not have a “full-time,” permanent job right now, I’ve been working pretty damn hard, especially recently, while trying to juggle two jobs.

And summer happens to be my favorite time of the year. I love going to Yankees weekday-afternoon games, or even the occasional 11 a.m. Newark Bears game. I love the idea of a long weekend at the beach, especially since I’m no longer part of a beach house. I believe it’s healthy, for both the body and the mind, to recharge and spend some time outdoors while the weather permits it.

I never liked the feeling that I was wasting a vacation day when I was working full-time. But it makes the decision even tougher when I have to factor in not only the money I’ll spend during the day, but the money I won’t be making. There’s a huge difference between spending about $100 for a Yankees ticket and beer, and quadrupling that amount when subtracting my pay for the day. It’s really not worth $400, give or take a few posts or copy-edited stories, to see a ballgame, as much as I enjoy baseball. But I seriously need the break here and there.

So, we’ll see where the next step takes me. As I said earlier, it will be good to have some of my free time back, and to have a much-less-hectic schedule. I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to the life of a freelancer, but after 20 months and counting, it’s hard to remain optimistic about finding a full-time gig, and it gets harder and harder as the weeks go by.

Categories: baseball, business, life, sports, travel, venting | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Hey, Baltimore Orioles: How about getting your shit together?

A once-proud franchise, the Baltimore Orioles, has become a disgrace to Major League Baseball, posting losing season after losing season, and carrying rosters filled with ill-prepared young players and past-their-prime veterans. Something needs to be done about this, and quickly.

“But, wait,” the observant reader might be saying to himself or herself right now, “Nine is a Yankees fan. Why does he give a shit about the Orioles?”

Orioles SUCK

Well, I will tell you why I give a shit: The Orioles are costing me money, because I can’t give my damned Yankees tickets away when their sorry asses are in town. I ate my tickets to tonight’s game — which Baltimore lost in classic Orioles fashion, on a two-run throwing error by washed-up third baseman Miguel Tejada, who is clearly not enjoying the post-steroids phase of his career — despite having dropped the price for $55 seats to $15 on StubHub this afternoon. And I haven’t had a taker for tomorrow night’s game, or the Thursday-afternoon matinee.

The Orioles have become what the Tampa Bay Rays used to be: The one horrific fucking team in the division that comes up on the schedule 18 times per season and gives fans no reason to want to attend the games. If the Yankees win, they were supposed to win, and if they lose, well, how in the fuck did they lose to the stinking Orioles?

To Tampa’s credit, the Rays have gone from perennial cellar dweller to a legitimate championship contender and, if the club’s farm system can replace a couple of key players who will likely leave in search of greener pastures after this season (Carl Crawford), this team can be in the mix for quite a few years.

The Orioles used to be one of baseball’s model franchises. Almost every one of their prospects came up to the Major Leagues knowing how to play the game the right way, because “The Oriole Way” actually meant something. Now, “The Oriole Way” just means tanking yet another season. Ever since Peter Angelos became the owner of this ball club, things have gone downhill year after year.

It’s a shame. Baltimore has great baseball fans, and Camden Yards is still one of the best ballparks in the league. Ask any opposing fans, since they usually make up two-thirds of the crowd.

If any Orioles fans happen to read this blog, what I wrote isn’t intended as an insult to you. You should agree 100% with my sentiments. What has happened to this team over the past 15 years or so is disgraceful, and you deserve better.

So, Baltimore Orioles: Can you try not to suck so I can actually sell a fucking ticket occasionally?

Categories: baseball, sports, venting | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

There used to be a ballpark, part II

Anybody who knows me already knows quite well how I feel about the destruction of the real Yankee Stadium. While the new Yankee Stadium has definitely grown on me, watching the old ballpark being torn down feels like losing a family member. I still can’t digest the idea that Box 611 no longer exists.

What was left of the real Yankee Stadium on Opening Day

When you’re younger, you think everything will last forever, including ballparks. Then as you move on in life, you come to the sad realization that nothing is forever.

The wounds of Yankee Stadium are still fresh. Even though the Yankees christened the new ballpark with a World Series championship, the skeletal remains of the real ballpark are still looming.

The past couple of weeks have brought the beginnings of a new baseball season, but also two more endings related to my favorite teams: Texas Stadium, the former home of the Dallas Cowboys, was imploded (see below). And while the building isn’t going anywhere just yet, the New Jersey Nets played their last game at the IZOD Center (formerly known as the Continental Airlines Arena, Brendan Byrne Arena and the Meadowlands Arena), as the team is finally taking my advice and moving to Newark, allegedly for two years while the Barclays Center in Brooklyn is being built, but, as I’ve said repeatedly, I’ll believe the team is moving to Brooklyn when I see a building.

The New Jersey Nets thank all 27 of their fans

Neither building means anywhere near as much to be as the real Yankee Stadium did.

I only went to two Cowboys games in Texas Stadium and, as magnificent as the new Cowboys Stadium looks on TV, it’s still weird not seeing the ugly but familiar building I grew up watching on TV.

