BizKarl

Grasping for straws that stir the drink.

I bought a hybrid and it costs $20 a month

Detroit – Nineteen dollars is enough for a meal and dessert at Bennigan’s, a nosebleed seat at a sporting event and, presently, about a third of a tank of gas.

But in no way can $19 buy you a cell phone plan with talk, text and data, right?

Wrong.

Republic Wireless, a division of telecom company Bandwidth.com, has brought to market an Android-powered Motorola phone with unlimited features for just $19 a month.

That’s the price, now here’s the catch: The phone, a DEFY XT, uses a hybrid technology to place phone calls and surf the web. When in range of Wi-Fi, the phone uses Wi-Fi; when Wi-Fi is unavailable, Sprint’s 3G network kicks into gear.

It’s an imperfect system (calls can drop if a customer leaves a Wi-Fi zone), but it’s a system I’m willing to gamble on.

But after spending $100 a month for the the past 23 months as a Verizon Wireless customer, I didn’t hesitate to cut my phone budget by 80 percent — without committing to a two-year contract mandated by other phone providers — and switch to one of Republic’s plans.

My choice was a $249 phone that runs outdated Android software, followed by monthly payments of $19. Republic recently added a second package, where consumers can buy the same phone for $99 and pay $29 per month. (Note: Though less money up front, after 16 months of the $29 plan, it becomes the more expensive of the two.)

The Raleigh, N.C.-based company also plans to offer additional phones later this summer.

Changing industry

Wireless billing analysis firm Validas says that 80 percent of wireless subscribers overpay for their mobile services, despite analyst projections that 80 percent of cell phone users qualify for discounts through multi-phone or business plans.

The Motorola DEFY XT is currently the only phone for Republic Wireless plans.

Smartphone use is projected to top 1 billion by 2015. Wi-Fi use will also increase, and the Federal Communications Commission has responded to the need for additional Wi-Fi frequencies by announcing plans to open up a previously restricted frequency spectra.

The growing Wi-Fi demand is partly a result of wireless companies “throttling back,” or slowing the speed, of cell-phone data packages. Gone too are the days of widespread unlimited data packages. Verizon and AT&T have previously halted unlimited data plans.

The solution is more Wi-Fi. Republic’s customer base currently uses Wi-Fi — as opposed to Sprint’s 3G network — more than 60 percent of the time, said David Morken, co-founder and chief executive of Bandwidth, in a recent interview with the New York Times.

A grand experiment

My current Verizon plan includes 450 minutes and unlimited text messaging and data. I’ve never exceeded my allotted minutes and surf the web primarily using Wi-Fi.

That puts me in the minority of most cell phone users.

The DEFY XT is no iPhone 5. Hell, it’s probably not even on par with an iPhone 3. But as long as I can send messages, tweet and ask Google the occasional trivia question, it will suffice, especially if I save nearly $1,700 compared to my current Verizon plan.

And if it doesn’t, I’ll sulk back to Verizon, spend a few hundred dollars on a snazzy new smartphone and continue to burn through Benjamin Franklins each month.

You know, just like everyone else.

Follow Karl Henkel on Twitter, friend him on Facebook.

Ranking the automotive Super Bowl ads

Detroit – Automakers showed 12 commercials during Super Bowl XLVII. About half were hits, the other half misses. Space babies, Jamaican accents and crazy storylines didn’t register well on my radar. Here’s five that did:

1. Audi, “Prom”

Easily the best creative storyline. Relatable to most all. Memorable.

2. Mercedes-Benz, “Soul”

A lot less Kate Upton than most of us wanted, but the connection between a gaggle of attractive women and a $30,000 Benz could not have been made more succinctly.

3. Jeep, “Whole Again”

Two years ago, Chrysler won the hearts of Detroit with its “Imported from Detroit” ad. Now, the automaker’s Jeep brand scored with the whole nation with its “Whole Again” spot featuring Oprah Winfrey.

4. Hyundai, “Stuck”

Automakers have repeatedly shown ads where their cars can easily pass similar competitor models. But relatively few consumers care as much about passing “the guy with the Ford” as they do the “crazy dip—- with the s— hanging off his car.”

