March 15, 2014

Giveaway Heaven

Last Saturday night's Bucks-Wizards game in Milwaukee was Bucks Mini Basketball Night for fans aged 14 and under. If you were young enough, you got handed a deflated basketball on the way into the Bradley Center. I assume they were deflated so fans wouldn't throw them on the court. I didn't get one as I went through the turnstile because I'm just a little over the age limit on that one. If they'd let me, the odds that I would have picked it up and brought it back to D.C. with me are probably about 50/50 even though I'm still struggling with what to do with the Allen Iverson replica retired jersey banner and bobblehead that I picked up the prior weekend when I went to see the Wizards play the 76ers in Philadelphia.

Before I travel to road basketball games I always check out the promotional schedule to see if there's any loot worth showing up early for. I was honestly hoping to pick up a (former Wizard) Caron Butler bobblehead in Milwaukee but I missed that one by about a month and a half and Butler was waived a couple of weeks ago anyway. But I mention Saturday's giveaway because the number of promotional nights where this team is handing out free stuff is astonishing. The Wizards have five games with giveaways in the 2013-2014 season. The Bucks have 31!!!! That means fans can go home with something they didn't show up to the game with over 75% of the time they hit the Bradley Center for a Bucks game.

31 is a bit of a misleading number because the Bucks have placed age restrictions on a number of their giveaways just like they did on Saturday. Seven of the 31 giveaways are restricted to fans 14 years of age and under and an additional five are restricted to fans 18 and over. Some of these restricted items make little sense. I get the Bucks Lunch Box being restricted to age 14 and under (although honestly what kind of kid is still taking a lunch box to school at 14?) but the Bucks Can Holder being for 18 and over? If the logic here is these things are usually used on beer cans, then I'm not sure I get it. Last I checked the drinking age in Wisconsin was still 21. I guess they are just trying to spread the wealth a bit. The restrictions really hurt all the 15 to 17 year olds who love free stuff. Those guys are probably a little miffed.

Despite the restrictions on some items, the 31 promotional nights are impressive by any standard and I think the Wizards should be a little embarrassed here. Five nights just doesn't cut it. The Bucks have gone to great lengths to invent some awesome giveaways. There is more excellent stuff being handed out before games in Milwaukee than there is total stuff from lame to excellent being handed out at Verizon Center. I can imagine the Bucks' PR staff had a field day filling 31 nights with giveaways. So in an effort to point out how the Wizards fall short in this department as much as anything else, here are a few of my favorite items from the Bucks' excellent promotional schedule.

Schedule Pen
When I first read the giveaway for the November 16 game against the Thunder, I thought "What the heck is a schedule pen? How do they fit all 82 games on the barrel of a single pen?" I knew I had to investigate a little further and found the above picture on an ebay listing. I know...folks will sell absolutely anything, right?

And so how cool is the schedule pen? "It's awesome!" is the answer. It's a rollaway schedule tucked inside the barrel of a ballpoint pen! I can imagine working away in my office some afternoon and wondering when the next Wizards game is. Fortunately, I'm writing with my schedule pen so I can just check the answer out right away by unrolling the schedule from my writing implement. Quick and easy! Unfortunately, the Wizards didn't make a schedule pen. They should think seriously about checking out the schedule pen manufacturer's capabilities.

Oh, believe it or not, the schedule pen is an age restricted item. That's right, only fans 18 and older got handed this beauty. I'm assuming it's because the pen is sponsored by the Potawatomi Casino, although you have to be 21 to gamble so I'm not sure I'm on point with this one.

Bucks Cape (Part of the Bucks' Super Hero Night)
When I was an undergraduate at the University of Michigan and a super obsessed New York Jets fan, I used to wear a Jets beach towel as a cape and watch football games on my 6" black and white TV (I was the only kid with a TV, believe it or not). Whenever the Jets scored, I would be prone to whooping and hollering fits of running around in celebration with my "cape" flowing behind me. It's stupid I know. I was a lot younger then. Also, believe it or not, I didn't drink then. I have no explanation for my behavior really.

But imagine if I had an actual Jets cape! Fortunately for Milwaukee Bucks fans attending the November 30 game this year against the Celtics (14 and under only please), they don't have to fashion their own cape out of a beach towel because they can get an official one handed to them when they get their ticket scanned. I love this thing. It velcros right around your neck and is lightweight and flows behind you beautifully when you run around in celebration at top speed every time Giannis Antetokounmpo hits a bucket.

