Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Big Choice

Before I shower Marc Rzepcyznski with kisses and hugs, I want to make a quick point about attendance. The Rays attendance woes are well-documented and a pretty easy target for critics deeming the Tampa/St. Pete area unsuitable for future inhabitation.

Here in Toronto we hear similarly solemn paid figures, as many prepare to write-off the team as unworkable. Of course people should be coming out to the ballpark, it's a great time and beats a kick in the head any day.

I feel as though, lost in the hysteria today after the Rays poor gate showing last night, is news that the Texas Rangers signed a multi-billion dollar TV deal! The numbers vary between $1.5 and $3 billion, but you cannot look at that number and think the gate receipts are worth all the spilled ink.

The larger point is people consume their entertainment in many, many different ways in 2010 than they did in 1993. When clucking tongues gleefully quote nightly gate numbers, do they include MLB.tv subscriptions? Extra Innings packages? People that watch the Rays equivalent of "Jays in 30?" You simply can't expect all fans to express and/or experience their fandom in the same way they always have.

Take, for example, myself. As you might have read, I was at the ball game on Sunday with some of the nicest and funniest folks the internet has to offer. 5 "normal" friends joined me in section 211 and I had a blast joking with old friends and loudly talking over new ones.

A great time at the ballpark indeed. Not only did we nerd out big time, but I got to see little things I may have lost on TV at home such as Brian Roberts and Cesar Izturis faking out Travis Snider en route to a base running mistake. The sun was out and the beer (or reasonable facsimile) was cold. Sunday's game was my second of the year.

2 games, all season. I live approximately 1.25 hours from gate 5. I went once in the spring and once in the fall. Judge away. But guess what: if you think that makes me a lesser fan than anyone else, feel free to go fuck yourself.

When I inevitably hit publish 15 minutes too soon and spend that time revising dozens of spelling errors, this will be my 129th post of 2010. One of about 700 I've written in just under 3 years.

I have a a full-time job on top of this hobby obsession, a new-to-me house, and a toddler in day care. Guess what? Getting to the ballpark ain't that easy and it ain't that cheap, either. What I'd spend in one day at the ballpark what I spend on a month of cable; and last time I was there I can't watch Modern Family or Mad Men at the Rogers Centre. I don't think I'm alone in this situation, and I don't think that makes people like me bad fans or undeserving of a baseball team in our town.

Simply put, people spend their time with this commercial enterprise in a variety of ways. All these ways earn the team money in some capacity. You don't use drive-in movie theatre sales as the measure of a movie's worth, the in-stadium experience isn't the only way to consume this product.

That's what it is, at the end of the day. A product. Consumer usages shift, it's up to the businesses to adjust and capitalize on these habits before somebody else does. One look at the MLBAM books should tell you baseball is doing just fine, but thanks for asking.


He's awesome. I assume. I wasn't there to watch the game so how can I ever know? I'm not in the mood for this anymore. Swinging strikes are good.

Image courtesy of Artificial Owl


  1. Beleaguered Sports FanSeptember 28, 2010 at 12:37 PM

    I agree with your assessment that revenues are generated in far more diverse ways than they were 10, 20 years ago. The pie is bigger overall, and the slice represented by the gate is smaller and smaller. I'm not suggesting we need a new ballpark (yet), but do you think that MLB parks should be built smaller going forward? If there is a ceiling on average attendance for the average market, why not make the ballparks a little smaller? I know the leagues are very different, but as a basic business model, it worked in Montreal for the CFL. If Florida HAS to have professional baseball, should they try out a smaller (less hideous) park?

  2. I think this Rangers TV deal is Fox seeing the writing on the wall as for the direction TV is heading. With the ability to watch any show at any point on your computer, the younger generation is no longer watching stuff live or with commercials, that is except for sports, which has to be watched live. Therefore sponsors will want to attache themselves to something they know people are actually watching live.

  3. To paraphrase our favourite wine-drinking hobo Richard Griffin, the fact of the matter right now is that with HDTV and all its multi-angle instant replay mumbo jumbo, the experience of watching a baseball game is (despite the best efforts of Buck Martinez) easier, more thorough, and of course cheaper from the comfort of one's own living room.

