Ravens & Caps teach O’s a lesson, but are they learning?

January 12, 2009 | Drew Forrester

I’ve talked and written a lot recently about the connection between sports franchises and their fan base.

A couple of weeks ago, I authored a piece about the Ravens in which I chronicled how they embrace the community while the baseball team in town “disembraces” the community.  Yes, I know, now, that disembraces is not a word – but I’m trying to copyright it and have it entered in the 2010 Webster’s dictionary.  More on that down the road.

I would urge all of you to take a look at this.

It’s from the Washington Capitals.  More specifically, it’s from their owner, Ted Leonsis.

Here’s a man who clearly “gets it”.  In 2009, the concept employed by smart sports teams is to offer MAXIMUM access.  That’s what the Caps have done.  The Ravens are trying to do it as well, with their web-site, blogging efforts, relationship with the media, and, the access they’re trying to give Baltimore football fans.  We – along with every other radio station in town – have promoted the Ravens throughout the season with player shows, daily interviews and other on-air snippets from the players and coaching staff.  Joe Flacco is the star quarterback of the team and guess what he’s done every Tuesday at 8:30 am since the season started?  He’s talked to me on the Comcast Morning Show.  Other players have similar arrangements with other stations in town.  

You can’t survive today if you don’t invite the fans in and give them an up-close view of how your franchise works. 

It goes back to the old theory:  “Everyone else is doing it, why shouldn’t we?”

That’s where the Orioles are missing the boat.

These days, instead of forking over MORE access to Baltimore sports fans, they’re restricting information about their team and their players.  You can’t win like that.  You won’t win like that.

It’s about MORE access, not LESS.

Ted Leonsis gets that.  Go to www.washingtoncaps.com and see for yourself.  Other than playing in the game itself, you can’t get any closer to the team than the Caps allow.  Same goes for the Ravens.  You want to hear what Joe Flacco thinks about Saturday’s win at Tennessee?  Listen in tomorrow morning at 8:30 am and you’ll find out…on WNST Radio.

I reached out to the Orioles 10 days ago with a request to broadcast from their spring training site in late February.  I was going to give them four days of four hours a day — and promote THEIR team and THEIR season and THEIR tickets…and guess what their response was?  

I’m still waiting for it, actually.

Another AM radio station in town has also made a similar request to the O’s since the start of the new year. They also want to broadcast live from Ft. Lauderdale.  Guess what they heard?  The proverbial “crickets”.

So, it’s not just about this stupid, viperish “cold war” the Orioles have launched against me and/or WNST. They’re refusing to work with plenty of other media outlets in town.

Think about that for a minute:  They just drew less than 2 million people in 2008 – their team (even they would admit this) is NOT going to be competitive in 2009 – and there are media folks in town asking for permission to cover the team in Ft. Lauderdale and the Orioles are saying “no, we don’t want you.”

That would be like you or your family owning a steak restaurant and the steak magazine convention coming to your city and asking for a reservation for 20 writers and the maitre’d saying, “no thanks, we’re doing fine.”

The Ravens are on their way to the Super Bowl, perhaps.

The Caps could be holding up the Stanley Cup this June.

Every Ravens game has been sold out this decade.

The Caps only have 25,000 tickets left FOR THE ENTIRE SEASON.

And they’re giving MORE access, not less.  

Ted Leonsis understands how it works.  You have to communicate with people in 2009.  They ask a question, you have an answer.  Fans who e-mail Leonsis get an e-mail in return from him, personally.

The Caps have made a player or member of their staff available to me every Wednesday morning at 8:45 am throughout the season.  They’re in – gasp! – Washington — and I’m getting someone on the air every week on a Baltimore station.  

Send a member of the Ravens staff an e-mail and hardly an occasion goes by when it’s not returned within 60 minutes.  

I send the Orioles e-mails and I don’t get a reply from anyone – forget about a response from the person I send it to…I don’t even get a reply from the $8.00 an hour half-an-intern who just sits at a computer and answers e-mails.

Go to the Caps web-site or the Ravens web-site and check out the interaction between management, players and staff members.  Fans want to know more – and because they pay everyone’s salary, there’s an argument they deserve to know more.

You’re going to lose in every element of the game if you don’t give the fans what they want.

The Orioles must understand that limiting access to their players and management is not a recipe for success.  It’s a recipe for failure.

They need the fans.  It’s not the other way around.

All of those empty green seats at Camden Yards over the last three years have been the loudest voice in the city.

And the seats that have been filled at M&T Bank Stadium and the Verizon Center tell me I’m right.

You fight with the fans — you lose.  

That’s not a low blow…just a fact.