I normally wouldn't disagree with Ed in public like this. Heck, he is a friend. However, he is off-base in today's column. Ed contends that late starts to playoff games are no big deal because the kids weren't going to watch anyway. I'll agree on one level - the late starts are not the problem, they are merely a symptom of a much bigger problem.
The real problem is that Major League Baseball doesn't give a damn about it's next generation of fans. It goes way beyond night games. MLB has sold out to the god of short term profits. The goal in the commissioners office is to maximize revenue right now, the hell with the future. They do that by bowing down to the demands of corporate America and the advertisers. (Is that redundant?) Luxury boxes and season ticket holders are the only fans the MLB cares about. The guy in the bleachers with his 9 year old son? Screw him. He doesn't spend enough.
In other news, well, it wouldn't be playoff time without reading how late night games are destroying the game of baseball because "the kids can't watch it." Today's it's Callahan in the Herald who laments:
In Oakland tomorrow, Pedro is going against Tim Hudson, the best hitting team against the best pitching team, and there is not one 14-year-old kid out there who can realistically see this through to the end. Hell, he can't even tape it and watch it the next day because Game 2 of the series is on at 4:06 Thursday.
Fourteen-year-old kids used to live for this moment. This year most 14-year-old kids won't even be able to read about Game 1 in the newspaper Thursday. It will end too late to get in most editions. First of all, when's the last time you've seen 14 year old kids reading the newspaper?
My 9 year old son reads the sports page. Every page of it. In detail. He then spends the rest of the day enlightening us with obscure stats he read that morning. I practically had to drag him to bed during the Phillies - Marlins series last week. He will not be happy to learn that not only can he not see the end of the game tomorrow, it doesn't even start until 60 minutes after his bedtime.
The Globe has actually managed to track down a couple kids:
Twelve-year-old Peter Langston and Sam, his 9-year-old brother, have put together a small shrine >to the Red Sox in their Easton home, and they weren't happy yesterday when their mother broke >the news that the boys won't be allowed to watch tomorrow night's opening playoff game.
OK. So maybe these two guys are the prototypical young baseball fans (a shrine?)
I should invite Ed up to ODonnellWeb galactic headquarters for a look at Breck's room. Off the top of my head....
- 40-50 color 8 X 10's of various baseball players and famous moments forming a border around the room at ceiling level.
- Autographed pictures of Pete Rose and Tony Gwynn
- Picture of Ted Williams mounted on a marble plaque
- 3 or 4 posters (Pedro, Nomar, Zito for sure)
- 5 or 6 felt pennants
- 1995 commemorative Atlanta Braves bat.
- Bat used by Mark Kotsay
- Several thousand baseball cards
- About 12 baseball player bobbleheads
I'm sure there is more...but I've made my point. 8-14 year old boys will idolize somebody. It is part of growing up. The fact that more kids pick basketball or football over baseball today is not a cultural issue as Ed seems to believe. It's bad marketing on the part of baseball.
Baseball seems to believe it's primary customer is the guys buying the corporate boxes and the advertisers buying time. They are wrong. Those guys will always be there as long as the game is healthy. For them it's a business decision. Actually, if baseball were doing a better job of appealing to the common fan they wouldn't have to work so hard to attract advertisers and corporate money. If the talk of the town is the baseball team the advertisers will come running, and corporate America will be begging to associate with the team. However it doesn't work both ways. When baseball loses the kids they lose the future of the game.