5. Ram, “Farmer”

This commercial doesn’t really focus on Ram trucks as much as it does farmers. Still, it scored extremely well immediately following its airing.

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XLVII for XLVII

Detroit – Super Bowl XLVII is upon us. And so are the commercials. In honor of the 47-or-so minutes of ad time during the 47th Super Bowl, here are 47 fun non-football facts about the big game:

Kate Upton Verlander

We all know Kate Upton will make an appearance in a Mercedes-Benz Super Bowl commercial. Here are 47 Super Bowl ad fun facts you may not know.

1. One-fourth of TV homes that watched last year’s Super Bowl had a household income of $100,000 or more. (Nielsen)

2. About the same number had household incomes of $30,000 or less. (Nielsen)

3. The average cost of a 30-second ad in this year’s Super Bowl is $3.4 million. The average cost of a 30-second commercial during primetime television can cost about $100,000. (Nielsen)

4. More than 130 marketers have spent $1.85 billion advertising during the Super Bowl since 2003. (Kantar Media)

5. Anheuser-Busch InBev has spent nearly $250 million on Super Bowl ads during that time. (Kantar Media)

6. General Motors Co. has spent the most money of any automaker advertising during the Super Bowl since 2003. GM has spent nearly $100 million during that time. The automaker will not advertise during Super Bowl XLVII. (Kantar Media)

GM made a splash during last year’s Super Bowl with its spot “Apocalypse,” but will remain silent during this year’s big game.

7. General Motors won’t spend $4 million on a Super Bowl ad, but did spend $165 million advertising during the NFL regular season (Kantar Media)

8. Automakers collectively spent three times more  on Super Bowl ads last year than any other industry. (Nielsen)

9. Twelve auto brands spent nearly $95 million on 16 ad spots during last year’s Super Bowl. (Kantar Media)

10. Despite all that spending, no automaker made Nielsen’s Top 10 “most remembered ads” list. (Nielsen)

11. Despite being forgettable, automakers held down the final four spots on Nielsen’s “most liked ads” list. Audi, Chrysler, Chevrolet and Honda took spots No. 7 through 10, respectively. (Nielsen)

12. General manufacturers did not have any Super Bowl ads from 2008 through 2011. (Nielsen)

13. In 2003, 83 ads comprised 40 minutes, 35 seconds of commercial time. (Kantar Media)

14. In 2012, 78 ads took up 47 minutes, 25 seconds of commercial time. (Kantar Media)

15. Half of this year’s Super Bowl ads will feature hashtags. (CNBC)

Hashtags will invade this year’s Super Bowl commercials.

16. Fifty-six percent of U.S. adults will watch this year’s Super Bowl with as much interest (or more) in the commercials as the actual game itself. (Harris Interactive)

17. Sixty percent of viewers ages 18 to 34 say having a computer nearby is at least somewhat important in order to have the best Super Bowl experience. (Hanon McKendry)

18. Nearly 50 percent of viewers in that same age bracket say the same thing about a smartphone. (Hanon McKendry)

19. Commercial teasers work … A sneak peak of Volkswagen’s 2012 ad attracted nearly three times as many social media shares (1.1 million) than the game-day ad itself (396,000). (Unruly Media)

20. Commercials last … Fifty-five percent of all social media shares happened after March 1 — nearly a month after the Super Bowl. (Unruly media)

21. … But only if they’re good. More than 90 percent of all Super Bowl commercial social media shares came from the top 20 ads. (Unruly Media)

22. Volkswagen has been the most shared brand on social media during the Super Bowl the past two years. Chrysler was No. 2 in 2011; Chevrolet was No. 2 last year. (Unruly Media)

23. CBS nixed a SodaStream Super Bowl ad this year because of its negative edge toward longtime sponsors Coca-Cola and Pepsi. SodaStream will replace the spot with a similar commercial — minus Coca-Cola and Pepsi branding.

