Anyone who has dipped into his child's savings account, emptied his 401k or taken out a high-interest loan so he could afford a beer at a sporting event surely must have been intrigued by the message flashed onto the Jumbotron at a National Hockey League playoff game in Tampa the other night. The sign promised free beer.

That's right, free beer.

Such an offer -- made in this instance to new season-ticket buyers -- doesn't come around just any old day, and it was big news in Tampa. It hit the front page of the Tampa Tribune, complete with a shame-on-you from the local chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Drivers and the Tampa Police Department's drunken-driving patrol.

Becky Gage, MADD's victim services coordinator, was under the impression that the Tampa Bay Lightning team was offering unlimited beer and she says the team did nothing to disavow her of that notion when she complained. But once the story found its way to the national cable networks, the team went into damage-control mode, saying its offer -- though not explained on the Jumbotron -- was for four free beers during the May 8 game. Team president Ron Campbell apologized and promised not to do it again.

But Campbell has plenty of company when it comes to ill-advised free-beer stunts. Just last fall, a private bookstore got slammed with criticism for an interesting offer to University of Nebraska students: free beer with the purchase of a textbook.

-- Manuel Roig-Franzia

Tampa Bay Lightning fans were recently lured with the promise of free beer in a message that was flashed onto the Jumbotron.