P.T. Barnum once said, "there's a sucker born every minute." The showman most famous for his travelling circus was referring to the idea that anybody could be talked into giving their money away given the right attraction.
Owners of sports teams have clearly adopted this maxim, as apparently the appeal of seeing the athletes play is not quite enough.
Instead owners come up with gimmicks, giveaways, and entertainment to try to entice fans to come out to the stadium.
Some of them work, like bobblehead nights and team blanket giveaways. Others...well...they're just downright stupid.
Let's take a look at 25 of the worst promotions in sports history and, if you were present at any of these, I'm sorry but you're a sucker.
The bobblehead phenomenon started many years ago and has permeated the fabric of our society from sports to television.
So it was no surprise when the Milwaukee Brewers advertised Jeffrey Hammonds Bobblehead Night for one of the games.
Fans turned up, got their bobbleheads, and were happy. The only problem was that Jeffrey Hammonds was no longer on the Brewers roster.
He was cut from the team just a few days before his own bobblehead night.
The Ft. Myers Miracle minor league baseball team is known for putting on ridiculous promotions. Most of them are actually pretty clever and interesting, but I just didn't get this one.
The Miracle planned to charge $5 to get into the game and $50,000 to get out, but the event failed to take off due to lack of focus and interest.
The plan was to have images and videos of Tom Cruise and other famous scientologists entertain fans throughout the stadium, but people seemed more interested in the Dave Matthews Tribute Band that was scheduled to play after the game.
Dave Matthews: 1, Scientology: 0.
This one falls under the "good intentions, bad execution" umbrella. The Seattle Mariners hope to bring environmental issues to the forefront by holding several Free Compost Nights this season.
The giveaway, however, leaves something to be desired. Each fan will go home with a bag of compost. Doesn't sound so bad, right?
Then we find out that the compost is made of the trash collected from the stadium. So basically you're going home with a bag of half-chewed hot dogs, peanut shells, and discarded sunflower seed shells.
I know we're all trying to be green, but we shouldn't have to turn green in the process.
Photo from lastangryfan.com
The idea of a promotion is that it's supposed to draw fans to the stadium.
Because of this, teams often try to give away things that kids will like with the hopes that they'll convince their parents to come to the game and bring the whole family.
So teams give away things like lunchboxes, backpacks, sticker books...you know...things that kids want.
That means that someone in charge of Indians promotions thought to himself, "hey I know what kids will love...a weather curriculum book!"
At least the children learned how the rain on their parade was formed from condensed water in the clouds.
Derek Lowe is a starter now, but in 2002 he was the closer for the Boston Red Sox. He had an on-again off-again relationship with the fans, and it was definitely off during the fateful Derek Lowe Poster Night.
All seemed to be headed in the right direction. Lowe came into the game with a three-run lead, the biggest lead a closer can have while still qualifying for a save.
That's when things suddenly went south, as Lowe himself explained to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
I struggled to a point where they stopped the game. It was Derek Lowe poster night. They threw all the posters back on the field. They stopped the game for 15 minutes.
That's when you know you're struggling, when they throw all your free posters on the field. And it was for kids. They didn't care. Three-run lead, and I gave up five in a matter of seconds.
There were bonfires. They set them on fire outside after the game. It must have been cold that night.
St. Patrick's Day seems like the perfect holiday to celebrate at a baseball stadium. Unfortunately since the holiday falls in mid-march, teams are always in Arizona or Florida for spring training.
The Chicago White Sox and the geniuses on the promotional staff found an easy way around that one. On September 8, 2006 the White Sox celebrated "Halfway to St. Patrick's Day...Night."
The fans (21 and older, of course) were given snazzy green White Sox hats courtesy of Miller Lite and the White Sox themselves donned green pinstriped jerseys.
I know everyone is looking for an excuse to drink, but this is a little bit of a stretch.
What makes it even more pathetic is that this has become a yearly tradition in Chicago.
The owners of the Charleston RiverDogs minor league baseball team decided in 2002 that they wanted to set a record.
They thought it would be cool (and they could get the team some headlines) if they had an official attendance of "0" for one of their games.
Thus "Nobody Night" was born, where fans who had already paid for their tickets were locked out of the game and nobody was allowed to enter the stadium until the fifth inning, after the game had been declared official and the attendance was recorded.
The crazy thing is that the night was a total success. The fans who paid for their tickets were allowed entry into a party in a tent set up outside the stadium where beer and food was sold at a discounted price.
Fans brought ladders and lawn chairs and set up outside the stadium, sometimes peering through chain link fences to see the action. Once the fifth inning came and the fans were let in, this USA Today article claims that the fans acted "as if nothing had happened."
The RiverDogs lost 4-2 and all the runs were scored before the fans were let in, but the promotion will still go down as one of the dumbest, and most successful, in history.
Each one of these on their own would have definitely made the list, but when you combine them this is clearly one of the dumbest promotions in sports history.
The inflatable guitar could be a cool novelty I guess, if it had absolutely anything to do with the Marlins or Florida. "Hey, people play guitars in Florida...inflatable guitar night! Run with it!"
I'm not quite sure how the car fresheners got thrown in there, but as MLB.com puts it: "the car freshener should really help in the sticky summers of South Florida."
As we saw on Winter Classic 24/7, some hockey teams have a hardhat that they give to a different player after every game-- the guy that worked the hardest for the benefit of his team.
The Blackhaws thought it would be a good idea to give away helmets to their "hard-working fans" before a game in 2009.
The promotion went fine until an unfortunate confluence of events occurred. Jonathan Toews scored what appeared to be his third goal of the game which appeared to give him his first career hat trick.
Of course the tradition in hockey is that when a player scores three goals, the fans throw their hats on to the ice to pay homage to the tremendous feat. This time the fans went one better, as they had free hardhats to throw on the ice.
Unfortunately the goal was disallowed and hundreds of fans were left without hardhats. In a fortuitous twist of fate, Toews ended up scoring his third goal (this time for real) later in the game and those fans that still had hardhats took the opportunity to unload them on to the ice.
See, everything works out in the end.
One trick that team promoters use is the lure of the record. The Guinness Book of World Records used to give recognition to important feats: the tallest man in the world, the longest hair, the most consecutive time standing motionless.
After the debut of the Fox show Guinnes World Records: Primetime, the records shifted more towards freak shows like "most milk squirted out of eye," "heaviest car balanced on head," and "world's fastest rapper."
With that in mind, the Cleveland Cavaliers decided to draw fans to the game on March 5, 2010 with the hope of setting the illustrious and esteemed record of "most fleece blankets of one color in one place."
The Q, which always sells out anyway, sold out again and set the record* at 20,562 by handing out Cavs Snuggies to every fan.
It's hard to believe that even after this magical night, LeBron still decided to leave.
*The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim later crushed the record by handing out Snuggies to their fans in the summer of 2010, but we give credit to the Cavs because they were first.
Photo from cleveland.com
This promotion is dumb for two reasons.
One: why would anyone attending a game want a road map of Minnesota? Clearly most of them are Minnesota residents to begin with, and everyone gets Google Maps on their phone anyway.
Two: When you're given something made of paper that is completely useless, there's only one thing to do with it.
You guessed it...the fans in the upper deck started constructing their own paper aircrafts and sent them spiraling down towards the field.
And don't sleep on the aeronautical skills of the fans in the upper deck. I've seen them make parachutes out of napkins that make it all the way to the field, so I would have loved to have seen what they could do with the structurally-sound paper of a road map.
There has been a movement working for years to rid sports of their racially-insensitive logos and mascots. Certain teams have had to change theirs, while others like the Washington Redskins miraculously keep their offensive titles.
The Indians name is generic enough to be inoffensive I suppose, but their logo is certainly borderline at best.
The current logo is a toned-down version of its previous iterations, and you'd think the Indians franchise would want to hide the years of ugliness that they've put behind them.
Instead they gave away blankets showing the full history of the Indians logo in all its offensive glory. I guess when you still have fans showing up to games dressed like this, you know you have a long way to go.
As a baseball fan in the mid-90s, you had to love Jay Buhner. He was the Robin to Ken Griffey, Jr.'s Batman during the glory years of the franchise.
The fans loved Jay, the bald outfielder more affectionately known as "Bone", so much that the Mariners created Jay Buhner Buzz Cut Night, offering free admission in the right field seats (Buhner played right field) to any fan who shaved his...or her...head.
If you didn't know about the promotion when you showed up, no problem. Mariners staff members, and sometimes Buhner himself, were there to shave your head for you.
I'm pretty sure this was a plan by the elderly folks of Seattle to put an end to that whole grunge thing once and for all.
This one almost verges on clever but ultimately ends up in the realm of the stupid.
The Vero Beach Devil Rays planned to hold an "Olympic Night" on August 7, 2008 in honor of the Beijing Summer Games that were being held at the same time.
In preparation, however, the minor league team held "Anti-Doping Night" two days before that to "ensure their Olympic competition will be a fair, clean event for all participants, and discourage the use of drugs or steroids in any form."
This promotion served a second purpose, of course, as steroid talk was running rampant throughout Major League Baseball.
The best part was the giveaway: the first 200 fans received free urine sample cups. I wish I was making that up.
Nothing says "come out to the ballpark" like a giveaway that is intended to make sure that you know that your death is imminent.
That's exactly what the Hagerstown Suns did in 2003 when they hosted "Pre-Planned Funeral Night" which offered one "lucky" fan a funeral package worth $6,500.
The fan who won received the works: casket, embalming, use of the funeral home, and death certificate.
I'm not sure if the $6,500 covered the counseling fees for depression as well.
That name sounds oddly familiar, doesn't it? That's because Kevin Federline, or K-Fed as he preferred to be called, was married to Britney Spears for about 20 minutes in the mid-2000s.
For some reason the Fresno Gizzlies, the Triple-A affiliate for the San Francisco Giants, decided to host a K-Fed Night in 2006 to honor Fresno native Kevin Federline.
The night began with a temporary tattoo giveaway (K-Fed has a few tats), and fans were entertained (for about 30 seconds) by a highlight reel of K-Fed's career, which hopefully included this gem from his rap album.
Fans were encouraged to dress like K-Fed to the game. Luckily "Hillbilly Night" was just a few weeks earlier, so fans already had appropriate attire.
This one famously appeared courtesy of the Wilmington Blue Rocks in 2009, but Team Ghost Riders have since been used at minor league stadiums across the country.
In case you couldn't figure it out from the video, Team Ghost Riders are basically monkeys that ride sheep dogs while herding goats. The circle of life before our very eyes.
Although I hate to be the one who has to clean up the field afterwards...yikes.
Minor league teams are notorious for doing anything to get butts in the seats. This promotion in 2006 certainly did that, but it also landed some butts in hospital beds.
The West Michigan Whitecaps, an affiliate of the Detroit Tigers, decided to hold a "Cash Dash Money Drop" after their game against the Southwest Michigan Devil Rays.
Basically a helicopter flies over the field, drops about $1,000 cash mostly in singles, and a bunch of kids are let loose and told to grab as much money as they can. What could go wrong?
As anyone except for the Whitecaps promotional staff could predict, the kids started going crazy and trampling each other and eventually a 7-year-old boy and a 7-year-old girl were each sent to the hospital with injuries sustained in the scramble.
The good news is that this kid managed to walk home with $1,000.
We all take it for granted, so the West Virginia Power minor league baseball team decided to honor it with a night of its own.
In order to let them know just how good they had it, the team originally planned to shut down all of the bathrooms in the stadium and force the paying fans to use port-o-pottys.
As you might suspect, this was a massive health code violation so that idea went...down the toilet...(I'm sorry I couldn't resist).
The Power still managed to create a plumber's atmosphere by holding a "Toilet Seat Toss" and mashing up brownies into little patties and having a "Poo Toss" right on the field.
Men also arrived at the stadium wearing jeans with the crack of their rear ends exposed. Although that wasn't part of the promotion.
Anyone who watched the World Cup in 2010 had the exact same reaction: "Oh my God! The players are being attacked by a giant swarm of killer bees!"
The sound was actually the collective playing of thousands of vuvuzelas, instruments that appear to be designed to annoy anyone within a few hundred feet.
The South Africans made the vuvuzela popular, and of course American manufacturers jumped on the opportunity to make some money off of a novelty product.
The Florida Marlins, who have always had problems putting buts in the seats, tried to take advantage of the fad by having Vuvuzela Night.
Needless to say the fans got carried away and couldn't stop blowing the annoying instruments. Players were seen covering their ears in the dugout and on the field, and the noise even led to a mix-up between Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez and one of the umpires.
We're not talking about Joakim Noah here. We mean Noah Noah. Like, from the Bible.
I'm still not sure why, but the Hickory Crawdads of Hickory, N.C. decided to give out Noah Bobblehead Dolls on one August game in 2007.
From my research (30-second Google search) it doesn't appear that there was any major flood in Hickory in 2007, which would have been a good reason for the giveaway.
I guess the East Valdese Baptist Church, which sponsored the event, just felt it was a good time to remind people about how awesome Noah was and how much his head tended to bobble.
In theory, giving each fan a free baseball is a great idea. Every fan comes to the ballpark hoping to catch a foul ball, so why not just give them one when they walk through the gate?
Unfortunately when your team is playing poorly, a free baseball can turn into a free missile to launch at opposing players.
That's exactly what happened at Dodger Stadium in 1995. The Dodgers were forced to forfeit their game against the St. Louis Cardinals when fans began launching a barrage of baseballs onto the field for the third time.
It was the first forfeit in the National League in 40 years and, ironically, not one fan went home with a baseball on "Ball Night."
I'd say that's a failure.
The St. Paul Saints are an independent baseball team that is known for the time when Darryl Strawberry played for them after being suspended from the MLB for drug violations.
The Saints didn't need Strawberry to draw fans during "Zubaz and a Monkey Night" in 2008. The team set up an actual real monkey to perform (or try to perform) the tasks of the regular staff members.
In addition, the players and the monkey were both outfitted with the 90s staple Zubaz pants, made famous by Screech Powers, among others.
I don't know how the monkey and Zubaz pants are related, but this has to be one of the dumbest promotions of all time.
In a completely unrelated matter, scientists are still looking for the cause of the Great St. Paul Malaria Outbreak of 2008.
When you talk about bad promotions, you have to talk about Disco Demolition Night in 1979. The White Sox promotions team apparently decided that their doubleheader that day was the perfect time to eliminate disco from the city of Chicago.
Fans were encouraged to bring in any disco memorabilia they could and it would be destroyed throughout the games.
While a few awesome fans brought in platform shoes with goldfish in them, most people brought in disco records (if you're under 25-years-old, this is a record). The records quickly turned into projectile frisbees and the fans naturally started launching them onto the field.
The big problem happened between games, however, when fans stormed the field and set an impromptu fire in the middle of center field.
The second game was cancelled due to "unplayable field conditions" and also "lunatic fans from the 70s on various illegal substances."
When I first saw this I bet I had the same reaction that you're having right now: "10 cent beers! That's awesome! Why is that on the li—OK yeah that's a terrible idea..."
If there's one thing people love, it's getting absolutely tanked at sporting events. Beer and baseball, in particular, have gone hand in hand since the game's inception.
The only thing stopping most fans from going from nicely buzzed to Gary Busey is the fact that stadium beers will run you anywhere from $8 to $25, depending on the size and make. When a fan is able to get 10 beers for a dollar, you're asking for trouble.
The Indians made this mistake in a game against the Texas Rangers in 1974 and the result was fighting in the stands, injuries to umpires, a naked male fan sprinting on the field, and one fan full of liquid courage even managing to snag the hat off of Rangers OF Jeff Burroughs' head.
Eventually the inevitable happened and the Indians were forced to forfeit the game.