24. USA Today’s Super Bowl Ad Meter program will this year, for the first time, include commercials that air during halftime. (USA Today)

25. A food or beverage has won the Ad Meter every year since 1992, when Michael Jordan called himself “Hare Jordan” in a Nike commercial. (USA Today)

26. The audience tuneaway rate — the frequency in which viewers ignore commercials — during the average commercial last year was 0.7 percent, or seven out of every 1,000 viewers. A normal rate for TV programming is about 3 to 4 percent. (Kantar Media)

27. Super Bowl ads are getting longer. Nearly 20 percent of the commercials in 2012 were 60 seconds or longer, twice as many compared to 2011. Only six percent of commercials on broadcast television are 60 seconds or longer. (Kantar Media)

28. For all the money spent on ads, more people watched last year’s Super Bowl halftime show (114 million) than the actual game (111.3 million). And Madonna, like all other Super Bowl halftime performers, received no compensation. (AOL)

29. The shortest Super Bowl commercial was half-a-second, set by a Seattle seafood joint called Ivar’s in 2009.

30. The longest Super Bowl commercial was Chrysler’s 2011 spot featuring Eminem.

31. Research In Motion (Blackberry) will for the first time this year air a Super Bowl ad. (AdAge)

32. In 2012, the average 30-second Super Bowl ad cost $3.5 million, up 60 percent from the $2.15 million price tag in 2003. (Kantar Media)

33. Instead of paying $4 million for a 30-second spot that will be seen by approximately 111 million, an advertiser could buy 130 million impressions on Hulu. (Digiday)

34. Mercedes-Benz will get the most exposure during this year’s Super Bowl, thanks to a 60-second commercial and 379 seconds of on-screen shots and mentions, which will garner at least $12.2 million in media exposure. (ImageTrack)

35. Milk has never been advertised nationally during the Super Bowl. Until this year.

36. Humor and animals are the most popular creative elements during the past three Super Bowls. This is explains why Doritos (“Pug Attack“) has been the most effective Super Bowl advertiser during that stretch. Coca-Cola’s polar bears and Budweiser’s Clydesdales also stand out. (Ace Metrix)

37. This is one of the somewhat creepy ways advertisers can determine how and when they will screw with your brain. (Sands Research)

38. Kids play better with viewers than celebrities. (University of Wisconsin Eau Claire)

39. Nearly 30 percent of an ad’s impact is lost if the sound is off. (AdWeek)

40. JesusHatesObama.com, ManCrunch.com, PETA (“Veggie Love”) and CatholicVote.com have all been rejected as Super Bowl ad sponsors. (Boston.com)

41. If all players on both teams pooled the money they will earn during the Super Bowl, they still would not have enough money to buy a full 60-second ad during the game. Winners earn $88,000; losers earn $44,000. (Math)

42. Winners, however, could each buy two 30-second spots if ad rates did not change from Super Bowl 1, when the going rate was $40,000 per half-minute. That also means losers could each buy one 30-second ad, too. (More math)

43. There will be more action during commercials (47-plus) than during the actual game. An NFL game has an average of 11 minutes of action. (WSJ)

44. Pepsi has outspent Coca-Cola by approximately $100 million during the past 10 Super Bowls. (Kantar Media)

45. A seven-game World Series will generate more ad revenue than one Super Bowl. (Kantar Media)

46. In 1984, a 30-second spot cost $370,000 and reached 78 million viewers. In today’s dollars, that’s less than $1 million. (WaPo)

47. In the last three minutes of last year’s Super Bowl, social media users sent an average of 10,000 tweets per second. (AllThingsD)

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After latest Clear Channel bloodshed, where is radio headed?

Detroit – The annual Clear Channel Communications Inc. winter bloodshed came to Detroit early this year, as the media giant cut at least eight staffers in the market, ranging from longtime talker Frankie Darcell of Mix 92.3 to the quickly popular JAG of Channel 955.

This isn’t the first time Clear Channel has cut deep and it certainly won’t be the last.

Clear Channel

Clear Channel

Clear Channel can claim that “like every successful business,” their “strategy continues to evolve as we move forward as a company.”

And by forward, they mean backward. But they’re not alone.

Eventually all of the layoffs will catch up with Clear Channel and other media giants. So how does radio save itself? To look to the future, you must first look at the recent past. Radio has stripped itself of personalities, limited their playlists and failed to do anything special with the Internet.

