Previous “COVID-19” posts

Depressing Swag

Thursday, July 30th, 2020

As previously discussed, I don’t find the idea of a virtual road race terribly compelling. But an $8, branded face mask from a virtual road race?

Now that’s just depressing.

Fake Fans in Empty Stadiums

Friday, July 24th, 2020

Baseball is back. It’s back, and it’s goddamned weird. The abbreviated 2020 season kicked off with two games last night, and while they were strange for many reasons, one of the most obvious was the lack of any actual fans. Understandably, fans will not be permitted in the ballparks this season.

There is crowd noise being piped in, however, and approximately half of major league teams will also be putting representations of their fans in the stadium. This is being done with cutouts printed from fan photos. For your amusement, as well as for posterity, I recorded a comprehensive look at all of these fan cutout programs. Save this link for a few decades, then share just a bit of the weirdness of 2020 with your grandkids.

Atlanta Braves

Name: Braves Country Cutouts
Cost: $50, $25 for “A-List Members” [Link]
Beneficiary: The Atlanta Braves Foundation

Additional Notes: The parenthetical in this statement is so very depressing: “Truist Park will not feel like home unless we see (photos of) your faces in the stands”.

Boston Red Sox

Name: Monster Home Run Challenge
Cost: $500 [Link]
Beneficiary: The Red Sox Foundation

Additional Notes: This is by far the most expensive program in the majors, with a $500 donation only buying your cut-out 1/2 of the season.

However, the cutout will have some tremendous seats, on top of Fenway Park’s famous Green Monster. Also, if your cutout is hit by a Red Sox home run ball, you’ll win an assortment of prizes, including tickets to a 2021 ball game.

Chicago White Sox

Name: FANtastic Faces
Cost: $49 [Link]
Beneficiary: Chicago White Sox Charities

Additional Notes: Chicago’s program is unique in the bigs, as the cutouts will only be in the stadium for a single home stand. White Sox fan Paul Garrett purchased 100 identical cutouts, hilariously leading to this tableau:

Houston Astros

Name: Astros Fan Cutouts
Cost: $100 [Link]
Beneficiary: Unclear, though they list this as a “tax-deductible donation”

Additional Notes: Those who dislike the Astros should note that Houston’s program bars both “Inappropriate gestures” and “Obscene, lewd, explicit, discriminatory, derogatory, violent, offensive, infringing or otherwise inappropriate references”.

Kansas City Royals

Name: Fanbassador
Cost: $40 [Link]
Beneficiary: “A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Royals Respond Fund, a Royals Charities effort that supports Kansas City area nonprofits who focus on food insecurity as it relates to the coronavirus pandemic.”

Additional Notes: It appears this program is only open to Royals season ticket holders, and initially limited to 500 people.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Name: Los Angeles Dodgers Fan Cutouts & Pups at the Park
Cost: $299 (Pavilion Home Run Seats/Dugout Club), $149 (Field Level/Loge Level), $149 (Pups at the Park (Loge Level)) [Link]
Beneficiary: “Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation, as they tackle the most pressing problems facing Los Angeles with a mission to improve education, health care, homelessness, and social justice for all Angelenos.”

Additional Notes: Of course Los Angeles, land of the purse dog, sent out a separate press release announcing the $149 option to have your dog at the ballpark. As well, the Dodgers list the fair market value of the cutout itself at $11.25.

Milwaukee Brewers

Name: Brewers Cutout Crew
Cost: $50 [Link]
Beneficiary: Brewers Community Foundation & the Wisconsin Humane Society

Additional Notes: The photo guidelines note “A shirt color on a same color background will make you look like a floating head”, but it’s unclear if this is viewed as a negative or a positive.

Also, Milwaukee is photographing the cutouts in place so fans can see themselves, as seen below:

Minnesota Twins

Name: Twins Mosaic
Cost: Free [Link]
Beneficiary: N/A

Additional Notes: The Twins aren’t doing cutouts, but will instead have a massive 53×38 foot mosaic of fan photos looking down over the field.

