For months I’ve had the 17th of September circled on my calendar. It’s one thing to be excited about preseason football, and another to be excited for week 1 of the regular season, but being in attendance for that first home game of the year?
With all of the chatter of new technology in the stadium and a potential new entrance, I was looking forward to a much improved fan experience at M&T Bank Stadium this season.
It didn’t take but 30 minutes to ruin all of those hopes and dash expectations, thanks to what can only be described as a lackluster in-stadium experience.
Don’t get me wrong. I totally understand that the product on the field is the biggest draw for Ravens fans (as well as those of the opposition coming to town), and with success comes butts in seats. But I’m also a realist, and I understand that viewership for the NFL is down across all markets, both in stadium and at home. The NFL, along with their network partners, took several steps to improve the viewership on their end. The NFL has slowly started to steer away from the No Fun League mantra by allowing touchdown celebrations once again, while stations like CBS upped their broadcast team pairings to make the in-game experience more exciting.
Of course, none of this helps put fans in the stadiums. That is up to each individual franchise to find a way. For the Ravens, they relied heavily on marketing the improvements to the stadium, the new technology, and a grand entrance for the team.
None of those promises really lived up to the hype.
Were the expanded jumbotrons pretty cool? Sure! The picture was bigger and clearer, there were a few new little features, but other than that?
As for the entrance, the Ravens added some decorations from your local Spirit Halloween pop-up shop, kept the flames and the smoke and… yea. That was about it.
Essentially, nothing changed.
Hell, the new Shake Shack in the stadium- known for great burgers and shakes- didn’t even have chocolate milkshakes! They only had vanilla or black & white (aka chocolate/vanilla swirl) which is beyond idiotic if you are using chocolate to make the black & white, why not have the chocolate as a standalone?
Sidebar: that Shake Shack ordeal didn’t affect me personally, but once my game day brethren brought it to my attention, I got up in arms about the logistical side of their shortcomings.
And what’s worse is that the same issues we’ve seen in the past weren’t addressed. A major gripe I heard from many folks yesterday was in regards to a connection with the outside world, as the wi-fi is still awful and can’t properly account for people checking their fantasy stats, or looking on Twitter for an injury update. The phrase ‘it just keeps thinking but won’t refresh or update’ was mumbled in frustration many times.
Speaking of fantasy, where did that go?
Last season I recall a constant fantasy tracker at each end of the stadium, which helped ease the pain of a failed wi-fi signal. But of course, that’s long gone. They did provide random fantasy updates, but not frequently enough to where they could justify removing this feature from last season.
Then there’s the music. The selection is just flat out awful for an NFL game, specifically a Ravens game. I recall past years (say 2012, give or take a year or two) with heavier music- both rap and rock- and it truly fit this team and the fan base. Fans would be singing along, dancing in the aisles, or given certain situations on the field, intensifying to get the defense jacked up for a big play.
Eminem ‘Lose Yourself’ was solid. The Used ‘Take It Away’ after a turnover worked perfectly. Even classic ACDC ‘Shook Me’ had fans signing along.
Back when they’d play ‘Tell Me Something Good’ during a challenge, the music fit like a glove.
Instead, we were hit this week with Taylor Swift’s new song, a few different Katy Perry jams, and the rest was just a reshuffle from 2016. I’m sorry, that’s just not acceptable at all. We are not the LA Rams. You can’t entice me, a common fan, to want to attend the games while listening to today’s greatest pop hits. I don’t particularly see T-Sizzle down on the field in a 3rd and long getting jacked while the PA is blaring “Feels” by Katy Perry.
It’s hot garbage, and they should know it.
One final note of frustration comes from the handout that never was.
Remember when the Ravens used to do giveaways at the games, much like the Orioles do to entice more than 5 fans to show up at games? The Ravens used to do things like Ravens towels, car flags, pins, etc. It used to be nearly every game… then a few games… then just the home opener… then last year, nothing at all.
This year, there was much talk about the Ravens partnering with Orig3n to give away free DNA test kits for those attending Week 2 vs the Browns. Some folks were unsure, but I was game. Basically, you’d have a kit to swab your cheek, drop it in a box around the stadium, register for free online and boom. Done. The results would be sent to you and give you some insight into your DNA. Pretty nifty stuff!
Alas, just like everything else about this gameday experience, we were left disappointed when a few hours before the game, the Baltimore Sun posted an article saying the giveaway was ‘rescheduled’ with no definite reschedule date due to ‘concerns.’
All in all, winning will always be the driving force of attendance at the Ravens games. As long as the team thrives, fans will show up. But if the Ravens really want to fill every last seat, hit demographics where they’ve come up short, and recreate that truly electric environment they once had at The Bank?
They’re going to have to get back to the drawing board and start over from scratch.
Sidebar 2: My consultation fees aren’t cheap (that’s a lie), but I’m available- have your people call my people, Mr. Bisciotti!