Like a fighter taking a bout on short notice, you can’t expect a writer forced into an assignment to be on his very best. Short training camp, meet less time to flesh out an idea or, you know, think of an actual basketball idea anybody cares about.

Instead of diving into anything basketball related, we’re instead going to talk about something of equal importance: pizza.

It’s no secret that a lot of people hate the current set-up between the Toronto Raptors and Pizza Pizza, whereby if the team wins and scores 100 points, fans can take their ticket to a “traditional” Pizza Pizza location the next day and redeem it for a free slice of pepperoni or cheese pizza.

I should really just say “who cares” or “get over it” or anything else the homie Eric Koreen said on the most recent Talking Raptors podcast, but I can’t do that.

And here’s why: anything that takes one of the most wonderful things on planet Earth – in this case, pizza – and makes it in any way a bad thing needs to be stopped. This is like turning unicorns into child-impaling death machines or having Phil Kessel suit up for the Montreal Canadiens (I’d say Team USA but, well, you know).

Pizza is normally such a glorious part of life that one lucky man has eaten nothing but pizza for 25 years. Seriously. Dude’s a hero. If this guy knew that here in Toronto, pizza was causing pain and annoyance, he’d probably be very upset. So would some other heroes.

If you’re unfamiliar, here are some of the issues with the current setup:

*Pizza Pizza is not the preferred brand of pizza for many pizza lovers. Okay, this has nothing to do with the setup, but it’s unfortunate that they’re the official pizza provider of the Raptors and the ones who give out the free slices. True story: their pizza is so mediocre that following the Raptors Republic Winter War tournament, I took a stack of free slice coupons that they donated to work and it took three days for someone to use one, and Pizza Pizza is literally right next door to us.

*Hedo Turkoglu.

*Under the old system, it could reward fans in a loss, leading fans to cheer the team while losing if they hit 100 points. Some still seem to think this is the case, but it’s not.

*Stan Van Gundy doesn’t like it, and SVG knows best.

*Here’s the major reason though: It incentivizes fans, many of whom in the live audience can often appear…let’s say uninitiated, to be nice, to cheer for the wrong things. Now that pizza only comes only in a win, this is less of an issue, but you still have scenarios like on Jan. 29 when the Raptors scored 98 points in a win against the Orlando Magic but the crowd groaned as the clock expired, rather than cheer a 15-point win. Ditto for the 98-91 win on Feb. 21 against Cleveland.

So what should the Raptors and Pizza Pizza do?

Well, there are a few options: give out pizza for 100 points scored, give out pizza for a win, give out pizza for a win with 100 points scored, give out pizza for keeping the opponent under 100 points, give out pizza for keeping the opponent under 100 points in a win, change the pizza provider to somewhere much better, or just give me free pizza all the time, whenever I desire.

Each has it’s own issues. I’ve heard the defense thing suggested before, but here’s the core issue with that: as much as it might make hardcore fans roll their eyes, the team no doubt likes the crowd exploding for the 100th point. It comes across well on the broadcast and makes the ACC seem louder in general. It’s stupid, but in their eyes, any noise is good noise, I’m sure. Rewarding defense would take away that moment each game, save for perhaps a cheer at the buzzer that was coming anyway.

There’s also the financial component – giving out pizza just for wins is crazy, right?

Maybe not. Because I am the nerdiest of all nerds (shout out to Sloan), I pulled some data and made some assumptions to compare the cost of different promotions.

The table below shows the five-year cost associated with different “pizza thresholds,” using the assumption that giving away a slice of pizza costs Pizza Pizza $1. Over the past five seasons, the Raptors have averaged 17,473 fans for home games, so we use that as the attendance figure for every game, and we plug in four different “redemption rates” (the percentage of people who actually get their free slice – I’d guess this is probably below 25 percent but it wouldn’t make for much of an exercise using tiny numbers). Anyway, here goes:

Claim %/Method 100Pts W, 100Pts Win D 100Pts W, D 100Pts
25% $358,189.55 $240,249.09 $397,503.04 $441,184.70 $305,771.57
50% $716,379.11 $480,498.18 $795,006.08 $882,369.39 $611,543.14
75% $1,074,568.66 $720,747.27 $1,192,509.13 $1,323,554.09 $917,314.71
100% $1,432,758.22 $960,996.37 $1,590,012.17 $1,764,738.78 $1,223,086.28

In reality, these probably overstate the actual costs – the Raptors are more likely to lose against good teams, which draw bigger crowds, and win against bad teams, which draw smaller crowds. But you get the idea.

The cost of the different style ranges from $240K to $441K with a 25 percent redemption rate, a not insignificant 84 percent swing.

If you’re curious, here’s how often in the past five seasons each outcome has occurred (they’ve had 183 home games in total):

100 points scored: 82
Win with 100 points scored: 55
Win: 91
Limit opponent to 100 points scored: 101
Win, limiting opponents to 100 points scored: 70

It sure seems as if Pizza Pizza has chosen the “cheap” option here, opting for the giveaway that costs them the least. Maybe that’s the actual reason they changed the format this season, maybe it was because they didn’t want people cheering in a loss. Never forget that C.R.E.A.M., though.

So, if you want Pizza Pizza to reward wins, you’re looking at a 65 percent uptick in the cost of their current sponsorship.

Of course, there’s one other relevant number:

$481.5 million

That was Pizza Pizza’s reported sales revenue for 2012, the latest data I could find (although it includes whatever the hell Pizza 73 is).

It now seems pretty silly to quibble over what amounts to about $4,500 for an additional giveaway, if it gets people to stop complaining about a promotion that your brand is associated with. So just give away a slice for a win.