New York Mets

Name: Mets Fan Cutouts
Cost: $86 [Link]
Beneficiary: Mets Foundation

Additional Notes: The New York Mets last won a World Series 34 years ago, and their $86 pricing reflects that 1986 championship. This also appears to be the only program that requires team gear, stating “Mets gear is a must!”.

Oakland A’s

Name: Coliseum Cutouts
Cost: $89 for general fans and pets, $49 for “A’s Access” members (Unclear if pets can join A’s Access), $129 for the Left Field Foul Ball Zone, $149 for the ALS CURE Project Right Field Foul Ball Zone [Link]
Beneficiary: ALS CURE, Tony LaRussa’s Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF) & the East Bay SPCA

Additional Notes: The A’s program has a lot going on. Most notably, when a “Foul Ball Zone” cutout gets hit by a ball, the fan will receive that ball.

Of note, A’s outfielder Stephen Piscotty’s mother was stricken with ALS in 2017. Before the 2018 season, Piscotty asked for a trade to be closer to home. Rather remarkably, this was granted, with the Cardinals sending him to Oakland. Sadly, his mother passed away during the 2018 season, but he’s now honoring her by providing autographed items and balls to raise money for ALS research. Good on you, Stephen.

Philadelphia Phillies

Name: Phillies Game Face
Cost: $40, $25 for season ticket holders [Link]
Beneficiary: “[P]roceeds benefiting Phillies charities”

Additional Notes: On opening day, healthcare workers will be honored free of charge. Details will be forthcoming on how fans can do the same for later games.

Also, in the true spirit of 2020, the incomparable Phillie Phanatic is the subject of a trademark battle, and has been redesigned. The rejiggered mascot will be at the park during games though, and thankfully, you’ll probably recognize him just fine.


Before and After

San Diego Padres

Name: Military Padres Fan Cutouts
Cost: Free [Link]
Beneficiary: N/A

Additional Notes: Initially, the team is honoring military personnel with free cutouts. Later cutouts will “follow themes that honor different groups and causes”, according to Padres President of Business Operations Erick Greupner

San Francisco Giants

Name: Giants Fan Cutouts & Cutouts for a Cause
Cost: $99, free for season ticket holders who rollover their account credit to 2021 rather than taking a refund [Link]
Beneficiary: Seemingly, the San Francisco Giants themselves

Additional Notes: While nearly every other program is charitable in nature, it seems the Giants are just planning to pocket this money. They are offering fans the chance to “sit” near celebrity cutouts, while raising money for the celebrity’s cause.

Seattle Mariners

Name: Mariners Seat Fleet
Cost: $30 [Link]
Beneficiary: “The Mariners will donate a portion of every purchase to non-profit organizations supporting COVID-related relief efforts in our communities.”

Additional Notes: This is the most affordable program in the bigs, and if your cutout is hit with a foul ball, you’ll get it sent to you. However, this is one of just two programs (along with the Mets) which explicitly states you will not receive your cutout at the end of the season. Then again, I don’t know what someone would actually do with a cutout of themself.

Tampa Bay Rays

Name: Rays Fan Cutouts
Cost: $60, $40 for season ticket holders [Link]
Beneficiary: Seemingly, the Tampa Bay Rays themselves

Additional Notes: Do the Tampa Bay Rays actually have season ticket holders?

Texas Rangers

Name: DoppelRangers
Cost: $50 [Link]
Beneficiary: Texas Rangers Baseball Foundation

Additional Notes: The Texas Rangers are opening a brand-new stadium this year, and I can’t think of a worse way to do it than with no fans. On the other hand, their program has the best name, bar none.

Toronto Blue Jays

At present, the 14 remaining teams have no cutout program. Among them, however, the Toronto Blue Jays are worth calling out specifically. That’s because they lack not just a fan cutout program, but a home ballpark in which to play.

Canada isn’t providing any exception to allow players to enter the country, and thus far, no American city has accepted the team. The baseball season has now begun, yet this poor team doesn’t even know where they’re going to play.

So yeah, this shortened 2020 baseball season in the middle of a pandemic seems like a great idea which will surely play out with no issues whatsoever.

Also, Summer Probably Should Be Canceled

Tuesday, July 7th, 2020

Back on Mother’s Day, I ran a virtual 10K road race. With a virtual race, all the entrants run the specified distance on a specific day, then submit their results. I had a fine experience in May, though my first place victory among male runners was somewhat diminished by the fact that a cheering section of exactly one person saw me win.

That cheering section was my partner Maggie, who rode her bicycle to meet me at several spots along my improvised race route, toting a cowbell to encourage me. Near the end of the run, we managed to confuse the hell out of some passersby in hilarious fashion. Said passersby apparently noticed her waiting, then heard her as she began ringing the bell. Shortly after, I came running into view with a prominent race bib on, and flew right past them. Maggie said they then spent an amusing amount of time watching the road I’d come from, apparently hoping to spot more runners.

Anyhow, that particular race was created as something which would take place in person, before the COVID-19 pandemic forced an overhaul. When the organizer shifted things for our new reality, I figured I might as well still take part. Of late, however, I’ve received quite a few emails attempting to get me to sign up for races that are virtual from the get-go. Personally, I don’t find that concept very compelling. I suspect I’m far from alone, which probably explains the extra aggressive marketing I’ve been getting for these pseudo-events.

Recently, one email (entitled “Summer is NOT canceled!”) included this bit of nonsense:

I don’t think we can. I think that’s kind of the point.

Cross Party Lines, but Stay Six Feet Away 

Tuesday, June 30th, 2020

Ludicrously, wearing masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19 has become a political issue in America. As a result, we get a ridiculous headline like “Dick Cheney crosses party lines to promote face masks”.

Topping the Box Office 

Thursday, June 25th, 2020

In June 10th, a movie called “Unsubscribe” had its world premier on Long Island. It’s a 29-minute film which screened in just one theater, to a crowd of two, yet managed to “earn” $25,488 and come the number one movie in America. The combination of COVID-19 and a loophole known as “four-walling” made it all possible.

Second Thoughts 

Wednesday, June 24th, 2020

Apparently, strip clubs in Providence, Rhode Island, have recently received the go-ahead to re-open. Sure, that may seem like a ludicrously bad idea given the extremely contagious global pandemic that hasn’t miraculously disappeared, but I guess the crotch wants what the crotch wants.

Last week, the city’s licensing board approved a plan by four local strip clubs to offer outdoor adult entertainment under the new reopening rules aimed at preventing the spread of the coronavirus.

The new rules, however, are more than a bit onerous. All employees must wear masks at all times, lap dances are prohibited, along with any physical contact, and there will be plexiglass barriers up the wazoo. Well, not literally. Anyhow, they’ve managed to make a strip club sound even less appealing, and that’s a real trick.

As a result, strip club owners are now having “second thoughts” about re-opening. It also appears that dancers are uninterested in coming back to work. One strip club manager bemoaned the whole situation:

“You’re not making any money, you’re just going through the motions.”

That’s a shame for any businessperson. Then again, doesn’t “going through the motions” sort of describe the entire strip club experience anyway?

Previously in bizarre adult entertainment: A Failed Revolution

Hurts So Bad 

Tuesday, June 16th, 2020

Car rental company Hertz is in bad shape. An inability to pay its debts, related in part to the serious slowdown in rentals and used car sales caused by COVID-19, led the company to file for bankruptcy in late May. Naturally, then, they’re now planning to sell $500 million dollars in new stock, which they predict will be worth nothing at all in the very near future.

Wait, what? Yes, it seems that despite the bankruptcy filing, bored and/or ill-informed investors have been buying up Hertz stock in droves. This has caused the share price to surge in ludicrous fashion from its post-bankruptcy low of $0.40 a share. Rather than sit on the sidelines while other people get rich selling their stock at inflated prices, Hertz now wants in on the action. It’s bold, I’ll give them that.

