Sports Teams' Most Creative New Theme Nights

Laura Depta@lauradeptaFeatured ColumnistMarch 9, 2016

Sports Teams' Most Creative New Theme Nights

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    Richard Shotwell/Associated Press

    Is the Albuquerque Isotopes' "Better Call Saul Night" the most creative idea for a sports theme night in recent memory?

    Historically, there has been stiff competition for this honor. Over the years, sports teams have provided us with such insane ideas as "Awful Night" and "Mike Tyson Ear Night." There was even a "Salute to Indoor Plumbing Night" in 2007 (weird, but definitely original).

    Here, there are some newer ideas and some more recent promotional shenanigans, if you will. From AMC television hits to underwear-laden ice rinks, let's see if the newbies can live up to the "Disco Demolition" days of old.

Indy Fuel, Indiana Farmers and Friends Night

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    It's always great to see teams coming up with creative ways to raise money for worthy causes.

    In January, the Indy Fuel hosted "Indiana Farmers & Friends Night," at which they paid homage to a famous Hoosier and supported pet shelters and adoption. The ECHL hockey team wore jerseys depicting Garfield, the famous orange cat created by Indiana native Jim Davis. Its opponent, the Evansville IceMen, donned Odie sweaters.

    The jerseys were auctioned off after the game, and proceeds went to the Shelter Pet Project. Fans also received Garfield plush toys as the game's promotional giveaway.

Minnesota Twins, Zubazpalooza

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    Who doesn't love Zubaz? The Detroit Tigers made a habit of wearing the striped pants in 2014, but the Minnesota Twins took it a step further.

    In October, the Twins banked on the universal adoration of Zubaz and gave away a whole mess of them to fans in an event dubbed "Zubazpalooza."

    As with many contemporary theme nights, the highlight wasn't even the pants, but instead the promotional video released in August.

Toronto Raptors, Drake Night

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    Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

    Rapper Drake is a Toronto native and huge NBA fan. So, it wasn't exactly surprising when the Toronto Raptors hosted "Drake Night" in November. It was certainly a new direction in which to take theme nights, though.

    The festivities included a "Hotline Bling" booth and an on-court dance routine you might remember from LeBron James' now-famous intrusion. Drake sat courtside with his mom, and Canadian politician Norm Kelly even starred in a promotional video.

Brooklyn Cyclones, 'Impractical Jokers' Take over MCU Park

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    Brad Barket/Getty Images

    The Brooklyn Cyclones, a New York Mets affiliate, have put together some wildly creative promotions over the years. Their "Ambush Baseball" event won the 2015 award for Minor League Baseball Promotion of the Year.

    One particularly creative night, however, involved a couple of guest stars. The cast of Impractical Jokers, a hidden-camera comedy show on truTV, joined the team for a night of laughs.

    Bobbleheads of the cast were handed out, and several aspects of the show were worked into the night, including a dance party and "Nose Ninja Fan Cam" that caught fans trying to touch unsuspecting peers with their noses.

Bakersfield Condors, Undie Sunday

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    The Bakersfield Condors are an AHL affiliate of the Edmonton Oilers, and they have a reputation for crazy promotions. The team once hosted a "Charlie Sheen Night" and served "Tiger Blood Margaritas."

    In 2014, when the team was an ECHL affiliate, it hosted the first "Undie Sunday." The premise of the theme day, which has been repeated in subsequent years, was pretty simple. When the Condors score, fans throw undergarments onto the ice.

    Condors president Matthew Riley said, "In talking with local non-profits, it is quite clear that there is a need of undergarments for the economically challenged. We thought this would be a fun way to bring attention to that fact, and hopefully raise some significant donations," according to Harrison Mooney of Puck Daddy.

    This Philadelphia Flyers fan would likely approve.

San Francisco Giants, 'Full House' Night

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    The Frisco RoughRiders, a Texas Rangers affiliate, hosted a "Full House Night" in June complete with a ceremonial first pitch from Uncle Joey (aka, actor Dave Coulier).

    The San Francisco Giants did them one better in September, though. San Francisco is, of course, where the sitcom was set, so the geography already lined up. Beyond that, the Giants released an epic promo video for the night, a parody on the Full House intro. 

    Several cast members were on hand for the game, along with show creator Jeff Franklin, but the real gem was that video.

Madison Mallards, 'Office Space' Night

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    The Madison Mallards, a collegiate summer league baseball team, honored the 1999 comedy Office Space with a stellar promotion in June 2014.

    The movie is a must-watch for anyone frustrated with corporate life. One of the best scenes depicts three coworkers taking an office printer into a field and smashing it to bits.

    In perhaps a twisted throwback to the infamous "Disco Demolition Night" in 1979, the Mallards provided fans with just such an opportunity. After the game, a lot of office equipment got the Office Space treatment. Actor Richard Riehle, who played Tom Smykowski in the film, even took part.

Atlanta Hawks, Swipe Right Night

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    The Atlanta Hawks got the memo about topical theme nights. In January 2015, the team hosted "Swipe Right Night," encouraging fans to connect through the dating app Tinder.

    According to Avery Stone of For the Win, the night was a rousing success as "Hawks" and "Tinder" spent time trending in Atlanta. Apparently, there were even "Swipe Right Suites," complete with roses and Altoids, for fans to personally meet in.

