John Oliver’s “dress like you don’t belong there” Yankees stunt ends sadly hobo-free

John Oliver’s stunt to put fans in premium New York Yankees seats who promise to dress like they’ve never been there before — a dig at team COO Lonn Trost, who defended the team’s ticket resale restrictions because sitting next to non-rich folks would be a “frustration to our existing fan base” — ended up more of a costume party, with fans dressed as Ninja Turtles, sharks, unicorns, and dinosaurs ending up seated behind home plate.

john-oliver-ninja-turtlesAP_16098111550650bronx-unicornsoliverfansAll things considered, I’ve got to say that this is kind of disappointing. The ostensible goal of this gimmick was to point out the classism behind Trost’s statement: He was implying that if fans could buy good seats for below face value, the ones who’d paid full price would be offended by having to sit next to the hoi polloi. (It’s probable that Trost doesn’t actually believe this, of course; he’s more concerned that if fans can buy seats for below face value, he’ll have a harder time selling them for thousands of dollars a pop.) Instead, it turned into two frat brothers from Villanova putting on cheap dinosaur outfits and sitting behind home plate, which is pretty much like every day at Yankee Stadium, only the dinosaurs the fans are dressing as aren’t wearing number 13.

If Oliver’s staff really wanted to drive home the point, they’d have given the tickets to somebody dressed like this: Emmett_Kelly_1953If nothing else, I’d have loved to have seen what happened when they went to sign up for the fingerprint scanning to get a fast pass through security.

Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch just wrote John Oliver’s show for next week

If you slept through the last week, this headline from Detroit Curbed probably has you utterly baffled:

Ilitch Responds to John Oliver’s Critique of Stadium Deal

Yes, that’s the owner of the Detroit Red Wings (and Detroit Tigers, and Little Caesar’s Pizza) issuing a press statement in response to an HBO comedian’s criticism of his deal to get $300 million in public subsidies for a new hockey arena. And what was Ilitch’s response?

“This project is about so much more than a world-class sports and entertainment arena; it’s about transforming a core part of our city for the benefit of the entire community,” the statement said. “The new Detroit arena and The District Detroit will create 8,300 construction and construction-related jobs, as well as at least 1,100 permanent jobs. To date, the Detroit Downtown Development Authority has approved nine contracts worth $121 million, of which Detroit-based and -headquartered businesses have won more than 88% — or $106 million. Initiatives of this size, scope and impact — $1.8 billion dollars for our city, region and state — are almost universally public-private partnerships. The majority of this development is being privately financed, and no City of Detroit general funds are involved whatsoever.”

That doesn’t actually counter any of Oliver’s criticisms, which amounted to pointing out that 1) Ilitch is getting $280 million in public funds, 2) Ilitch is worth an estimated $5.1 billion, 3) Detroit filed for bankruptcy the week before all this was approved, and 4) Little Caesar’s Crazy Bread sucks. In fact, the majority of the development is not privately financed (it’s 58% public, even by the Detroit Free Press’s conservative math), and while city general funds aren’t being used, development funds that would otherwise go to other city projects are, as is a gift of free city land.

In short: Watch John Oliver’s show next week, because he just got handed a whole lot of new material. Thanks, funnyman Mike Ilitch!

The punchline missing from last night’s great John Oliver segment on stadium scams

I don’t want to in any way criticize Last Week Tonight with John Oliver’s outstanding segment last night, which did a terrific job hitting all the highlights of the stadium subsidy game. But I did want to add a side note to one of Oliver’s examples:

Teams are shameless in manipulating cities’ fears. In 1997, the Minnesota Twins even ran an ad showing a player visiting a child in hospital with cancer, and the tagline: ‘If the Twins leave Minnesota, an 8-year-old in Wilmar undergoing chemotherapy will never get a visit from Marty Cordova. Which is less like the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and more like the Make-A-Threat Foundation.

All true! But it actually turned out to be even worse than that, as the Minneapolis City Pages reported at the time:

Then there was the TV ad aimed at prodding fans to rally the legislature, which depicted Twins outfielder Marty Cordova going to see a sick child at the Minneapolis Ronald McDonald House. “If the Twins leave Minnesota, an 8-year-old from Willmar undergoing chemotherapy will never get a visit from Marty Cordova,” the announcer intoned, as the screen faded to black. To make matters even more repulsive, it turned out that by the time the ad aired, the patient had died.

Also, nobody had bothered consulting Twins outfielder Cordova, whose charity had sponsored the hospital visits, and who objected vociferously to being used for owner Carl Pohlad’s stadium shakedown. The ad was quickly pulled, the Minnesota state legislature declined to fund a new Twins stadium, and the team moved to — er, that is, kept on plugging away at getting public stadium money out of Minnesota, until finally the legislature gave in. That’ll show those lousy dead-cancer-kid-mongers, right?

John Oliver on sports shakedowns: “We replace stadiums even faster than we replace Spider-Men”

And here’s last night’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, which not only gave a great overview of stadium shakedown craziness (I’m especially pleased that the Milwaukee Bucksmagic basketball put in an appearance), but which culminated in a rousing speech that needs to be shown in the 4th quarter of every sports venue negotiation until the end of time. Put down your breakfast and watch now: