Que Sarah, Sarah

Monday, March 24, 2008

Love It Or Hate It - Guarantees...

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


By Sarah Spain
Love of Sports Correspondent

Guarantee - (guar·an·tee)

--noun: 1. assurance: something that assures a specific outcome
--verb: 1. give assurance of something: to promise something, or make something certain

Seems these days a lot of athletes don’t quite get the meaning of the word "guarantee."

Take Chicago Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano. During Spring Training last year, Z "guaranteed" not only that he would win the Cy Young award, but that the Cubs would win the 2007 World Series, too.

Chicago fans are still waiting. For both.

Last December, Steelers defensive back Anthony Smith "guaranteed" a win against the then-undefeated Patriots. New England won the game 34-13 and Smith got burned by the long ball on the Pats’ first two scores of the day.

Just this past February, Toronto Raptors small forward Jamario Moon "guaranteed" a victory in the 2008 Slam Dunk Contest. Moon was eliminated after the first round and watched from the sidelines as Magic star Dwight Howard donned a cape and cemented his place in Slam Dunk history.

A lot of fans are starting to hate the false promises athletes are throwing around. The press blows a story way out of proportion and rarely, if ever, does a guy’s winning pledge come true.

These days, a guarantee is nothing more than billboard material for opposing teams and fodder for the media. All sound and no fury. All bark and no bite. If bettors made such empty guarantees to bookies and husbands made ’em to their wives, there’d be hell to pay.

But that’s just the thing. Athletes aren’t actually guaranteeing anything tangible when they make predictions. If he wins, a player’s prophecy looks heroic - the stuff legends are made of.

Who didn’t love it when Joe Namath guaranteed victory over the heavily-favored Colts in ’69? Who can forget Babe Ruth’s called shot homer high into the center field stands? What would America do without the CEO of Men’s Wearhouse assuring prospective customers: "You’re going to like the way you look. I guarantee it."

On the other hand, if things don’t go his way, a guy’s got nothing to lose but his pride.

Until now.

Brett Bouchy, managing partner of the Arena Football League’s Arizona Rattlers, has made the kind of promise only auto shops and pizza delivery guys can make: a 100% money-back guarantee.

If the Rattlers don’t make the playoffs this year, Bouchy has pledged to refund every single cent season ticket holders spent on their seats.

Twelve of the league’s 17 teams make the playoffs, so the call isn’t quite as crazy as it sounds. However, nothing’s certain in the world of pro sports.

Just ask the 2007 Miami Dolphins. What if the team’s execs had made a similar guarantee, promising at least two wins last season? Or if the Michigan Wolverines had promised a full refund to boosters in the event of a loss to Appalachian State?

Last season, the Rattlers went 4-12, missing the playoffs while posting some of the worst attendance records in franchise history. Bouchy’s move, while risky, will no doubt result in elevated ticket sales and increased publicity for the squad. More hype = more money = more fans.

Now the team just has to perform. And isn’t that what sports are all about anyway?

Right now Heat fans are forced to watch their 11-51 squad "compete" for lottery picks while Dwyane Wade rides the pine and Pat Riley disappears on scouting trips. Can you really expect Heat season ticket holders to pay for the privilege of watching an 11-win season? Should fans have to pay to see their team intentionally lose for the sake of a chance at Michael Beasley or Derrick Rose?

No. And that’s why I’m loving Bouchy’s guarantee.

What say you? Sports guarantees: Do you Love ’Em or Hate ’Em?

5:51 PM - 1 Comments - 2 Kudos - Add Comment - Edit - Remove

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Shoutout To HoHoKam


By Sarah Spain
Love of Sports Correspondent

About 1,800 miles west of Wrigley Field stands the other home of the Chicago Cubs: HoHoKam Park.

The stadium has opened its gates to the team and its fans for the last 12 seasons, and the city of Mesa, Arizona's been welcoming them for even longer. For 30 consecutive years, and 44 altogether, the pride of the North Side has been holding Spring Training in Mesa, smack dab in the middle of Arizona's beautiful Valley Of The Sun.

When Midwesterners simply can't stand the bitter chill of a Chicago winter any longer, they hop a flight to a place where the sun is always shining and hope for a World Series championship always springs eternal.

Millions of people descend upon Arizona each year for what is often a sort of "Spring Break" for the middle aged. The 12 major league teams in the Cactus League compete in seven stadiums within a 35-mile radius in the Phoenix area and two more in Tucson, less than two hours away. The close proximity of the teams and stadiums turns central Arizona into a baseball Mecca for the month of March.

HoHoKam, which has a capacity of 12,623 and sits on 48.45 acres of land, is one of the largest Cactus League venues, which suits the rabid Cubs fans just fine, as they hold every Spring Training attendance record in the book.

In 2005, the team broke its own record with a total spring home attendance of 193,993 — an average of 12,125 people per game. Last March, when the team faced the crosstown rivals White Sox, the turnstile clicked for 12,906 patrons — a new single-game record.

In response to the ever-growing numbers of fans, in 2007 HoHoKam added lights to the concourse and upgraded its souvenir shops and concessions. While some diehard fans sit right up front, carefully marking their scorecards and analyzing the swings of each young prospect, others view the ballpark as a open-air beer garden of sorts. The outfield lawn is always filled with 20-somethings who work on their tans and their buzzes while occasionally checking in on the game at hand.

Sprinkled amongst them are parents teaching tiny tots about the magic of baseball and the most beloved team in America, the Chicago Cubs. Before each game, the P.A. announcer cheerily declares the game temperature in Mesa, followed by the temperature in Chicago. It's no wonder the seats at HoHoKam are always full.

Everyone knows there's no better place to fall in love with baseball than Wrigley Field, but when the temperatures dip below zero and the Friendly Confines are covered in snow, HoHoKam is a welcome home away from home. The intimate and relaxed nature of Spring Training makes it the best time for fans to see their favorite players up close. Regulars know where to stand before and after games to get autographs and chat with their heroes or meet new guys, like Kosuke Fukudome, who end up making a big splash in the majors.

For Cubs fans, Spring Training is the clean slate, fresh start, new beginning that beckons from the distance at the end of every disappointing season. Before the first regular season pitch is thrown, and before the first blue "L" flag ever has a chance to mar the skyline over Wrigley, fans get to be hopeful yet again. In Mesa, for Cubs fans, it doesn't ever have to be about "next year."


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