Charleston RiverDogs, Looney Night in Space

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    The Charleson RiverDogs, co-owned by Bill Murray and creators of the famous "Nobody Night" promotion, were at it again in April.

    The New York Yankees affiliate hosted "A Looney Night in Space," an ode to the 1996 sports movie classic Space Jam. The team gave away 1,000 "Tune Squad" jerseys, and Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck were even on hand. Alas, there was no Michael Jordan, but it was still an original idea.

    Apparently the space theme was taken quite seriously, as the night also featured "an authentic space rock for fans to view up close, a 'Star Lab' outside the front gates and a Smart Board with which to explore Mars," per a team release.

Charlotte Hornets and Others, Nickelodeon Night

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    Several NBA teams have hosted 1990s-themed "Nickelodeon Nights" in the 2015-16 season.

    The Brooklyn Nets and Atlanta Hawks each celebrated the network and all its '90s goodness in January. Hawks CEO Steve Koonin said, "A significant part of our fanbase, millennials, grew up in the '90s on Nickelodeon and have great memories of shows like Salute Your Shorts and Hey Arnold!per NBA.com.

    The Charlotte Hornets rendition took place in March, and the festivities were on point for anyone around the age of 30. Kel Mitchell hosted a Double Dare obstacle course at halftime, Jeremy Lin got slimed and Frank Kaminsky wore a Rugrats T-shirt. Early millennials, rejoice!

Brooklyn Cyclones, 'Seinfeld' Night

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    Another classic Brooklyn Cyclones promotion was "Seinfeld Night," which is just what it sounds like.

    Perhaps not quite as creative as the Fort Myers Miracle's "George Costanza Night" (a night in which the ballpark pays homage to the Seinfeld character's theory of opposites), "Seinfeld Night" still created some hilarious moments.

    The theme night debuted in 2014 as "25 Years of Nothing" in honor of the show's 25th anniversary and continued in 2015 with "The Summer of George." Notable events from either/or included:

    • The temporary renaming of MCU Park to "Vandelay Industries Park" (2014)
    • Soup Nazi actor Larry Thomas throwing out the first pitch (2014)
    • A Keith Hernandez "magic loogie" bobblehead (2014)
    • A "Little Jerry" "bobble-beak" (2015)
    • A muffin top-eating contest (2015)
    • A fan game called "Running Errands for Mr. Pitt" (2015)

    As any Seinfeld fans can see, attention to detail was everything.

Dallas Mavericks, Redhead Night

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    Matt York/Associated Press

    The Dallas Mavericks are nothing if not creative. The team's in-house videos have brought fans parodies of Drake's "Hotline Bling," Zoolander and even Donald Trump.  

    The creativity extends to theme nights as well, apparently. March 9 is "Redhead Night" at the American Airlines Center in Dallas. According to the official team site, the night will feature special "Redhead Night" T-shirts and an appearance from Ronald McDonald himself.

Albuquerque Isotopes, 'Better Call Saul' Night

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    Richard Shotwell/Associated Press

    Television show theme nights aren't necessarily a new idea. In fact, capitalizing on the popularity of a beloved TV show is a smart strategy for a successful promotion. (Just look at what the Staten Island Yankees did with Game of Thrones.)

    Still, the choice of show can be very creative, as the Albuquerque Isotopes proved with their Better Call Saul theme night. Better Call Saul is an AMC spinoff of the uber-hit Breaking Bad, set in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and starring Bob Odenkirk as everyone's favorite smarmy attorney.

    Players will wear jerseys splashed with Odenkirk's face during an Aug. 6 game.

    "GOT Night"? Sort of predictable. "Pixar Day"? Cute, but obvious. A night honoring a show about a low-life lawyer mixed up in criminal activity? That's creative.

Myrtle Beach Pelicans, Deflate Cancer Night

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    Deflategate is the sports story that will never end, but luckily there are some folks out there who used its powers for good.

    In April, the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, a Chicago Cubs affiliate, hosted "Deflate Cancer Night" at their ballpark. The opponent was the Salem Red Sox. Nice touch.

    According to the team's release, "Any fan who arrives in a vehicle with a Massachusetts license plate can request a complementary tire-pressure check from service technicians from Tire Town, who will also be on-site passing out free tire pressure gauges to fans."

    The promotion also featured "free ball inflation" for fans, and folks were provided the ability to donate sports equipment to the Boys and Girls Club. Money raised throughout the night went to the American Cancer Society.

Akron RubberDucks, Brian Williams' Pants-on-Fire Night

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    Brad Barket/Associated Press

    The title of this theme night alone is creative, but what does it mean? In April 2015, the Akron RubberDucks, an affiliate of the Cleveland Indians, took a jab at MSNBC anchor Brian Williams.

    If you recall, word came out that Williams had misrepresented the truth in a story he told about covering the Iraq War. NBC suspended him without pay for six months.

    According to Zac Jackson of Fox Sports, the RubberDucks theme night featured a game of "Two Truths and a Brian Williams" and a ceremonial first pitch thrown out by a young Kent State University graduate named Brian Williams (obviously, not that Brian Williams).

    Pop culture references can make for very interesting theme nights, as long as they are timely and, in this case, even a little sordid.

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