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.

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