When somebody famous is having a hard time, has been embroiled in scandal, broken the law or discovered to have had a fake girlfriend everyone thought had died of leukemia, you can always count on a minor league baseball team you’ve never heard of to be there with a press release to make fun of it.
The latest to join in this tradition of baseball promotion schadenfreude is the Florence Freedom, an independent team from northern Kentucky, which has filled up on Google News alerts today by announcing a promotion for a Manti Te’o Girlfriend Bobblehead night in May.
Because Te’o’s so-called girlfriend wasn’t real and therefore didn’t die a tragic death from leukemia after recovering from a car accident that put her in a coma, the bobblehead will be nothing more than an empty box that will be given to the first 1,000 fans at the Freedom’s May 23.
“This will be the best kind of bobblehead a fan could get,” Freedom General Manager Josh Anderson said in a press release on the team’s website. “Because now fans can make the bobblehead out to be whatever they want it to be.”
Taking the promotion further, a section of the stadium will be reserved only for fans with imaginary girlfriends, boyfriends, friends or spouses and the kiss cam will become the pretend kiss cam for an evening. An imaginary food fight and air guitar contest are also planned.
This kind of thing would be shocking and maybe even slightly offensive if it weren’t already commonplace in the lower leagues of minor league baseball. Independent leagues don’t have anything to lose launching ridiculous promotions to grab headlines. That’s part of the charm of independent baseball in the first place. The play on the field isn’t always the greatest, but you never know what crazy promotion might break out in the middle of an otherwise pedestrian game. I once saw people picking polyps off a giant wooden colon in between innings at an independent league game in Evansville and it didn’t seem all that out of the ordinary until I looked at the photos a week later.
Just take a look at some of these other crazy promotions:
- The Macon Music announced Eliot Spitzer Night after the former New York governor was implicated in a prostitution ring. The team’s opponent for the game was the Aiken Foxhounds and they gave away a trip to Washington with a one-night stay at the infamous Renaissance Mayflower Hotel among other promotions.
- After Senator Larry Craig was busted in an airport bathroom trying to solicit sex from a police officer, the St. Paul Saints gave away a commemorative Bobblefoot, which was a bathroom stall with feet dangling below.
- The Quad Cities River Bandits “offered” former Gov. Rod Blogojevich four club season tickets and a host of other perks in exchange for the appointment of the club’s director of operations to President Obama’s vacant senate seat after it was reported that Blaogojevich was accused of auctioning off the seat he was responsible for filling.
- The now-defunct Atlantic City Surf held a Terrell Owens Unappreciation Night in 2006 when the wide receiver was at his height of unpopularity in Philadelphia. Fans received whoopee cushions with his photo on them and could get two free seats for handing in merchandise that was burned after the game.
- The Washington Wild Things offered Barry Bonds a maximum salary of $1,200 a month to play for them when he was a free agent in 2007 and no major league teams were biting. The offer included a 50-50 share on merchandise, a pledge to find a host family for Bonds and earned the team a headline and mention on ESPN.com.
- The Newark Bears held a Britney Spears Baby Safety Night after the pop singer was caught driving with her infant son in her lap. Fans who dressed as a baby, brought a baby or a baby doll got in free.
- The Fullerton Flyers had a Jose Canseco Juice Box Night when Canseco was playing for their rivals Long Beach Armada, giving away juice boxes to coincide with the release of Canseco’s tell-all book Juiced.
- The Fresno Grizzlies had some fun with Britney Spears ex-husband Kevin Federline in 2006, giving away temporary tattoos to the first 3,000 fans who were encouarged to dress like the dancer and rapper.
It’s hard to say whether we’ll know much more than we know now about the Te’o scandal or whether it will still click with folks in the Cincinnati metro area in May when the promotion actually happens, but credit the Florence Freedom for being the first to drink from a well that will never go dry so long as there is minor league baseball seats to fill and famous people grabbing headlines for bizarre, inappropriate or imaginary behavior.