The Pittsburgh Pirates are at last contenders again, but they're still the Pittsburgh Pirates. They finally have fans excited again because they're actually winning. But they're still not above showing some degree of contempt for those fans by offering them something they're calling the Fan Advisor Network. And what is the Fan Advisor Network? Why, it's an exclusive chance to pay for the opportunity to feel like the team is taking you and your opinions on how the team ought to be run seriously. The image above is taken from the network's home page. Click to enlarge it. The whole idea—to say nothing of the timing—is so dumb it reads like a parody. But it is very, very real. From the website's "About" section:
The concept is fairly simple: Turn the most passionate and intelligent Pirate fans into consultants for the team that they love. Never before has the objective "voice of the fan" been captured. The Fan Advisor Network does so each and every week through its unique Fan Advisor Network Consulting System, a weekly single-question statistically valid survey. Confidential weekly reports are generated from this data and provided to the Pirates as well as to the Pirate Fan Advisors themselves.
Patterned after corporate advisory boards, Pirate Fan Advisors provide wisdom to the Pirates which becomes another invaluable data point for Pirate team executives as they make all manner of decisions about the team. Only though this unique system can the objective voice of the fan be taken into account at all levels of the organization.
Yeah. OK. All of a sudden, the Pirates are going to decide whether or not to bat Pedro Alvarez in the cleanup spot because Sam from Squirrel Hill bucked up to say so. I mean, check it out: There are three tiers of fan advisor subscriptions. For the bronze membership (which costs $9.95 a month), fans get to provide the Pirates with feedback, read their "confidential" fan advisor report, engage with other fan advisors in an exclusive fan advisors message board, plus—holy shit—a lapel pin! For the silver plan ($23.95 a month), fans get everything in the bronze plan, plus a chance to take part in "league-wide surveys," provide input on what question fans should be asking at weekly consulting meetings, an invite to the "annual fan meeting" with team officals, and a certificate! I almost can't stand all the perks of being a gold member, a privilege that will set you back just $600 a year: everything you'd get in the silver and bronze, plus a "guaranteed spot" at that annual meeting, input on the meeting's content, chances to be a "fan representative" at team events, an invite to represent the team at the "national fan advisor network meeting," and a fleece jacket! Oh, and the silver and gold plans have limited availability. So act now! Because if you're not first in line to be a gold-level member of the Pirates fan advisor network, you're obviously not a real fan.
Update (4:06 p.m.): The Pirates respond. They say they have "no financial agreement or affiliation" with the fan advisor group, though they did allow team president Frank Coonelly to record a video endorsing it, complete with the team logo. The video will soon be taken down, but you can continue to view it here:
Update No. 2: The URL for the Pirates' fan advisor network now links to a letter from its "chief fanatical officer," which you can read here:
Once news of the fan advisor idea began to spread this afternoon, Pirates fans and the Pittsburgh media chimed in via Twitter with some unsolicited advice of their own: