Friday, June 29, 2007

It's official, a new title already

So this draft is less than a week old, and this is just the second completed post, and I've got a new title. It's going to be Applied Sports. I love baseball. It's my favorite sport to watch and follow. But I find myself often wanting to write about things other than baseball. And lately, I'm finding myself being most interested in the things going on behind the scenes in sports. The new television contracts. Bill Simmons, maybe you've heard of him, wrote last week that the NBA has become more interesting to follow - the subplots, the salary cap, the draft, Kobe - than it has to watch. I think this is a totally valid point, but one which Simmons laments. I, on the other hand, think it's a necessary condition for a league/sport gaining a foothold in the greater spectrum of sports.

There's nothing wrong with an MLS game. I mean, it's soccer. They kick the ball back and forth, expend absurd amounts of energy, the score winds up 2-1 (a real barn-burner), and all 9,500 fans at the venue, and all 40,000 watching on TV leave happy. They have games in the MLS just like they do in baseball and football. It's just that nobody cares what happens in a game. One solitary game is just a way to pass 3 hours. It's good fun, especially if you're there. But what will keep you coming back - assuming you're above the age of 15 and have a choice in the matter - is whether or not you buy into the league as a whole.

What I think is happening in sports is - and the latest TV contract the David Stern just inked is evidence - the number of sports fans isn't really growing in this country. We've tapped out. If anything, it's shrinking, as the number of kids who grew up thinking Tony Hawk or Shaun White are just as cool as Derek Jeter and Peyton Manning is quite large. And advertisers know this as well. The existing leagues are going to spend an increasing amount of their time catering to those who already are passionate about their sport. I guess that's what made MLB's decision on Extra Innings earlier this year so puzzling. They came around after cable met their price. But I think the point still stands. For probably the first time in the history of sports as big business (I'm not sure how long this history extends, though I think it's the 1960s, when football and baseball landed on TV), these guys are in a fight for market share among advertisers.

So how big is the market for sports in America? I think that's what I'm going to spend my time thinking about in here. With some baseball mixed in.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

A Work in Progress....

I've never had a blog before. I didn't think I would, and I'm not sure where I'm going with this. I'm not even sure I like the format. But my hope is that after spending about eight years writing on baseball for a relatively small audience, that maybe I could relate some useful things to a larger audience (fingers crossed).

I love baseball. I have been in the business - the big leagues, the minors, and the indy leagues. And I've been in the stands, a lot. I think it's over 700 games now.

I still love the game. But I don't love the League right now. And while I've pretty much kept my interest at my usual, absurdly high level, I'm having second thoughts. Is it worth it? So maybe this is will be kind of a therapeutic experience. I want better things for the sport at its highest level, and I'm sure a lot of fans do as well. So I guess I'm going to give it a shot.

Bud Selig's direction has been a joke. I'm embarrassed for the lack of critical analysis in the media, and public opinion, of numerous failures in leadership - not to mention the number of challenges still left to face. This isn't going to be a daily barrage. I'm just not going to ignore the obvious. So when it's relevant, I'm going to discuss it. Attendance records are broken nearly every year, television ratings are healthy, especially at the local levels, the national tv contracts have continued to grow at exponential rates, and BAM is one of the biggest success stories in the country. But it's not all working.

I'm hoping this space can be a place to talk about the good and the bad of the game. I've got more of a skeptic's perspective, always have, but there's still a lot to discuss. I'm hoping I can get to some of the good stuff.