Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Ramirez ticket incident shows that comps are no laughing matter

The note about Manny Ramirez getting into it with his team's traveling secretary got me thinking about the issue of tickets.

[In the case of Manny Ramirez, he was trying to round up 16 tickets (!) for Boston's game at Houston.]

Tickets on the road are no joke. From talking to people over the years, I think the perception is that the players and coaches get as many tickets as they want. That's just not the case.

In the NBA, each active player, the three bench assistants, and the team trainer get two tickets each when on the road; the head coach get four tickets.

That means if you travel with three inactive players, they're not getting tickets. Plus, most teams have more than three assistant coaches, so those guys end up with no seats for family or friends on the road.

If you want more than that, and guys aren't willing to give you theirs, you have to purchase tickets using your own money.

Others, like the strength coach or equipment manager, might be left out as well, though some teams will actually buy these staff members tickets.

In major markets like LA, Miami, Chicago, and NYC, where most guys have at least a couple of family members or close friends, it's hard to trade tickets with someone else (e.g., another of your team's players or coaches) for another city later in the season because everyone is using their tickets. It's easier to swap tickets in smaller markets where you might not have many close friends or family members.

For those coaches and players who've moved around a lot during their careers and have friends and acquaintances in various cities, they always need tickets.

It's usually on the bus rides to the arena when players start the ticket process, making trades or getting a count on how many they'd need for that night. Once they arrive in the locker room, they immediately begin filling out ticket envelopes.

When you're trying to prepare for a game, it can be a distraction as guys are worried about trying to fulfill ticket requests in an effort to keep family and friends happy. It can be stressful for some guys, especially when they're playing in their hometown or in a city with lots of family members.

As a head coach, I'd often ask the guys to take care of the ticket stuff immediately after shootaround that morning, so when they arrived at the arena, they could focus on basketball. Depending on the team, it's typically either the team's PR guy, trainer, or traveling secretary (or a combination of all three) who is responsible for managing and distributing the tickets when on the road. I'd make sure they were handling the ticket requests/trades that day rather than that evening before the game.

When I was an assistant for Chuck Daly in Orlando, he would give me his four tickets at every road game, telling me "I'm not in the ticket business." In his opinion, it was an unnecessary distraction.

As evidenced by the Ramirez incident, I tend to agree with him.