Aforelinked financial analyst and funnyman Matt Levine has written an epic special edition of his column that covers this whole ridiculous sage in glorious detail. The entire thing is well worth a read, but here’s a brief excerpt:

Imagine writing the prospectus for this offering. Actually in some ways it is nice and clarifying…On the one hand, you don’t have to give investors lavish scary warnings that Hertz might go bankrupt, because Hertz is bankrupt. “We’re in bankruptcy, you dopes, and your stock will probably be worthless”; what more is there to say? The bad thing has already happened; no one who buys this stock can say that they weren’t warned.

On the other hand, you don’t have to give investors a compelling sales pitch for why they should buy the stock, because the whole premise of the offering is that people are irrationally buying the stock already and so they might as well buy it from Hertz. “Hertz: We’ve got some of that Hertz stock you wanted, if for some reason you still want it,” is the entire pitch.

It is a near certainty that Hertz stock will get wiped out, and a whole lot of people will lose their investments. Buyers who are aware of what’s happening are hoping to buy the stock low, quickly sell it at a slightly higher price, and walk away. However, it’s likely that a whole lot of small investors simply have no idea what’s going on. Hertz is trending, Hertz’s share price is jumping, and they can get in on the action.

Whether investors know it or not, with this offering of new stock, Hertz is coming very close to just asking the market at large “Would you like to pay back back our creditors for us?”. That should be a laughable question, and yet incredibly, the answer seems to be “Yes”.

Two Emails in Two Hours Is a Bad Sign

Thursday, June 11th, 2020

At 6:31 PM last night, a well-known theatre in Princeton, New Jersey sent out an email with the following subject line:

  • Subject: Arts and Culture Matter

Exactly 100 minutes later, a second email was sent:

  • Subject: My Apology

Yeah.

The apology was solid, noting the “very poor choice of words…in the subject line for today’s email”, which “came across as if we were equating arts and culture with the Black Lives Matter movement…not a belief that McCarter or I hold”. Of course, with a bit of thought and more judicious editing, the need for a second email. could have been avoided entirely.

Take heed, marketers. The lessons from Rothy’s screw-up six years months weeks ago don’t just apply to COVID-19.

The Mind Boggles 

Friday, May 29th, 2020

As you already know, we should all be wearing masks in public for the collective good. My mask is for you, your mask is for me, and they all help reduce the transmission of COVID-19 infection. Not wearing a mask in public makes a statement, but it’s not a good one.


Kevin Siers has brilliantly encapsulated the problem with American individualism.

Nevertheless, it’s clear that plenty of people just aren’t getting it. This Washington Post article has an article on establishments that are refusing to allow their customers to wear masks. Texas bar owner Kevin Smith was quoted giving this defense for the indefensible:

Bartenders need to see their customers’ faces to check IDs and make sure no one gets served too many drinks, he argued. Anyone with the virus, including those who are asymptomatic, should not be coming out to begin with.

Please, allow me to repeat the key line there, with added emphasis:

Anyone with the virus, including those who are asymptomatic, should not be coming out to begin with.

The mind boggles. Does Smith believe that all people who are infected are aware of it, even those without symptoms? That is of course not the case, and that’s a massive part of how the virus spreads. Thus, the only logical extension of his statement is that everyone should stay home. Indeed, we’ve done exactly that. Now, as those restrictions are being slowly loosened in an effort to open things back up safely, that means wearing masks. Learn it. Know it. Live it.

The 1000-Year-Old Sturminster Newton Mill Is Back in Business 

Thursday, May 28th, 2020

If you thought King Arthur Flour was old at 230 years, it’s practically a baby compared to a flour mill that’s been operating for an entire millennium. England’s Sturminster Newton Mill-turned-museum has recently ramped up, to help make up for shortages caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Where it previously ran just two days per month, to provide visitors with small souvenir bags of flour, it’s now engaged in full commercial production.