Revolving door

The Detroit radio market — like many across the nation — has been decimated during the past handful of years. Popular personalities — Jeff Deminski and Bill Doyle, Scott Vertical, and on a temporary basis, Mike Stone, Bob Wojnowski and Beau Daniels — have been canned, and that’s just scratching the surface.

Those who felt Clear Channel’s wrath on Thursday will likely be replaced by someone in-house, or worse: a radio personality from another market who just shouts the name of random suburbs into the mic for four hours in an effort to sound like he or she lives in Detroit. (Yes, I’m looking at you, Billy The Kid, heard weeknights on Channel 955.)

But Clear Channel and others have also stripped most of its talent of any personality, giving them limited time to talk. And when personalities are allowed to crack the mic, it’s usually to dish out the station phone number and to inform listeners of the next song, which coincidentally are things we already know from our 21st century radios and cell phones.

There’s no better way to concisely sum up why fewer and fewer people listen to the radio than to read the words spoken by Don Tanner, marketing executive with Tanner Friedman and a former radio personality, in an interview with The Detroit News.

“Why should the next generation — those raised on iPods and downloading — listen to terrestrial radio?” Tanner said. “What is the value proposition? The music alone is not enough. Live, local personalities are more vital than ever to radio’s future.”

Internet radio: if personality-driven, it can be the future of the radio.

Taking the conclusion drawn by someone outside the forest who can see the mostly deforested radio trees: Radio personalities cost money, but if they are good, they will make the radio station money. The same goes with any medium: You get what you pay for.

The problem is media giants, strapped for cash from acquiring massive amounts of radio stations, don’t want to spend the money.

The future

So where is radio headed?

The toilet. That is, radio could end up in the toilet, because the future of radio is in the palm of your hands: your cell phone, or more specifically, anywhere with Internet access, which yes, includes the bathroom.

Internet-based radio is the future, just as the newspaper of tomorrow will be entirely online and you’ll watch most — if not all — of your television programming on the Internet.

How quickly radio can catch up will determine who will be spared from more massacre and survive long enough to tell the tale. To go back to the metaphor from two paragraphs ago, it’s time to poop or get off the potty.

(And no, you cannot simply slap the same mediocre programming on a stream, just as a newspaper can’t slap the mostly mediocre content on the web and call it a day.)

It will be a revolution. And one based on past successes: live, local and different.

And there’s a small bit of anecdotal evidence that suggests it will work.

Pat DeLuca's stream-only radio station now attracts tens of thousands of listeners.

Pat DeLuca’s stream-only radio station now attracts tens of thousands of listeners.

Pat DeLuca, who for six years hosted the No. 1-ranked morning show in the Canton, Ohio market on WDJQ-FM, decided to take his show online earlier this year, creating The DeLuca Show Network. The network, which started with a three-day-a-week live morning show and continuous music throughout the rest of the day and night, now has a full radio lineup with live programming from 7 a.m. until midnight. (LIVE.)

The station, with little to no money and no substantial marketing, now attracts tens of thousands of listeners, sells ads and does remotes in the Northeast Ohio area. (LOCAL.)

It also has one of the most comprehensive (and legally obtained) music playlists and in hours of listening I have been unable to locate a two-hour block where the station has played the same artist twice. (DIFFERENT.)

Nobody knows for sure if DeLuca’s station will last in the long run, but he sure as hell is going to go down swinging.

Consider the following:

The Internet

Like other forms of media — most notably newspapers and television — the Internet is not killing radio.

Radio, newspapers and television stations never properly adapted when the Internet started to take off. Twenty-first century management thinking — check that, 21st century management decisions — is now the saving grace to preserve a prosperous future for all three media industries.

Need proof? Ask anyone under 30 if they’d rather read a newspaper, or get news from online; listen to terrestrial radio, or pull up their favorite station on their iPhone; or stay up late to watch their favorite TV show, or watch it with their friends whenever they want.

Then remember this write-up in, let’s say, 2020.

If I’m wrong?

Then let there be bloodshed.

Follow Karl Henkel on Twitter, friend him on Facebook.

Justin Bieber, Vanilla Ice and email

Detroit – During a recent lunch with few communications professionals, I came away thinking about two questions that stood out hours after I finished my mint-chocolate chip gooey brownie dessert: “Do you like Justin Bieber?” and “Can I email you story pitches?”