The only downside here is the Bucks secondary logo on the cape sort of looks like something creepy out of True Detective. I guess HBO sort of ruined that for them. Or for me at least.

Much like the schedule pen, I also found this item for sale on ebay. Some dude tried unsuccessfully three times to sell his Bucks cape for a penny (plus $2.99 shipping). Like I said, folks will sell absolutely anything.

Bucks Stem Glass Charms
I've never been to a party with enough people drinking the same wine in identical glasses to need to use glass charms but I totally get them. The glass charms are supposed to be unique tags placed around the bottom of the glass stems so partygoers who can't remember which glass is theirs can identify their misplaced booze by remembering the design of the charm on their glass. The stem charms industry makes all kinds. Before the December 4 game against the Pistons this season, the Bucks gave away their version of this modern society invention.

The giveaway features four different charms, each featuring a differently colored Bucks logo and matching beads. These things are terrific. If I were a Bucks fan and I had a set, I would definitely have some folks over for a party just so I could show off my loot. They are actually well made and would be a real conversation piece for hoops fans. I'm being serious here. Don't laugh. I'd love for the Wizards to make some of these.

Not surprisingly, this is an age restricted item, even though the Bucks took great care not to use the word "wine" in the giveaway description. Come on, I mean what else do you drink in stemmed glasses? The age restriction though is 18 and over, which doesn't compute any more than the schedule pen restriction. You still need to be 21 to drink, right?

More puzzling though, is the gender restriction for this promotional goodie. That's right, the stem glass charms were handed out only to women. Do men in Wisconsin not drink wine? Never mind. Don't answer that question. Let's move on.

Bucks Family Car Decal Set
I'd have to say I strongly dislike the stick figure decals that families place on the back windows of their SUVs to show how many family members they have at the current moment (including pets!) but I absolutely love the Bucks' set. I've seen all varieties of these stickers, from plain / barely gender and age recognizable stick figures to Star Wars characters but the Bucks family car decal set may just be the best ever.

All the trappings of basketball fandom are on here, right? Jerseys? Check! Hats? Check! T Shirts? Check! Giant foam fingers? CHECK!!!! Simply awesome. There's not much else to say.

I'd love to see a Wizards set. Although honestly, I'm not sure I would put them on my 350Z. I mean am I really going to stick a dorky stick figure dude in a Martell Webster jersey on the back window of a sports car? I don't think so. I still love these though! Two very enthusiastic thumbs way up!

So the other stuff I've written about so far is all well and good but let's face it, the primo giveaway in any promotional schedule is the bobblehead. This is an absolute, can't miss worth standing in line for, getting to the game early for, taking whatever means necessary to get your hands on one giveaway. The Wizards this year gave away one bobblehead; the Bucks have four on their slate. FOUR! Take note of this awesomeness, Monumental Sports and Entertainment!

In addition to the sheer quantity of bobbleheads on the schedule, the lineup is also extremely impressive. One Bucks legend (Junior Bridgeman), one historic broadcaster (Eddie Doucette), one current star (Larry Sanders) and one local hero who came home again (admittedly via trade) before negotiating a buyout and taking his chances chasing another ring with the Oklahoma City Thunder (that would be Caron Butler).

I managed to get my hands on a Junior Bridgeman bobblehead and I have to say, I'm impressed with the quality on these things. They put some of my Wizards bobbles to shame and they blow away the fat 50 year old looking Allen Iverson bobblehead I picked up in Philly the week prior. I would encourage as many bobbleheads as possible be given away at Wizards games next year. Please make this happen, Ted Leonsis.

So that's really all I have to say. I feel bad skipping the rest of the schedule but there's only so much I can write here in one post. The Bucks holiday ornament, bike light, Bango mask and four different Bucks posters (including the ever so excellent Nate Wolters "Naters Gonna Nate" poster) at least deserve a mention as can't miss free stuff. But I have to stop somewhere.

I also have to state for the record that it would have been a lot harder to write about all this without the help of the Bucks' PR staff, who graciously hooked me up with a swag bag of goodies from the season to date. They totally didn't have to hand a Wizards fan anything to help me out with this silly blog but they did anyway and I really appreciate it. The Bucks will occupy a special place in my heart because of that gesture. And I'm keeping my stem glass charms, bike light and Junior Bridgeman bobblehead. No way can I part with these things. As for my Bucks cape…well, it's a little small but there's no way I'm selling that thing on ebay. I just don't think that would work out for me very well.

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