    Now, the charms of seeing a game in person make for a totally different experience, and that's why I always try to convince at least a few friends to join me on the trek from London several times a year. But, as Mr. Griffin recently pointed out, the multimedia experience at the game is lacking - why even have a Jumbotron if you're not going to show any replays, or even relevant statistical/biographical information, not to mention between-inning entertainment?

    I love the Jays and I love seeing games live, but I've got to say, the atmosphere and overall experience was lightyears better even at London's own ill-fated Independent League Werewolves games, and that's something that should be changed. Because right now, you're right -- things have changed a lot over the last 20 years or so, and the in-stadium experience really has no choice but to step its game up if it's going to compete with all the other media that are available to us.

  4. As I see it, the only advantage of building a smaller building is the decreased cost of construction.

    If they build too small, they lose possible revenue when/if they reach the playoffs, when tickets become a commodity.

  5. I will be at my 8-10th game of the season tomorrow (I lost count). I usually sit in the 500 level because I couldn't afford to go that many times otherwise. I also went to 2 of the games in Philly with a couple of friends (that was a fun road trip).

    But I would never say that because I go to the ball park more than you that I am a bigger fan. That would be total bullshit. My situation is different. I live alone, near the subway. Getting to the games is easy and it fills time that would most likely be wasted.

  6. PS. Where do you pick up all the great pictures (this one and the one with the camels lounging by a ship in the desert).

  7. PPS. I am an idiot and the image source was right there.

  8. Beleaguered Sports FanSeptember 28, 2010 at 5:51 PM

    While I acknowledge that my suggestion is probably completely ridiculous -- and I did consider that NO ONE would want to build something with less potential for income -- but for argument's sake, why didn't MLSE (and the government) make BMO field bigger? Why are they holding off on expanding it? They insist that shortened supply increases the demand.

    And like you said it's the when/IF they reach the playoffs that counts. And as far as I can see, teams generally have a far greater chance of not reaching the postseason. So why not create a slightly more intimate, enjoyable atmosphere? Could something like that make the people in Florida (if not Toronto) seek out the in game experience more??

    By the way, I enjoyed this post, and realize that you were hitting on a point that is not related to what I'm blathering on about here. It's just something that I was thinking about when I heard the Tampa story.

    And no, I don't think anyone has to be at the ballpark to observe the game in a meaningful way. Sometimes I wonder what the point of the pressbox even is.

  9. @ Beleagured Sports Fan:

    So douchebags like Damien Cocks can eat chocolate cake in a room that gives them a false sense of entitlement.

  10. @ Anonymous

    Don't be silly. Damien Cox is far too busy eating strawberries and cream in front of a 1996 Wimbledon highlight video than actually watching a game of baseball.

  11. You're a terrible, terrible fan, Drew. But this was very well said.

  12. They don't use the jumbotron for replays because they are too busy pushing ads through it. The whole field experience now is one big advertisement. On TV it's not much better this year, the quattron "inline" stuff is really annoying now and all the other "inline" and ads between pitches, it really degrades the experience.

    They must be making serious bank on these ads because I'm sure that's part of what drives people away.

  13. Alex, that's not really true re: the Jumbotron. Most of the time they're just using it to display random/irrelevant information ("Marco Scutaro had the 9th most RBI's in the AL in July 2007") or, worse yet, those shitty fake cartoon headshots they use on Saturdays. More replays would give them a chance to advertise at least as much, if not more -- call it the "Rogers Mobile Instant Replay" or something akin to the "Rogers Home Phone Call to the Bullpen" shit they already pull and badda bing badda boom, you're giving the fans something useful while also pushing your product.

  14. @Ty: They already do something simlar with the 'Coke Zero' sponsered highlight package. (Except the highlights are almost always several weeks old)

  15. Last time I was there, during any break there was an ad shown on the jumbotron, whether it's a kiss-cam ad or a stupid contest (trivia usually), or just a 20 second TV ad, there was an ad each break in the action and sometimes between pitches.

  16. In my experience they show replays of strikeouts or hits, but ignore everything else (good defensive plays, close calls at the plate, etc.)... at the last game I was at, one of the Yankees (Thames I think) slid into home on a close play, but slid over the bag and was tagged out afterwards by John Buck. It was tough to tell what was happening from the 500 section and it certainly would have helped to see a replay on the big screen rather than having to check Twitter to get a description of something that just happened right in front of me.

  17. They aren't allowed to show close plays at plate in case the umps are wrong. They don't want to stoke the home fans into a drunken frenzy.


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