Friday, May 07, 2004

Web of Lies | I'm trying to decide which is worst: (a) The stunning inability of Major League Baseball to discern how fans and the media would react to its plan to sell space on stadium bases and pitching rubbers to advertise Spider-Man 2; (b) MLB's jaw-dropping rationalization of the scheme as a means to market the game to young people; (c) the decision to sully one of the few noncommercial physical spaces remaining in American sports for, in essence, the cost of a bag of peanuts and a giant foam finger; or (d) pulling out of the deal only after Sony Pictures had reaped countless free publicity for the film.

All together now: (e) All of the above.

Reaction has been wide-ranging and varied. Mike's Baseball Rants looks around and sees a fractured and embittered geopolitical situation, which sort of puts the Spidey Spot in perspective:

... I am more amused than upset over the whole Spidey-Gate affair, especially given the fact that I try to ignore interleague baseball as much as possible. I know this is odd for someone professes to rant on occasion. But I feel this is a war that we have already lost. Look at the mini billboards that the Yanks and D-Rays wore in their Japanese Series. And we are already used to referring to a major-league stadium as Petco Park(!). MLB won’t give up after being rebuffed once. It will continue to make the easy grab for cash and milk its product for all its worth.

Likewise, the Daily News's Bill Conlin advises fans to savor their victory over "this aborted bit of soul-for-hire" while warning that more such debacles are on the way. He also takes a poke at the players, including our own underperforming mercenaries, whose inflated salaries have necessitated new ways for teams to raise revenue:

I say this to players who appeared to be upset by the proposed "Spider-Man 2" annexation of their bases: Just shut up. If you don't like it, take a pay cut. Fire your agent. You've inflicted these millions on yourselves. Now deal with them.

In the Inquirer, Bob Ford locks onto MLB's desperate lie about building a younger fan base and enjoys a sarcastic chuckle:

Now, baseball jumps up and declares itself interested in attracting younger fans. This is uproariously funny coming from a sport that plays its best and most important games of the season in the middle of the night.

Entire generations of fans have been eliminated because the playoffs and World Series are scheduled by television executives who aren't worried about selling trucks and razor blades to 10-year-olds. There are millions of children who grow up in this country thinking a baseball game ends in the third inning.

Like Ford, Baseball Musings' David Pinto uses the debacle as a chance to smack Bud Selig with a rolled-up newspaper. Pinto reports that Selig actually said these words, presumably with a straight face, to the Associated Press last night: "I'm a traditionalist. The problem in sports marketing, particularly in baseball, is you're always walking a very sensitive line. Nobody loves tradition and history as much as I do." David's reaction:

Now that I'm no longer rolling on the floor laughing (expansion, wild card, realignment, interleague play, contraction), all I have to say is, "What a schmuck!" Bud, it's okay for baseball to want to make money through advertising. But don't try something like this, then try to say you're on the fan's side. It's very clear to all of us that the only thing you care about is the bottom line.

Bless his old-school heart, the Washington Post's Thomas Boswell plucks the purity card from his hand and sincerely lays it on the table for all the players to see:

No sport, except perhaps golf, has ever been so closely identified with the beauty and uniqueness of the place in which it is played. One of the central reasons that baseball is able to sustain a 162-game season -- twice as many contests as the NBA or NHL -- is that people, for generations, have loved to sit in a baseball park. On our American list of "perfect things," the baseball diamond has always held a high place. Even those who don't love the game understand the combination of power and peacefulness in a ballpark.

No sport holds my heart as baseball does, but to Boswell's misty-eyed ode, I can say only: Come on. The between-pitches sonic blasts exhorting fans to "Make Some Noise!" and the junky modern rock that clangs from the loudspeakers (I'm talkin' to you, Creed) are but two of the many, many things that make baseball stadiums among the least peaceful places on earth these days. In fairness, though, if you're seeking peace and the sounds of silence, a Jimmy Rollins at-bat is just the place to be. (Pause for rim shot.)


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