The NFL’s hypocrisy did not end with the close of the 2009 season. Apparently in order to promote a more family friendly environment, the NFL and the Buffalo Bills have told Kenny “Pinto Ron” Johnson he is no longer welcome in Ralph Wilson Stadium’s Lot 1.
To understand just who is Pinto Ron, take a look at this video.
After seeing that video you may think Pinto Ron might be crazy, eccentric, eclectic, repulsive or downright charming. What you wouldn’t see is a menace to the tailgating community and being a public nuisance to the NFL’s vision of a family friendly environment.
So what if he cooks bacon on a hand saw blade on the hood of his car? Sure he bakes pizzas in an old filing cabinet. He gets covered in ketchup and mustard in a long standing ceremony that happens at 11:30 am every Bills home game Sunday. And, of course, he shares shots of Polish cherry liqueur out of the thumbhole of a bowling ball. Is his tailgating a bit unique and eccentric? Sure it is. But to tell this super fan he is no longer welcome after 21 years of supporting a perennial losing franchise is outright wrong.
To read the entire article of how Pinto Ron is no longer welcome, read the article from ESPN.com below:
ESPN.com: NFL intercedes in Bills fan’s tailgate
As an advocate of tailgating in general and even more of an advocate of responsible tailgating, I have two really big issues with this removal of Pinto Ron from Ralph Wilson Stadium parking lot.
1) If the NFL is really trying to promote a family friendly environment, why do they still serve beer and alcohol inside the stadium? Fans can get just as liquored up in the stands as they can in the parking lot. Those who want to overindulge in alcohol at an NFL game can get just as drunk inside the stadium although it will cost them more. And oh yeah, the NFL and the individual team’s get a cut of all that beer and liquor flowing inside the stadiums. So a stadium that has alcohol flowing like a spring river is not as family friendly as they would like you to believe.
2) If the NFL is really trying to promote a family friendly environment, why don’t they encourage lower ticket prices, smaller parking fees and better food choices inside the stadium? Using my own season tickets as an example, my season tickets to the San Diego Chargers come out to be $98 per seat. If I wanted to take my family to a game that would include my wife, my daughter and my son. Simple math tells me that tickets alone would be close to $400. Add to that the parking fee of $25 per game along with food and drink to have while tailgating and we are pushing the $500 mark for one day’s worth of entertainment. If we did that for an entire regular season and the team did not host a playoff game, the estimated cost would be $5,000 for the year. I don’t know too families in this economy that can afford $5,000 for 10 Sunday’s of entertainment.
On top of lowering costs, how about encouraging your concessions inside the stadium to sell a healthier type of food? Now that would truly be family friendly to take your son or daughter to a game and not be fearful of the onset of childhood diabetes with one trip to the concession stand. I’ve never seen fresh fruits for sale or even 2% milk or apple juice offered. Not a granola bar to be found. Instead, the artery clogging nachos, overcooked burgers and sugary sodas are all that’s available behind that overpriced counter. Of course the NFL wouldn’t know what exactly is being served down below because their suites are cluttered with rolling carts of shrimp cocktail and creme brulee. Oh, the unwashed, face painted masses? Let them eat brats.
Hiding behind the vaulted “Fan Code of Conduct” the NFL trotted out in front of us in 2008 is cowardly and lame. Keep in mind the NFL is the same organization that sold last year and continues to sell this year, officially licensed NFL beer pong tables. Apparently the NFL thinks you are so stupid that they don’t care that large online retailers like Amazon.com are blatantly calling these items Portable NFL Tailgate Beer Pong Tables. Don’t believe me? Just do a Google search for the term “nfl beer pong table” and see what results come back. I am confident you can assume what results will return.
So the NFL can sell and market beer pong tables sporting the logos of its 32 franchises but a long time fan can’t share shots with other fans out of a bowling ball? Yup, that makes total sense to me. I am guessing if the NFL got a cut of every shot Pinto Ron handed out over the years they may not be so inclined to boot him.
The NFL’s message is loud and clear. It is:
“Thank you longtime tailgaters for helping us build our brand to be the biggest and most widely recognized in North America. We thank you for your loyalty and for your traditions that we have celebrated in the past as quaint and charming. But today is a new day and we no longer need you nor want you. Please pack up all your things and enjoy our product while consuming our multi-billion dollar television package somewhere out of sight of our freshly renovated corporate suites. We will continue to sell binge drinking paraphernalia in our online stores and we will surely continue to sell warm, $8 beers inside the concourse. But please, you tailgaters must understand that we have grown tired of you and although there once was a time where we celebrated you, you are no longer needed. You gave us what we wanted and now you can go.
I predicted this was coming. It started with the Cleveland Muni Lot opening three hours later at the beginning of the season. Now it has evolved into an iconic tailgater in Buffalo being told he is no longer welcome. Be careful what you wish for NFL. Just like many are predicting a revolutionary change is coming in November in politics with the Mid-term elections, the same may be coming very soon from your tailgating fan base. You keep treating tailgaters like they are second class citizens and as if they were unnecessary to your sustained success, and you will see how tightly knit and organized we can become.
It happened with the “Who Dat?” Super Bowl controversy when the NFL overstepped its bounds to try to make a quick buck. The Saints fans banded together and sent the NFL scampering back to their plush New York offices with their tail between their legs. As the NFL continues to expand the list of rules and tighten the regulations on tailgating, they best remember that we the fans, hold the cards. Just imagine a Sunday where NFL teams played in front of empty stadiums and no one watched it on TV. Just for one weekend what a powerful message that would send the almighty NFL.
Be careful what you wish for NFL. You want to rid your stadiums and parking lots of tailgaters who are not your ideal “family friendly” tailgaters? Be careful what you wish for because you just might get it.
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