Football and beer go together, well, like beer and football. And yet that glorious tandem is being messed with. Last Sunday, just prior toor in the midst ofthe Titans’ otherwise thrilling come-from-behind victory against the Philadelphia Eagles, tens of thousands of fans glumly discovered that their team was selling them beer in smaller cups and charging them the same $6 price as last year.
According to the Scene’s own independent measurements, conducted in the newspaper’s bathroom sink with a Pyrex measuring cup, last year’s Titans plastic beer cup contained approximately 2 2/3 cups of fluid when filled to the rim. In contrast, a new cup from this year contained only 2 1/4 cups. (Both cups were submitted to the Scene by a concerned fan.) That’s a loss of 5/12 of a cup, or, to put it in language that we all can understand, 15.6 percent less beer.
“Everybody in my section noticed how much smaller the beers were this year,” says Titans fan Will Byrd. “We all laughed about it and said we were going to protest and just drink cokes.”
The Scene contacted the Titans public relations office twice to discuss the matter. Each time, the paper was told to expect a response, but none was forthcoming by deadline. Granted, with calls from ESPN and Sports Illustrated flooding their offices, a free weekly paper calling about 5/12 of a cup of beer probably wasn’t high on their priority list.
For most NFL franchises, charging the same price for less beer does not rise to the level of corporate malfeasance. But what the hapless Bengals are to the glorious game of football, the Titans and their out-of-town owner Bud Adams have occasionally been to public relations. Sure, they’ve fielded competitive teams stocked with decent, largely law-abiding gentlemen. But the Titans recently sued the city in a contract squabble. Then they installed security barriers without consulting the city, sending Metro a $1.4 million bill to pay for them.
The team caught flak for both actions, but nothing may compare to the black eye they could receive over the beer situation. Gypping fans out of a few ounces of beer is not a smart thing to do.
“A man with a public relations problem should have more sense than to persecute the beer drinkers of Nashville this way, having already taken advantage of the taxpayers,” says investment banker Forrest Shoaf, who has a near-Churchillian sense of speech, even when sober. For his part, Shoaf says he noticed the smaller-sized beers the moment he bought his first one. “I’m not going to go on strike, dress up like an Indian, and hurl my beer in the Cumberland,” he intones. “But it’s this kind of mean-spirited arrogance that a good corporate citizen doesn’t show.”
Though Bud Adams has long earned a reputation for wanting every dollar in his safe, he might simply be following the age-old practice of passing on higher costs to the consumer. Rich Foge, the president of the Tennessee Malt Beverage Association, reminds us that Tennessee has the fourth-highest beer tax in the country and “it just got higher this year with the 10 percent increase in the state beer excise tax.” In addition, Foge informs us that last year the Titans’ distributor raised its prices. Taken together, those two developments might mean that Bud isn’t trying to make more money. He’s just trying to maintain.
Of course, after last Sunday’s game, fans aren’t exactly inclined to give the Titans the benefit of the doubt. By the second half, when temperatures were reaching into the mid-90s, fans tell the Scene that several concession stands had run out of bottled water on a day when the heat didn’t exactly sneak up on anybody. The concession operators then charged $3 for small cups of ice.
That’s just plain dangerous, charged one fan contacted by the Scene. “You had people who looked like they were about to have a heat stroke and they run out of water,” says the fan, who did not want to be named. “They run out of water through their own stupidity and then charge 3 bucks for a cup of ice.”
In the long run, it may have been a good thing that people were drinking less beer, inasmuch as the place was so hot. “The guys who sit in front of me are real drinkers,” says Byrd, the Titans fan. “Usually by halftime they are out of their mind. This time, though, they were still coherent at the end of the game. I asked them what happened and they said they didn’t want to spend more money on beer.”