This piece is part of an 3-part installment (badass, I know), also reproduced at the Emerson Sports Business Society website. After it goes up on their site, I’ll let all of you read my brilliance here as well. To build buzz and stuff and get readership up into the double-digits!
Sports, lest we forget, are a form of entertainment. These men (and women, easy does it WNBA fans) get paid millions upon millions of dollars to do something millions if not billions of us enjoyed doing as children, albeit at a higher level. Actors live in a similar way. Yes, these stars make their companies and owners countless dollars, but that is a larger, different issue. Let us stick with the thread that sports are a form of entertainment. Baseball is forever stuck in the dark ages. Rules take decades to be modified. The slightest alterations to the history and tradition of the sport are instantly vilified. Technology and society have advanced at an exponential rate in the lifetime of professional sports, yet baseball’s trajectory remains staunchly linear. Replay, computerizing human decision-making processes, bigger seats (honestly, even the new parks smush you together like Economy seating on Hooters air); the list of things that could be ‘upgraded’ in baseball goes on and on. I love the history of baseball. I love the traditions and unwritten rules. When Alex Rodriguez ran across the pitchers’ mound after a foul ball, I was vigorously offended. But you don’t need numbers (declining TV ratings, declining Attendance figures) to tell you that the game has become stale for many. It’s time to get with the times, Baseball. You are an entertainment industry, and there is an increasingly effective (in a monetary sense, at least) way to inject a little life into an entertainment concept. I am of course talking about the remake. The reboot. The dark re-telling. Baseball, it would seem, needs a gritty reboot. Say what you will about the quality of these remakes and reboots compared to the original, but they make money and they create buzz. The trend is apparent. And MLB needs a buzz of excitement like retirement home sock hop.
Look around the MLB, at the Executives and Financial Backers. Now look at me. Now back to the men with the money. Now back to me. Sadly, I am not them (see what I did there?). Jokes aside, the MLB executive is now a stale brand. Sometimes bad is good. The recent death of Al Davis brought light the career of a great man. The stories coming out about him brought to light the accuracy of the notion that madness and genius lay astride a very fine line. One of the most interesting businessmen EVER was MLB owner Bill Veeck. Part Circus showman, part the shrewdest of salesmen, Veeck made everything about the ballpark and team experience was a little… zany, for lack of a better word. One cannot hope to see another Veeck in the singular, let alone plural. I speak more generally when I say MLB would be wise to try and recruit/inspire creative, wealthy young men with a little more panache. Even Within the constraints of millionaires, this subset is a vocal minority. The juiciest example of MLB resisting this type of change is the hesitancy to let Mark Cuban own a team. Bud Selig, professional stick-in-the-mud. It’s a no brainer! Allow Cuban to take ownership of a team in need of a shakeup and see what happens. The front office is the face of the franchise. An interesting man in charge will hire interesting people, it is the transitive property of interesting (a principle I just made up). The MLB needs more Brandon Phillips, more Dustin Pedroias, more Tim Lincecums and more Nyjer Morgans (yes, I said it and I mean it). I like the odd ones, the ones who seem a bit… off. It makes their triumphs and failures all the more interesting.
Look for the rest of the piece in the days to follow! Until then, enjoy the band called Wallpaper (this song is a JAM)