My phone rang yesterday. I didn’t answer it. I never answer it. I currently have 16 missed calls and voice mails, 6,044 unread emails and 57 unread text messages. I’m not popular (only the emails are really impacted by the site), I’m just lazy. But when I saw I had a voicemail from an unknown Minnesota number, I had to listen. The call was from someone (call him G, for short) claiming to be “from the Philadelphia Union.” He used my first name and said that he was sorry to have missed my call, which I most certainly didn’t place. That piqued my interest. I figured it had something to do with the site. Maybe it was someone in the promotions department trying to spread the word about an event, or someone from the PR department responding to my All-Star Game request from two years ago. I tried to think of anyone I contacted regarding the Union. That list is small, and I was drawing a blank. But I called back anyway.
I found out rather quickly that G wasn’t from the Union specifically. He was from the MLS, and he was trying to sell me tickets. Ostensibly.
Ignoring his scummy sales tactic of claiming that he was returning a call I didn’t place, I humored him for a moment and then informed him that I wasn’t interested in Union tickets and that I only called him back because I thought he was actually with the Union and that he might have been calling me based on the fact that I run a sports blog. I’m sure G rolled his eyes at me identifying myself as a “sports blogger” and assumed that I was just some guy who posted his incoherent thoughts about the local team when he had a few moments to spare (which wouldn’t be entirely untrue…). Maybe he knew exactly who he was calling (he did have my name and number). But I didn’t bother telling him that I make a good living running the blog and that 250k people read it each month. I just politely told him that I wasn’t interested in buying tickets.
He pushed back.[Paraphrasing]
Why not? Maybe you can write about them on your blog.
If I want tickets, I’ll get them online. Thanks. I got…
How much do you think Union tickets cost?
$20. Look, to be honest, if I really wanted to go to a game and write about it on the blog, I can probably get credentials.
Press credentials. I run a fairly well-known sports website in Philadelphia.
I wasn’t trying to be a dick. Most people would’ve hung up on the guy by now. But I knew he was just doing his job, so I tried to end the call politely. It was at this point that he got confrontational. I informed him again that I wasn’t interested in buying tickets. He told me that he wasn’t just trying to sell tickets, but that he was with the league and doing outreach to soccer fans and potential soccer fans. He did, in fact, stop trying to sell me tickets. He told me my site would be better if I wrote about the Union. I told him that it wouldn’t. He asked me how often I go to games. I told him that I’d been to PPL Park a few times. He tried to sell me tickets again. I told him no. He asked if I ever wrote about the Union on my site. I told him that I did, but infrequently.
Why not more?
Because it’s not worth my time. There’s not as much interest as the other four major sports teams.
At this point I should’ve just hung up. He was actually getting pissed off and so was I. He fired back.
How do you know if it’s worth your time if you don’t go?
And you say you write about them. How can you write about a team and the great fan experience if you don’t go to the games? That seems like it’s doing a disservice to your readers.
This was an entirely different conversation – explaining to him how I can be more efficient not going to games – that I wasn’t going to have. At this point I was so taken aback that the MLS actually employed people to do stuff like this– to call sports fans and harass them about why they don’t like or go to MLS games. His tone was confrontational. It was slimy. It wasn’t polite. He was well past trying to sell me tickets and well into trying to tell me how to make a living. Is this how the MLS is trying to grow their brand, by harassing bloggers? A decent “outreach person,” or whatever G was, might have said something like: “Hey, that’s great, it sounds like you have a pretty big following. What’s your website? Maybe we can get you out to a game, no charge, to see for yourself how great the product is. We’re really proud of it.” That’s a pitch I’ve received from many businesses and teams. But nope. G berated me when I told him that most of my time is spent focusing on the Phillies, Flyers and Eagles, and that, from a business standpoint, it was a waste of my time to go and cover Union games.
How is it a waste of your time if you never go? How do you even know? If you want to grow your site, you should cover all the teams.
I was about to hang up and I told him that I really didn’t appreciate someone cold calling me and telling me how to do my job. He apologized (not sincerely) and rephrased his question more nicely. We spoke for a few more minutes. The second half of the call was significantly more tame than the first half, when he was genuinely berating me, and when I was genuinely about to tell him where to go. Things remained awkward, though.