“New car, caviar, four star daydream, think I’ll buy me a football team.” – Pink Floyd
The more I learn about the business of baseball, the more disgust I feel towards the system that sustains baseball. Such a beautiful sport with such an ugly structure.
As fans we want to believe in the “organization” – the owners and executives, the scouts, coaches, and players. We want to believe that they all want to produce a winning product at the Major League level.
The more cynically inclined among us are apt to believe that’s not true.During my formative years, I remember some talking head mention how teams like the Kansas City Royals and Minnesota Twins managed to turn bigger profits than winning teams by keeping payroll low and playing just well enough to keep attendance levels steady year to year. Makes total sense when you don’t have the money to outspend your competition.
In my wizened maturity, I know that there are many ways to make profits look like losses and perform trickery with facts and figures, so even though I’ve always kept this information in the back of my head, I’m suspicious of this type of reasoning.
That one Mariners beat writer that we all love to hate posted a story last Sunday about the Toronto Blue Jays and their 10 year ascent to mediocrity. The team has made no effort to win and has concealed its lack of effort under a veil of trendy excuses, all in an effort to leverage the Blue Jays for other business ventures.
At various points throughout my baseball fandom I’ve fallen prey to the anger and betrayal that is only natural when the realities of baseball’s economy present themselves. It’s at this point that I think wistfully about the good old days, when it was a game, and all that nostalgia. It can be difficult to keep in mind that baseball has never been pure; before steroids and conglomerate owners there was gambling and fixed games.
From a business perspective it makes sense these owners don’t really want to win. You don’t accumulate the requisite billions to own a sports team without constant leveraging and investing. And even though some owners might view their teams as a toy they’ve earned with their hard work, I’ve always had a hard time believing all owners felt that way.
So what we have is a system where fans are pouring their energy and devotion into a team that not only may never win a championship, but that passion and reverence is being wasted on a team that has no desire to even try.
Sign me up for season tickets!
It’s the 99% vs the 1%; fans vs the owners and players. As such, the Mariner fanbase’s Occupy Wall Street is the Fire Nintendo movement that sprung up last season thanks to a healthy mix of passion and frustration (and Twitter).
Many people have shook their heads at OWS and Fire Nintendo. They’ve been told to get jobs and lives, been called dirty hippies and crazy idiots. The problem isn’t that these protesters don’t get it; the problem is that they don’t know what else to do. Fire Nintendo has had as much success at changing Mariner ownership (and ousting Chuck Armstrong and Howard Lincoln) as OWS will have on changing the country’s economic system.
Here’s where I want to tie this up in a nice feel good bow so we can all happily spend our money on baseball teams trying to be the averagest they can be. What I think is, if it bothers you that much, stop going to games and buying merchandise. I’ve done my part as far as economics goes by not buying houses I can’t afford.
I suppose a baseball fan could also start supporting only winning teams. Bandwagon jumping may be considered abhorrent behavior, but it could make good sense if you want to feel good about where your fandom dollars are going.
Another option is to realize you are getting something for your money : a Major League Baseball team (at least when the Yankees and Red Sox come to town). And if you got a variable rate bazillion dollar mortgage for the McMansion of your dreams, at least you got to live in a pretty cool house for a while before your life was ruined by the big banks that wanted to be paid the money they spent on your habitat.
As for me, I’m going to continue going to games and continuing hoping that someday the Mariners will be contenders. But that won’t stop me from complaining and whining. I am an American, after all.
The Mariner’s beat writer we all love to hate extolled fans not to make excuses on behalf of the team. I can see the fantasy of a vocal and powerful fanbase persuading owners with more pressing interests than winning to abandon their nefarious plots against us virtuous fans.
But these excuses, for some of us, are the only way we can still enjoy baseball.