Posted: Wednesday October 25, 2006 2:28PM; Updated: Friday October 27, 2006 2:56PM
WEDNESDAY, OCT. 25 -- I've already posted on the eerie similarity between the run-up to the Frost Heaves' first season and Vermont's concurrent political campaigns. Our state doesn't have much in the way of representation in Washington -- two Senators and a lone House seat. So when two of the three become vacant, as is the case right now, candidates rush into the breach.
Former medical software mogul and hoops star Rich Tarrant will spend more per voter than any candidate in American political history by the end of his race against Bernie Sanders for the seat of retiring Sen. Jim Jeffords. And for the House seat that Sanders will vacate, State Sen. Peter Welch is tangling with Martha Rainville, the former adjutant general of the Vermont National Guard.
We've run across all four of them during the course of the summer and fall, while taking the team on the hustings, to holiday parades and county fairs. Tarrant, whom the Boston Celtics drafted after he took St. Michael's College to the Final Four of what the NCAA then called its College Division, is all over TV right now, and a few weeks ago he began airing a couple of spots that each that included a guy in a Frost Heaves hat.
It wasn't product placement on our part, I swear. We're resolutely nonpartisan. I'm gonna guess it's simply shrewd subliminal message-sending: "Rich was a ballplayer."
Then, on Sunday night, a debate moderator threw at Welch and Rainville one of those Shawian questions (that's Shawian as in Bernard of CNN, not George Bernard of English Lit): If you weren't a public servant, what do you wish you were? And Welch said, "A professional basketball player."
It so happens that the ABA permits the home team to suit up -- and play -- anyone it wants from the community for each game. Our coach, Will Voigt, was watching, and suggested that we blast out a release offering a spot to Welch and any other pol who wanted to show us what they've got. It seemed like one of those p.r. windfalls that land in your lap. It took our director of ops, as well as the assistant G.M., with whom I share the marital bed, to remind me that we should continue to avoid even the slightest tinge of partisanship.
Election Day is Nov. 7. We open at home nine days later. That's plenty of time for Peter and Richie and Martha and Bernie to get in shape.
TUESDAY, OCT. 24 -- We've swapped equity in the team for office space. We've traded an arena banner and yearbook ad to the Vermont Air National Guard for a color guard, plus security at our Burlington games. Our coach, Will Voigt, wandered into an outfit called Vermont Eye Laser to have his vision checked; by the time he'd left, Vermont Eye had a banner in the arena; the Frost Heaves had a team eye doctor; and our coach had an appointment for laser surgery.
(The surgery went fine. Coach V's fear of an operation gone wrong -- "You just might discover what kind of a feel for the game I have" -- proved to be unfounded.)
Other attempts at striking a deal have been exasperating. We figured that Cabot, the cheesemaking cooperative of Vermont dairy farmers, would be a natural, seeing as Coach V grew up in Cabot and went to Cabot High School. ("You've got a Cabot product. We've got a Cabot product. What's not to like?") But that logic has gotten us nowhere, perhaps because Cabot is now part of a consortium based in Massachusetts.
In order to make Vermont as attractive a place to play as possible, we've promised our players that we'll feed them, and that pledge has forced us into even more dealmaking. Breakfast is included at the players' extended-stay hotel, and our strength and conditioning coach is handing each a Met-Rx Nutrition Shake after morning workouts. But that still leaves 14 lunches and dinners we have to come up with every week, at least until the season starts and the guys collect per diems on the road.
We spent weeks cultivating a trade deal with a major sandwich chain that shall remain nameless. (Let me rephrase that: We spent weeks cultivating a trade deal with a major sandwich chain that shall remain nameless until they come back to the table -- at which point we'll shout its name from the rooftops!) They lost their nerve at the thought of 15 ravenous ballplayers descending at the lunch hour on a handful of their franchisees.
Meantime, to the restaurateurs and caterers who are on board -- from Sean & Nora's, to The Lakeview, to Mexicali, to The Busy Chef, to Anything's Pastable, to City Market, to former UVM coach and current ESPN broadcaster Tom Brennan's favorite watering hole, The Rusty Scuffer -- I'd propose a banner in the arena: We've Got the Heaves!
Except that, if I really want to swap press releases for food, that won't be much of an advertisement for my copywriting skills.
MONDAY, OCT. 23 -- The twin economic fundamentals of minor-league hoops, as explained to me and other rookie owners, Amway-style, at every ABA meeting, are these: 1. You'll need about $400,000 to operate your team for a season. 2. The more you can reduce that figure with trade and barter, the better off you'll be.
At the last ABA gathering -- the one where commissioner-in-waiting John Salley vowed to "go gangsta" on any club unable to get its operational act together -- we heard from the owner of the ABA's Arkansas Aeros and Arkansas River Catz, a constitutionally cheery man named Charles Wilkerson. Charles runs the American Exchange Network, a.k.a. BarterAmericas. He is the Baron of Barter. I suspect that his good humor follows from his involvement in scores of encounters in which everyone walks away happy.
"I once traded bat manure for a 747," he told us.
The way the room turned attentive, you'd have thought he'd just said that he had a trove of 7-footers for the taking.
Turned out Charles never pays for a hotel room, because he has traded for vast quantities of something hotels need every four of five years, and for which they're happy not to pay cash: hotel furniture.
I joined the owners mobbing him after his remarks, and asked whether we could get a few hotel rooms.
"What have you got to trade?"
"I can write press releases," I replied, recalling that Charles had said that barter networks accept services as well as goods.
So: I would do copywriting for someone with hotel furniture; that person would in turn trade credenzas and settees for non-smoking doubles, which he would give to the Frost Heaves.
That's a much more global marketplace, of course, than the kind of local trade deals we're cutting every day. (That bat guana was not, of course, traded straight up for a 747 -- there were plenty of other trades in between.) But Baron Charles has blown open my horizons of what's swappable.
Anyone with a spare 24-second clock care to make a deal? . . . WILL WRITE PRESS RELEASES FOR FOOD! . . . Trade you one Bump the Moose mall appearance for 15 winter jackets with quadruple XL sleeves.