After thinking about those questions for the remainder of that day, I can now say with a great deal of certitude that I like Justin Bieber a lot more than I like getting email story pitches.

This is nothing against public relations professionals, communications specialists, or even my Detroit News editors, all of which email me on a daily (and sometimes hourly) basis.

Blame the system.

Email is still the most popular form of digital communication, but — to stick with musical comparisons — it’s more Vanilla Ice than Justin Bieber. Email, like Vanilla Ice, hasn’t gotten much better since the 1990s, has miraculously found a way to remain relevant and probably won’t die anytime soon.

If email had a face, it’d probably look something like Vanilla Ice.

Not to take this debate To The Extreme, but I — like most in media and communications — receive thousands of emails every week. Most of them have nothing to do the automotive industry, casinos, and surprisingly, free food in the break room — things relevant to me. There are hundreds of misguided pitches and new spam, so much so that I’ve occasionally missed important emails.

We send emails about everything. We send emails without body text. We forward emails like we’re passing out Halloween candy. We all contribute to the unintentional spamification of email accounts everywhere.

Even my junk inbox has a junk inbox. There’s so much crap in my garbage bin, that if all that crap actually existed, every city in America would refuse to pick it up Thursday mornings because that bin would exceed the maximum weight limit.

And the problem is only going to get worse as the number of sent and received emails will continue to rise.

So what’s the alternative? (Remember, think Bieber, not Vanilla Ice.)

There are plenty of effective ways to use email but those ideas have not been widely accepted. So let’s use some mediums that have.

  • Twitter: While this may be a byproduct of being a Millennial, a tweet — or even better — a direct message, will have a significantly better chance of getting read. Probably a 10-times-better chance of getting read. A quick note: send me a direct message on Twitter (which at 140 characters will keep even the most inattentive engaged) and I will receive a notification on my phone. Send me an email and my phone will vibrate in my pocket, just as it does when I don’t get an email.
  • Phone: Unbelievably, a majority of Americans now own smartphones. And fewer use those smartphones to place phone calls. But unlike most email clients, which provide a near-endless amount of space for emails, the number of voicemail messages the average person can ignore is somewhat limited. And the phone, unlike email, will keep the constant alert of a missed call or voicemail in plain sight until you acknowledge it.
  • Text message: As phone call volume declines, text messaging continues to accelerate. The length of text messages can vary, but rarely will challenge the length of emails. Plus, unlike terribly timed story pitches and other email junk, you wouldn’t dare send me a text message at 3:30 in the morning.

My answer to the communication professionals was a combination of all three — but specifically not email.

Don’t get me wrong, email is not irrelevant. But it should no longer be the main or primary method of digital communication.

For Pete’s sake, it’s 2012.

We have smartphones. We have Twitter. And yes, we have Justin Bieber.

So catch up, and get used to it.

Follow Karl Henkel on Twitter, friend him on Facebook.

Playoff baseball tickets quickly becoming a bust

Detroit – I’ve never purchased a Major League Baseball playoff ticket before this year, and so far, I’ve bought tickets to four home Tigers games.

But after this year, I may never purchase another MLB playoff ticket as long as I live.

It’s no secret that outside forces — most notably the affordability of high-definition television — has cut into the popularity of live sporting events. This postseason — and Yankees fans can attest — is a prime example of how a seemingly can’t-miss baseball contest can include thousands of empty seats.

As many as 30 percent of music, sports and theater tickets go unsold, according to TiqIQ.

The Yankees couldn’t sell out either of the first two ALCS home games. The second ALDS home game, when the Athletics played the Tigers, didn’t meet stadium capacity, nor did it come close.

Some fans have told me they are holding out for possible World Series tickets. Others have simply said tickets are too expensive. Both reasons are legitimate, but they don’t explain why thousands of playoff tickets remain unsold and hundreds, if not thousands more, are priced well under face value.

Chris Matcovich, senior director of data and communications at New York-based ticket data company TiqIQ, said in an email that there is a general downward trend for live ticket events. For music, sports and theater events, as many as 30 percent of tickets go unsold.

The general lack of demand, coupled with mass ticket purchasers, has created an artificially inflated supply of tickets on the secondary market, which leads me back to my original point: I don’t think I’ll be buying playoff tickets ever again.