And while the New Jersey Nets’ best two seasons as a franchise came at the IZOD Center (then Continental Airlines Arena), the building itself had very little character and, thanks to the Nets’ piss-poor fan base, even less atmosphere.

Still, it’s bizarre to see three buildings that were part of my fabric as a sports fan disappear (I know the IZOD Center is still standing, but Disney on Ice is not a sport, and the Devils, Nets and Seton Hall are all gone). Nothing is forever and, sometimes, change is good, but that doesn’t make it any less jarring or weird.

Categories: baseball, basketball, football, sports | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The best part about 2009 (well … besides getting engaged)? It wasn’t 2008!

Everyone else is doing year-end blog posts, so what the hell? And what better way to do so than actually waiting until the last day of the year, sitting in the recliner, on the laptop, sipping an Exit 1 Bayshore Oyster Stout (yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like, stout brewed with oysters) from Flying Fish Brewing, with a cat assisting me by resting on the back of the recliner (Hi, Trouble!)?

So, here goes nothing. I didn’t think 2009 was an overly good year or an overly bad year. It was pretty mixed for me, with more good than bad, but not enough good to call it wonderful. This is in direct contrast to 2008, which can pretty much go to hell. I managed to lose my job, my favorite bar and my ballpark in 2008, while 2009 brought some sadness, but nowhere near on the level of 2008.

In Newport, R.I., just before getting engaged

The highlight of 2009, by far, was getting engaged. It was a remarkable day, spent in Newport, R.I., and a remarkable experience that I will never forget. I have yet to experience one second of doubt about this and likely never will.

The precursor to getting engaged was fun, as well: Welcoming my fiancée and her cat, Skittles, to the apartment my two cats, Trouble and 8-Ball, graciously allow me to occupy. Trouble and 8-Ball still hate Skittles, but their skirmishes have become more amusing than alarming. As for the humans, we’re getting along just fine, thank you!

Anyone who knows me and has gotten to this point is saying, “Um, what about the World Series, jackass?” About fucking time! The entire season for the Yankees was a great run, starting way back when I first saw the new Yankee Stadium, before the start of the regular season. Yes, I would move back across the street in a heartbeat, and I miss the old ballpark like a lost family member. But it was great to have the Yankees rise back to the top again, and I really liked the makeup of this team, as opposed to some of the underachieving squads of the mid-2000s.

Skittles

I went to two weddings that I was very happy about, within weeks of each other. Both brides are longtime friends of mine, one much longer than the other, and both finally found perfect matches and soul mates, which was quite heart-warming. It’s funny to think of how much I used to hate weddings, and how quickly my opinion of them reversed when the prospect of actually being a groom inched closer to reality.

My then-girlfriend, now-fiancée and I went on a great trip to Cancun and, even though it was more than nine months ago, I still find myself dealing with insatiable cravings for Mojitos at 11 a.m. on occasion. We also went to Cape May and loved it and, of course, there was Newport, where I finally popped the question (without actually popping the question, as I am constantly reminded of … sigh!).

Now, on to the not-so-good: The obvious lowlight is pretty simple. If anyone had told me that I would go an entire calendar year and not spend one second working on a full-time job, I’d have asked them when I won the lottery or was named in the will of a rich old aunt I had never met. This economy sucks, this recession sucks, and this job market sucks. I’d have completely lost what little mind I have left if it wasn’t for the one part-time job I still have.

Bidie, R.I.P.

One of my favorite pooches went on to doggy heaven. I still miss Bidie. I lived with the little bug-eyed, hot-tempered, 200-decibel-snoring rascal of a Boston Terrier for a year, but I knew her for most of her long, happy life, and there was a strong bond between us. As I said in my tribute post to her: If there’s a dog run in Heaven, I hope all of the other dogs up there are quick, or they might be in for a rude awakening.

For the first time since 2001, I was not part of a beach house on LBI, mostly for financial reasons. It turned out to be a good summer to skip, as it seemed like it rained almost every weekend, but there’s a certain calm and peacefulness about being near water, and I truly missed that all summer.

My Aunt Rose gave me a huge scare, as she suffered a minor heart attack and minor stroke in October. It was very unsettling for a while, as she was having a great deal of trouble expressing things like names, numbers and dates, but she’s improved to the point where she’s very, very close to 100%. I knew things were on the upside when she started nagging again.

So as I said earlier, overall, 2009 was pretty mixed, and it doesn’t draw the same “two middle fingers up” response that 2008 would. There was a lot of good and lot of bad, but the good outweighed the bad. Whatever else happens in 2010 (a job would be nice), our wedding April 25 and the honeymoon in Hawaii directly afterward will be the highlights, and I’m ecstatic about both.

The Flying Fish Exit 1 Bayshore Oyster Stout is now history, and I am currently enjoying a Defiant Christmas Ale as I post this. Happy New Year to all who read this, and I hope 2010 is better for everyone. Cheers!

My fiancée and I on the beach at Key West

Categories: alcohol, baseball, beer, business, cats, dogs, life, sports, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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