Friday, October 2, 2009

Sue, Crystal and Princeton Football

TigerBlog spends his early Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings at physical therapy, taking the next steps back to his rightful place among the elite of the Jadwin Gym lunchtime squash crowd. And who knows? If it all goes perfectly, perhaps he can make it all the way back to the Old Bucks, the over-35 lacrosse team with whom TB first wrecked his patellar tendon, oh, 15 months ago now.

Physical therapy is a fascinating place. This is actually TB's second attempt, about a year after his first go-round didn't fix the problem, leading directly to the scar that now runs top-to-bottom across his kneecap.

The patients all eye each other with the same "I know what you're going through" look. They all ask each other the same basic "what'd you do?" question, in probably the same way that people in prison ask each other what they're in for. In general, the knee people commiserate with each other, while the shoulder people have their own club.

The PT staff is basically the same as it was 12 months earlier. There's Paul and John and Scott, who talk NFL football and the Yankees and pretty much any other sports-related topic that comes along. There's Darlene and Robin, who usually are just getting there when TB is leaving.

And then there's Sue, TB's actual therapist, and Crystal, the office assistant.

Sue will talk about anything and everything, from her two older boys from her first marriage to her nine-year-old daughter from her current one to her parents and all of their issues to her broken washing machine to her latest shopping trip to her favorite TV shows to what she's making for dinner. She does all this while casually twisting and turning somebody's healing body parts all over, coming across not as annoying but rather as soothing, as someone who is basically saying "don't worry; you're in good hands."

Crystal is more of a philosopher than a gossip. She talks religion and what she's teaching in Sunday school. She talks about her own seventh-grade daughter and what she's into, and she tries to extend that to mothering all of the patients, despite being decades younger than most of them.

Sue and Crystal have more in common than their employer, though. They are, for the most part, the exact demographic that were here at TigerBlog HQ try so hard to get to come to Princeton athletic events, especially football.

Both live within 10 or 15 miles of campus. They are mothers with kids who are interested in sports. They themselves are football fans. Crystal is actually a former Rutgers season ticket holder who was priced out of the stadium a few years ago.

And yet, until TB began to go to physical therapy, Crystal had never been to a Princeton football game and Sue hadn't been since she was a kid.

So why not? Well, it raises all kinds of interesting questions.

For starters, we here at HQ spend all kinds of time talking about football attendance, from all kinds of different directions. We've basically tried every possible idea in marketing, including ticket prices that are ridiculously low to a kid-friendly environment to alumni seating to all kinds of promotions and advertising campaigns and everything else. On top of everything else, Princeton Stadium couldn't be a better place to see a game.

Also, we have no way of knowing if anything we're trying is successful. Yes, we can see what the attendance is, but we have no way of knowing if that's the top number the market will bear or if not, how far below the top number we are.

TigerBlog has often asked the same basic questions in our marketing meetings, among them being why don't more people come? Is it because they don't know about the games, or is it because they know and just aren't interested?

During last year's first round of therapy, TB gave Crystal tickets for her and her family. This came after conversations in which Crystal proved to fit one of two basic profiles that TB believes apply to those who might come but don't. In her case, she was used to the Rutgers model, which meant a sold-out stadium, higher ticket prices, difficult parking and students who, uh, had, um, started the party a little earlier on game days.

As a result, her comments to TB were basically that Princeton was probably the same way.

As for Sue, her comments fit profile No. 2. Why haven't you been to a game, TB asked her. Busy with the kids and their own stuff, especially sports, she answered.

TigerBlog gave both tickets for tomorrow's game against Columbia, which starts late enough (3 pm) for most kids' activities to be completed. TB is predicting that Sue will confirm another of his beliefs, one that Crystal did a year ago:

Once she goes to one game, she'll want to come back.

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