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Phillies, Flyers Court Fans Who Couldn't Care Less About the Phillies or Flyers

By Mitch Nathanson, Historical Columnist 

Seeking to capitalize on the growing number of fans not in any way interested in actually watching professional sports, executives of both the Phillies and Flyers have recently undertaken bold initiatives to tap into this burgeoning market.

“We recognize that along with those fans who actively dislike our club and boo vociferously,” an unnamed Phillies executive said recently⃰ who requested anonymity lest he be relieved of his duties for stating the obvious, “there exists a larger demographic that actually prefers not engaging with us at all.”  The Phillies are one of a growing number of MLB clubs seeking to engage these non-engagers by providing a game-day experience designed to enable them to completely forget the fact that they’re not only at a major league stadium but in fact paid good money to be there.  “We try to do whatever we can to make an evening with us feel like an evening without us.  If we’ve done our job, the only time a fan realizes he’s at a Phillies game is when he is swiping his debit card.” 

Just this past season the Phillies added Pass and Stow, a beer garden along the third base line of Citizens Bank Park, complete with picnic tables, fire pits, and a brick-oven pizzeria that has proven to be enormously popular with the non-engaged.  Its greatest attraction by far, though, is the fact that nowhere within the designated area can one see the playing field.  Kevin Murphy of EwingCole, the firm that designed Pass and Stow along with many of the recent non-engaged-themed renovations, remarked that the area has "the backyard kind of feel" and indeed it has.  “At home with my friends,” one fan remarked, “I like to hang out, eat pizza, have a few, and not talk about baseball.  At Pass and Stow I can do all of that even though there’s baseball within a hundred yards of me.  Amazingly and thankfully, I almost never realize it.” 

Just inside the third base gate the Phillies added a 120-seat Shake Shack.  Thanks to the foresight and architectural wizardry of EwingCole, not a single seat distracts diners with a sight line to the field.  Like Pass and Stow, it has proven to be an enormous favorite with the non-engaged, with many of them commenting that they particularly enjoy the surcharge that accompanies every order, as entry into the ballpark is required before one is entitled to stand in the venerable Shake Shack line.  “I like spending money on professional baseball but I don’t like watching it,” one fan observed when interviewed for this article.  “The Shake Shack experience gives me that opportunity and I appreciate that.”

The Flyers, as well, are hoping to tap the non-engaged market with the opening this season of their 23,000-foot “Assembly Room” where, for $25, non-engaged fans are permitted entry into the Wells Fargo Center so as to purchase food, drinks and souvenirs while the Flyers play several stories below.  The Assembly Room comes equipped with the amenities one might find, according to a recent Inquirer article, in “an upscale living room,” such as leather couches and fireplaces, all of which facilitate activities that have little to nothing to do with NHL hockey.  A group of four friends accustomed to not watching hockey at home can now pay $100 for the privilege of doing the same achingly close to hockey itself.  “It’s interesting,” a Flyers executive remarked,⃰ “people seem to enjoy being in the physical proximity of sports more than they enjoy actually watching them.  We were as astonished as anybody to learn that.  Now that we have, we’re doing all we can to put as many people as we can in close-enough proximity to our club where they’ll actually pay us to not watch it.” 

Not content to limit the non-engaged experience to the vicinity of the sports complex, both the Phillies and Flyers have begun preliminary studies focusing on how to capitalize on the hundreds of thousands of people who don’t care about them every day but who nonetheless don’t ante up for the privilege.  “We don’t see why people in, say, Center City, who don’t want to watch baseball shouldn’t have to pay us given the thousands who come to Citizens Bank Park and do just that,” said the Phillies official.⃰  “It’s not fair to the non-engaged fan down here shelling out hard-earned cash  for the benefit of ignoring us to have so many people throughout the Delaware Valley similarly not caring but not paying the same premium.” 

Both the Phillies and Flyers are exploring the possibility of charging a fee whenever people – fans or otherwise -- are not thinking about or watching their clubs.  Said the Flyers official: “If what we’ve seen in the sports complex is any guide, paying the Phillies or Flyers a few bucks seems to enhance people’s experience, whatever it is they’re otherwise doing – eating, drinking, socializing with friends, or even taking a stroll through Rittenhouse Square.  Not caring about us is an honor people who live elsewhere don’t get to experience and I think our non-engaged fans realize that.”⃰   

As for the future of the non-engaged fan experience, the possibilities seem endless.  “Just the other day MLB eliminated 42 minor league baseball clubs, killing professional baseball in cities and towns across America” the Phillies executive added breathlessly.⃰  “Interest in our sport just has to take a nosedive after a move like that and I’m hopeful some of that filters down to us.  We’re confident that this is merely the beginning of the non-fan era.  The coming years are going to be dominated by the fan who just doesn’t care.  It’s an exploding demographic and we’re going to be ready for them when they get here.  So long as they have their debit cards handy.”

⃰ not really

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