This just in: Major League Baseball executives are shocked to discover that some fans of their sport love its traditions.
And in other news, the Bush administration was astonished to learn that in some countries, when you treat people like cockroaches, they expect you to apologize for it.
Put these two revelations together. I dare you tell me then it’s a coincidence that the President used to own a baseball team. Where else could he learn to be so oblivious to how real people think, if not at the foot of Mr. Clueless himself, Bud Selig, commissioner of baseball?
A lot more is being made of this Spider-Man promotion-gone-bad that it ever merited. As far as I’m concerned, baseball — and all our sports — have become nothing more than advertising vehicles anyway.
The stadium itself is an ad. The outfield walls are plastered with them. There are more on revolving scrolls behind home plate and maybe along the first- and third-base lines. They scream at us between pitches and between innings. No stat is too obscure, no moment too small not to have a title sponsor.
So they were going to put little logos on the bases. Big deal. They sold the game as hard as they could 100 years ago, and they’re doing the same thing now. One more logo in addition to the logos on the shoes, the bats, the gloves, the chest protectors (Maybe it’s just me, but I’m getting mighty annoyed at having to stare at a Nike Logo the size of a sparrow on the chest of Jorge Posada’s catcher’s gear.), the batting gloves — am I leaving anything out?
I’d think some purists would have objected to all those other ads on the uniforms. Maybe they don’t because they’re wearing the same logoed shoes and playing catch with the same gloves.
But I’m not surprised at the outrage. This isn’t an athletic logo. It’s an ad for a movie. The purists had to be outraged because they’re always outraged.
So the difference between me and Selig and his cohorts, isn’t in my view of the promotion, but in that I saw the outrage coming. If I had been working in the commissioner’s office, I would have mentioned it at a meeting, too. And I would have advised against it — because of the fan reaction.
But these guys get a pitch to paint Spider-Man logos on the bases and in the on-deck circles and then they’re surprised that some fans didn’t like the idea. Don’t they read the newspapers or listen to the radio? Are they that clueless?
Who’s in charge of planning, anyway? The same guys who planned the war in Iraq? Who does research? The CIA?
Selig didn’t speak on the issue. Instead, Bob DuPuy, MLB’s chief operating officer, took the bullet for his boss. His comments are priceless.
“We understand that a segment of our fans was uncomfortable with this particular component and we do not want to detract from the fan’s experience in any way,” he said.
To show that movie folks are as naïve as baseball folk, Geoffrey Ammer, president of worldwide marketing for the Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Group, volunteered, “We never saw this coming, the reaction the fans had. It became a flashpoint — the reaction was overwhelming.”
They didn’t see it coming because they didn’t look. Or, they think baseball fans are as sheep-like as movie fans, willing to pay good money to sit through a half hour of trailers and commercials before they get to the movie. Either way, they’re dumber than “Ishtar.” “Waterworld,” too.
As for DuPuy and baseball, if they are really that all-fired concerned about detracting from the fans’ experience, what the heck were they thinking of when they adopted the designated hitter?
If they really don’t want to detract from our experience, why is Bud Selig still commissioner? Why do they allow teams to sell flat beer for 12 times the price of gasoline? Why do they play that god-awful music at earsplitting volume and flash insipid messages on the video boards between every pitch?
Why didn’t they care about drug testing until it became a scandal? Why don’t they play one World Series game — just one, dammit — in the afternoon? Why don’t they do something about Montreal? And the growing practice of “tiered” ticket prices in which you have to pay more to see Barry Bonds and the Giants than you do to see Moe Noodleman and the Pirates — these guys don’t think that’s a “distraction.”
Look, MLB made a mistake — a really dumb one. So they backed down. That’s not the real issue here.
The issue isn’t even the unfathomable and appalling lack of understanding these guys have of their own fans. The game doesn’t survive because of their careful stewardship, it survives in spite of it.
What is the issue is the cynical way DuPuy explained the decision to back down. Baseball doesn’t want to detract from the experience of the fans?
Give us a break.
Tell that lie right, guys. What you don’t want to do is detract from the experience for a lousy $50,000 bucks a team and twice that for the Yanks and Red Sox. You’ve already amply demonstrated that if the price is right and the turnstiles are clicking, you don’t care a hoot for our experience, just our money.
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