Five years ago I could buy four tickets, keep two and sell the other two, making up about 75 percent of my original ticket purchase — give or take — in one fell swoop.

Today, I can’t convince a friend to buy a playoff ticket for well under face value.

The general ticket trend makes for a more laissez-faire game atmosphere, further diminishing the value of the ticket. Sports teams have two options: lower ticket prices (possibly using dynamic pricing, which matches prices with demand) or increase the quality of the in-game experience to meet the value of the tickets.

Until then, I think I’ll stay at home.

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With job cuts looming, Congress mails it in

Detroit — The U.S. Postal Service is nearing a historic default, writes The Associated Press, but in reality, the only historical aspect of the mail industry’s money woes is the ineptitude of Congress tasked with controlling its finances.

Before I go further, this has nothing to do with a Republican-led House of Representatives or a Democratic-led Senate; this has to do with the failure of nearly every one of the 535 elected representatives in Washington, most of whom voted for a seemingly inconspicuous piece of legislation six years ago, but who refuse to overturn or modify it despite the promise of tens of thousands of job losses from USPS.

This is relevant because Congress is the only entity that can save the post office from complete insolvency, at least in the same way that Ryan Seacrest is the only person who can save America from another television series about the Kardashians. Like Seacrest, Congress created a monster — though to be fair, it was clear neither could have accurately predicted the future horror — but both could act as a savior by reverting to 2006 form.

The U.S. Postal Service is the second largest civilian employer in America.

That was the last year that E! didn’t have a Kardashian-themed show as part of its lineup, and also the last time Congress didn’t mandate to the post office a $5.5 billion annual retiree health-care prefunding requirement.

Yes, every year, Congress requires the post office, still the second-largest civilian employer behind WalMart, to make pension contributions that exceed even the wildest parameters of reality. The post office — in a 10-year span — is forced to fund 75 years’ worth of retiree health-care benefits. That’s on top of its normal benefit contributions, which annually double the $5.5 billion total.

To be fair, The Postal Accountability Enhancement Act seemed logical when signed into law in 2006. The postal service delivered more mail that year than it ever had since its inception in the 1600s. The pseudo-government entity could use its profits to cover future expenses. That’s exactly what happened during the ensuing years.

Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe has promised massive restructuring and job cuts at the post office unless Congress can act to overturn a retiree heath-care prefunding mandate.

But the economy quickly soured and mail volumes took a tailspin and Congress felt no need to reverse course.

It wasn’t until last year, however, that Congress decided to discuss reversing course, the same year the post office lost $5.1 billion.

And this year, with a hat tip to Mahoning County Commissioner John McNally IV, Congress has introduced 60 bills to rename post offices, and zero to actually fix postal flaws.

The post office is no longer technically profitable in its current state, though that’s akin to racking up thousands in credit-card debt while sitting on 10 times worth of extra cash in your savings account.

Ax the prefunding mandate and you completely alter the broken business model.

There have been multiple bills suggesting fixes, including some reducing delivery days and others slashing the work force, but none have hit the president’s desk, despite an overwhelming consensus of a simplistic solution: change the past.

Some Congressmen are even willing to swallow their pride.

Tim Ryan, a Democratic Congressman from Ohio, told me last year that he voted for the 2006 PAE Act, which is more than most representatives will admit, considering the bill passed the House by unrecorded voice vote.

Tim Ryan

“It’s a different time now,” Ryan said. “It looks like for the next few decades and more, [the pensions] are secure.”

The post office already has accumulated about 50 years’ worth, according to calculations, which means there’s enough pension cash for everyone, including postal workers not yet born.

The illogical requirement gets even battier when you consider the alternatives. The post office, unless saved by Congress from Congress, will likely slash 35,000 and consolidate mail processing centers nationwide.

The plan gives the appearance of significant cost-cutting measures, until you consider what’s actually going to happen.

Take for instance, Youngstown, Ohio, which is set to lose its processing facility and 500 jobs. Instead, mail will be rerouted to Cleveland, about an hour north. This means a letter traveling from Boardman, just south of Youngstown, to Austintown, just west of Youngstown, will travel 150 miles to Cleveland and back — 10 times the distance than it would have traveled if routed through Youngstown.

