Nemo's Bar bought a fleet of used school buses to ferry fans to downtown sporting events. (Neal Rubin / The Detroit News)
If the Tigers can’t win it all, I hope the Oakland A’s do. But if that turns out to be the way the ball bounces tonight — if it’s Oakland that moves on to the next round of the playoffs — would it be a terrible inconvenience to have them play a few home games in Detroit?
I like that the A’s are small-market and low-interest and stuck on the gritty side of San Francisco Bay. I like that sewage occasionally overflows in their dumpy ballpark, O.co Coliseum.
I like that they wrote the book on moneyball, the art of using analytics to cadge maximum value out of minimal budgets — or anyway, had it written about them. I like that their entire roster earned less in 2013 than the $64.1 million the Tigers paid Prince Fielder, Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander.
But I like Nemo’s better. And Harry’s and P.J.’s. And the homeless guys who gather themselves enough on game days to wave cars into parking lots with orange flags. And the airplanes that circle the stadium towing ever-elegant ads for strip clubs.
In our bankrupt burg, I like the excitement of playoff games — and the revenue stream. So since the Tigers were gracious enough to use Wiffle bats for three games and assure that Oakland could host a game five, it seems only reasonable to ask the A’s to upgrade to Comerica Park.
It’s always nice to win a World Series. We all certainly enjoyed the one in 1984. But that can be a crapshoot, a question of who gets doinked by a bad call, who gets helped, and whose broken-bat blooper falls in.
Home games are a sure thing.
$4M in direct spending
Economists have examined this before. They’ve crunched a few numbers, factored in the average windspeed, multiplied by the size of Max Scherzer’s hat, and come up with an estimate of $4 million in direct spending every time the Tigers sell out.
But that’s for a Wednesday night in July against Kansas City. Things get magnified in the postseason. The prediction last year for three frigid home games in the World Series was $30 million, even if the Tigers got swept and played only two.
At the DoubleTree Suites downtown, five of six people in the check-in line Monday morning were wearing Tigers gear. On Tuesday at Harry’s Detroit Bar on Clifford Street, an attendant in an orange T-shirt that read “Free Parking” was on duty five hours before game time, asking people if they were just stopping for lunch or getting shuttled to the ballpark.
For the best illustration of what an economic driver the playoffs are, go to Nemo’s on Michigan Avenue and watch the buses.
After Tiger Stadium closed in 1999, co-owner Tim Springstead bought three retired school buses for less than it cost to repaint them white and green. Hauling people to downtown sporting events became such a draw that he now has six.
On Monday, Springstead says, for a 1:07 p.m. game on a workday, Nemo’s transported 700 people at $3 each. Most of them ate, drank and were merry first — if not later, since the Tigers lost.
“There’s a trickle down,” he says. A real one. More staff on duty, more tips, more burgers at the Mercury Burger & Bar, more coneys at Lafayette.
Playoff games are a bonus
P.J.’s Lager House is typically a music joint, albeit with an unusually eclectic menu — a place to find the Red Elvises and Quasar Wut-Wut, not baseball fans.
Between its own regulars and spillover from a block away at Nemo’s, says bartender Paul Maiale, “we were busy as hell Monday.”
“I came in a little early, rolled some extra silverware, put a little extra shine on the place,” he says. “I had a certain mindset, even the night before. Better get to bed early and be prepared. You have to make money while you can.”
The Mercury, in the gaunt shadow of the train station, starts the year with checkmarks next to 81 baseball games, 45 hockey games and 10 Lions games, exhibitions included. Playoffs are a whomping bonus.
“The meter man was going crazy yesterday,” says co-owner Dave Steinke, “giving out tickets.”
OK, not every bonanza is a good thing, but I’ll be rooting hard for the Tigers tonight — and for some Oakland generosity if things don’t work out.