January 15, 2017

Free Fries!

For the past few years now, the Washington Wizards and Chick-fil-A have been engaged in a promotional partnership. The deal is if a player on the visiting team misses two consecutive free throws during a single trip to the charity stripe in the last quarter of the game, all fans in attendance get a free chicken sandwich from a local branch of the restaurant chain sometime in the following week.

I love this promotion. It gets fans cheering and making noise while our opponents are shooting free throws towards the end of the game when every point counts. Yes, it's a little shameful that this opportunity for some free grub gets the notoriously silent and indifferent crowds at Verizon Center worked up into a rabid frenzy. But look, noise is noise and I'd love it if the Wizards had a different sponsor behind a different giveaway related to free throw misses in every quarter. It might be complicated and less effective from an advertising standpoint, but we'd get the arena loud every quarter of the game. And let's face it, most nights the Wizards sorely need this.

Other folks don't love the Chick-fil-A sandwich giveaway as much as I do. The apparent contradiction between the home fans at VC making way more noise for a free piece of fried chicken on a bun than for the team itself has been covered in multiple news outlets including The Washington Post, USA Today and SB Nation. Again, I get that lack of crowd noise is a problem at Wizards home games; just don't blame Chick-fil-A for pointing it out. It's not like if they didn't have this promotion that the place would be loud all night long.

Last month, I took a trip out to Erie, Pennsylvania to watch the Erie Bayhawks, the city's NBA Development League team, play a game on a Saturday night. And I have to tell you the Bayhawks and McDonald's have just the promotion that I wish the Wizards would have.

Here's the deal in Erie: if the opposing team misses five free throws at any point in the game, then each fan in attendance gets a small fries from an area McDonald's for free. Why is this better? Well quite simply because it works potentially throughout the entire game. From the very first trip to the line for any player on the visiting team, there's a possibility to get closer to the goal of free stuff. Even if they miss the first free throw (which means no chicken for sure at VC), you can still cheer like crazy for a miss on the second during the fries promotion because each miss gets you closer to free fries.

Now I get it: a Chick-fil-A sandwich is way better than a small fries at McDonald's. Who even orders small fries anymore anyway? But why can't the Wizards get Mickey Ds to change their current McGriddles promotion (free McGriddles if the Wiz are ahead after one quarter) to a fries promotion based on free throw misses and have it count for the first three quarters only. I mean, who eats McGriddles? Does anyone like these things? It would be even sweeter if McDonald's made it a medium fries.

If the Wizards could make this change, we'd have some part of Verizon Center booing the opposition to get closer to free food every time they stepped to the line. McDonald's would take care of the first three quarters and Chick-fil-A would still get the fourth. I'd make this change in a heartbeat if I was running things. Some folks are still going to hate it. I love anything that gets people to make noise in support of the Wizards at home. For my part, I'll continue to boo for missed free throws in the final quarter, even though I've never cashed in on free chicken and realistically probably never will. Go Wizards!

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