In a nutshell, you have a constitutionally-mandated business that since 2006 has been forced by the government to start each year $5.5 billion in the hole, is now burning through cash at the rate of $25 million each day. The alternative is to immediately cut 35,000 jobs, increase travel distances and delay delivery, adding to the post office’s archaic image.

Of course, neither will happen, at least this year. Congress will continue to delay post office closures and layoffs until after the election, as hundreds — even thousands — of layoffs on any Congressman’s resume is lifelong political ammunition for his or her opponents.

That, by definition, is called “mailing it in.”

But if Congress keeps it up for much longer, nobody will be mailing anything.

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Recap: The 2012 MLB Road Trip

Detroit – This blog is sometimes like the goldfish in the bowl in the corner of the room.

Sometimes you forget to feed it for a couple of days.

Or in my case, weeks.

Anyway, here’s the full retrospect of The 2012 MLB Road Trip.

Special thanks to The Detroit News sports staff, including Tony Paul and Phil Laciura.

And no, we haven’t decided on next year’s trip, but there will be one.

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Day 4: The 2012 MLB Road Trip

Philadelphia – The streak of competitive games and blistering heat ended abruptly at four Friday night.

The Tampa Bay rays and Philadelphia Phillies were rained out, but not after a nearly three-hour postponement where the Phillies organization raked in hundreds of thousands in concession money (from myself included, who tried the signature dog). The rainout was a true shame, especially for Philly pitcher Cliff Lee, who will have to wait even longer to try for his first victory of the season.

20120623-110728.jpg

Citizens Bank Park, which is nestled in near Lincoln Financial Field (Eagles) and Wells Fargo Center (Flyers, 76ers) in the city of brotherly love, may be the second best baseball stadium so far on the trip.

The nine-year-old stadium has plenty for both baseball and casual fans alike (see pic) — similar to Comerica Park — and plenty of seats to fill. In fact, among stadiums with 40,000 or more seats, Citizens Bank Park has the longest active sellout streak at more than 230 games.

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Observations from Day 4:

Bars: Not five minutes after umpires postponed the game, the rain stopped and didn’t return for the rest of the night, which still left plenty of time to explore Old City Philadelphia, near the Delaware River. It’s a little rough around the edges and has plenty of dive bars. There’s even Mac’s Old Tavern, owned by “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” stars Rob and Kaitlin McElhenney (Mac and Dee).

Traffic: Sucks.

Parking: The most expensive lot near the stadium charged $20, but most charged $15. Some of the lowest rates I’ve seen.

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Day 3: The 2012 MLB Road Trip

Washington – Remember the heat from New York on Wednesday? It followed us to the nation’s capital on Thursday, getting as hot as 107 degrees, according to the oft-referenced Chevrolet Cruze.

Luckily, the Tampa Bay-Washington game got started after 7 p.m., giving us some relief from the heat, which clearly played some role with both starters, Matt Moore for the Rays and Gio Gonzalez for the Nationals.

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The interesting — and immediate — observation about Nationals fans is that they not only filled out most of the ballpark — moreso than the Yankees and Mets a day earlier — but that they also provided a fun, lighthearted gametime atmosphere.

(And they’re knowledgeable: a group in right field on multiple occasions heckled Tampa Bay reliever Jose Peralta with chants of “pine tar” after his embarrassing on-field glove faux pas earlier in the week.)

Observations from Thursday:

Twitter: The Nationals list Twitter handles on the scoreboard below player stats. Not sure how many teams do this, but all should.

Georgetown University: The surrounding areas make for great night life, including Martin’s Tavern, the bar where John F. Kennedy proposed to Jackie and has served every U.S. president since Harry Truman, except for President Barack Obama. (Times running out Barack!)

District of Columbia: Yes, Nationals Park is the first LEED-certified green major professional sports stadium in the country, but there’s a lot happening in the surrounding blocks of Southeast DC. Outside a parking structure sat an entire block of new construction. Not much is happening in the legislature, but the district is flourishing in many areas.

20120622-030823.jpg

Follow Karl Henkel on Twitter, friend him on Facebook.

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