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  • Ian Reynolds

    this is amazing and i can’t wait to re read it when i get home. no one on our team took our pizza coupons either, so i gave them to the homeless people downtown. they were unimpressed.

    Pizza Pizza pizza has long been my favourite oxymoron even if it isn’t an oxymoron.

    • Skip2MyLou

      I think it’s called a ”trilliteration”

  • StabbyRaccoon

    Well argued, sir.

    On a side note, the record for European Raptors doing commercials for food is abysmal. Somebody needs to get to JV and warn him before it’s too late 🙁

    • Jerry Garcia

      We have a Pizza 73 here in Lethbridge……..meh……I have trained the guys in the bar to get excited if the Raptors feed their ravenous fans…..some of them are actually starting to watch parts of games….they may not be understand much of the game but they are completely on board with the slice…..Raptors on the big screen…its working for me !

      • StabbyRaccoon

        i’m pretty sure we have it here in Calgary then but I’ve never been tempted. I probably have had it actually but I just don’t remember it. I’d take a free slice to celebrate a win though!

  • Derek

    This has long been a pet peeve of mine. I agree, it used to be much worse under the old format, and MANY times I was at games as a season ticket holder and saw a high % of fans actually boo the home team in a win that fell short of 100 points. Or worse, start cheering like crazy when the team scored 100, but was getting blown out because the other team had 120. I can remember a few games where the Raps were blowing out an opponent (which didn’t happen often much in the last few years) and a Raps player would just dribble out the ball for the last 20 seconds, and the crowd would boo them for not shooting (so they could get free pizza).

    Even with the new promotion (as you note), I’ve been at games where the boo because the Raps win, but by less than 100 points.

    The last game I was at there were 2 guys sitting beside me who each drank 7 large beers (which are $13.00 each). So they dropped $182.00 on beer, and when the Raps won (and scored more than 100 pts) they started yelling and screaming like schoolgirls and turned to us and yelled “Don’t throw away your tickets – free pizza!”. I cannot understand why people get so excited about a $2.00 piece of a crappy pizza, in contrast to what you pay for the ticket to go and see the game (let alone in comparison to the money these guys dropped on beer).

    Since I don’t see them switching to a better pizza place (c’mon Pizza Nova – get in the game!) or changing to a more logical promotion, such as a win gets you free pizza, I’d rather scrap the promotion entirely. I think it makes our fans look like morons, and I think it looks really bad in the eyes of the players – ours and the opposing players. I’ve seen the confusion on their faces Raps fans are booing their own team when they’re winning.

    Generally speaking, I think Toronto has a great basketball fanbase, but this promotion seems to turn a high % of them into drooling idiots at the prospect of a $2.00 slice of cardboard.

    • Ian Reynolds

      I started making a “NO PIZZA CHANTS” tshirt the other day to wear to the Orlando game, but my sharpie ran out :(:(:(:(:(:(

  • Bryan Colangelo

    Don’t have the time to read this article right this second, but just knowing it exists put a smile on my face. Thank you.

  • douby leave me

    how about free pizza for keeping opponents under 50 points at halftime in a win? tackle those lackluster 2nd quarters, it gives 2 chances to cheer, extra suspense, and most importantly it would be cheap for the sponsors.

    also you should have costed out that last option, where you alone get all the cardboard pizza you can eat.

  • tweed8

    Just wanted to say that Toronto Raptors have posted full episodes of “Open Gym” to their youtube account. To those of you who haven’t seen it -like myself- it’s been great watching it. Go check it out!

  • DC

    Cheesy column!

  • rapsfan2016

    It sucks how the slice is only valid at pizza pizzas in the gta. I live in hamilton and can’t get my pizza. For a team branded as CANADA’S TEAM why not pp’s throughout Canada or at least southern ontario.

  • Will

    It needs to be changed to free slice for a win or just scrapped all together. It’s not like we’re the San Antonio Spurs here.

  • RobertArchibald

    It’s worth mentioning that Pizza Pizza as a company lose nothing in this promotion. The franchisees lose money. They’re the ones that have to order more ingredients to serve the free slices. This actually makes PIzza Pizza Inc. more money. All that said, this needs to disappear. Either give everyone a slice with their ticket (build it into the cost, no one will know/care) or get rid of it altogether.

    • BlakeMurphy

      My assumption was that redeemed tickets are likely rolled up from the franchises to the corporate level, i.e. they’re not out of pocket for it.

      • RobertArchibald

        May be the case now. I asked a franchise owner a few years back when the Ottawa Senators had a similar promotion for scoring goals, and he said he incurred the loss on giveaways.

        Hopefully that’s changed though. Not fair to the little guy.

  • CashGameND

    i swear i read this argument on here not long ago. and i completely agree. but more for the fact that it’ll push the crowd to urge on & be excited about defensive play (which is the direction this club seems to be built around, defence first)

  • noxlen

    First of all, PizzaPizza may be the worst pizza chain in the nation. And I’ve given it second and third chances to verify this.

    Second: I’m attending the home game against Sacramento next weekend. I’ll be bringing a small, extendable club. If anybody in the vicinity around my seat cheers when the Raps hit 100 points in a losing effort, or – worse – boo them in a winning effort for failing to go for the 100 points, I am going to bludgeon them in the face repeatedly. Man. Woman. Child. I don’t care. Don’t do it.

  • Justin Huang

    nice read and good fact finding to back it up.
    PS. Pizza 73 is the franchise equivalent to Pizza Pizza out in Alberta (and maybe other Western/Prarie provinces)

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