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SportsPage: The truth about Brewers "On Deck"


When Brewers owner Mark Attanasio released a statement announcing that National League MVP Ryan Braun will not attend the “On Deck” event Sunday in Milwaukee, many fans reacted with shock, anger and indignation and scrambled to social media outlets to express it.

I chuckled.

I wasn’t laughing at the fans, mind you. It’s just that, in this age of self-entitlement -- five years after Time Magazine named “You” as its “Person of the Year” -- reacting with shock, anger and indignation is the true national pastime.

“That waitress just gave me 7-Up instead of Pepsi. Where is the manager? I want her incompetent ass fired!”

Upon reading Attanasio’s statement. I knew some people would be mad and demand refunds. I could almost hear the anger and it made me chuckle.

“I bought tickets to this thing and I was planning on bringing my kid and we were going to drive in from Podunk because Ryan Braun is his favorite player and now he’s not going to be there and I want my money back...”

I chuckled while typing that, but it’s not what you think...

I know it’s very unlikely that the Brewers will give refunds. The funds from “On Deck” benefit the Brewers Community Foundation, which sponsors scholarships and Little Leagues and raises money for the Susan G. Komen Foundation and does a lot of other things. Like everyone on the roster for “On Deck,” Braun was listed under a banner that said “scheduled to appear” or “subject to change” or anything else that would be considered a suitable disclaimer.

There isn’t anything particularly funny about that bit of legalese, either.

By now, the suspense has to be killing you. Why in the hell was I chuckling about the fact that the Brewers announced that Ryan Braun won’t be at the Frontier Airlines Center and a number of fans are outraged about it?

OK, I’ll tell you...

I’ve covered plenty of “On Deck” a couple times. I’ve seen the way it works, and I feel comfortable making the following statement:

No matter how many complaints the Brewers receive about Braun’s absence, there is a very solid chance that it will not exceed the number of complaints that would have been lodged if Braun had actually, you know, ATTENDED the event.

Here is something you may not know about “On Deck.” Tickets purchased in advance cost $15 for adults and $9 for kids. At the door, tickets cost $20 for adults and $15 for kids.

The event runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., attracts a crowd of between 10,000 and 15,000 fans -- many of them families. The Racing Sausages are around. Past and present players show up for a couple hours to meet fans, take pictures and sign autographs. Tje mood is upbeat, if not downright giddy.

And every year, people complain.

No matter how many times the Brewers hold the event and how explicit they are in detailing the procedure, the autograph thing makes people mad.

Everyone who goes to “On Deck” would like to leave with an autograph from Ryan Braun or Robin Yount or (insert favorite player here). That’s simply not possible. Players are generally required to sign 250 autographs during their signing sessions.

Because the demand for guys like Braun, Rickie Weeks and John Axford is higher than that for guys like Jerry Narron, Caleb Gindl and Martin Maldonado, the Brewers implemented a system where some player autographs are designated as “PREMIER.”

In order to get those autographs, fans must grab a numbered coupon (distribution begins at 8 a.m. and ends an hour before each autograph session). If they are selected, they must wait in line and be prepared to pay $25 (cash only) to get an autograph, a quick photo and a chance to tell their favorite player that they think he’s great.

Some players and coaches sign autographs for free. Others cost $10. The chance of getting a “PREMIER” autograph is slim. Veteran attendees know the drill and try to maximize their efforts -- much like people that sprint toward the dugout rail as soon as the gates open during batting practice at Miller Park.

Other people wander in and saunter around, oblivious to the setup, and become very agitated when they realize that their $20 admission doesn’t guarantee an encounter with their favorite player. Or, they’ll be peeved about the length of the line or the additional cost.

The Brewers staff works very hard to put on the event. The players are usually gracious and seem to enjoy the interaction with fans. Most fans come away happy. Many who are miffed by the autograph setup vow to come back more prepared the next year. Others complain and whine and demand refunds because they don’t think things are fair.

Ryan Braun isn’t coming to “On Deck” this year. Some fans are going to be mad. My advice to those fans? Take a deep breath. Don’t burn your tickets, storm the offices at Miller Park or cancel your 10-game pack in anger.

A few weeks ago, the Packers played a game against Detroit at Lambeau Field and decided to bench of a bunch of their best players, including MVP candidate Aaron Rodgers. A number of fans in the parking lot grumbled about the development, some thought it was a rip-off and I even heard a few joke about asking for refunds.

It turned out to be one of the more exciting and historic games of the season.

Ryan Braun won’t be there on Sunday. But, you might have an unforgettable encounter with Randy Wolf, Ed Sedar or Zelous Wheeler.


BUCKS -- at Chicago, 7 p.m. Friday

BADGERS -- vs. Indiana, 8 tonight

GOLDEN EAGLES -- at Villanova, 11 a.m. Saturday


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