Wednesday, October 10, 2007

How Bucyrus Views the Yankees' Tragedy

Gary Ogle from the Bucyrus (Ohio for those of you who didn't know) Telegraph-Forum reminds us that, contrary to popular opinion, the baseball season didn't end on Monday night:

One ESPN commentator -- I don't which one because they all sound like Yankees apologists -- moaned interminably about how New York hitters didn't come ready to hit and its pitchers didn't come ready to pitch. Then he asked, and I kid you not, "Did the best team win this series?"

Cleveland not only won that series, the Indians won it every way imaginable. Now the teams with the two best regular season records, equal records by the way, will play for the American League pennant. The two best pitching staffs in baseball will go head-to-head. But rather than discuss, analyze and dissect those matchups, we heard instead about all the young Yankee pitchers who were likely to fight for a spot in the rotation in 2008.

So who can afford to be concerned about C.C. Sabathia matching wits and curveballs with Josh Beckett, or two of the best young pitchers in the game -- Daisuke Matsuzaka and Fausto Carmona -- throwing gyros and heaters? After all, the New York Yankees are eliminated and that's all the matters.

Being in Ohio, I can attest that Mr. Ogle's view of things is in line with the overwhelming popular sentiment in these parts at the moment, and I myself have become annoyed by all of it.

But in ESPN's (and the rest of the media's) defense, the Torre/A-Rod business is a big story that demands to be covered, especially when there are two off-days before the ALCS to fill. It's also worth noting that such intensive coverage of New York and Boston, while really annoying, is not irrational. People like to heap scorn on ESPN and others for being east coast fanboys or biased or whatever the latest charge may be, but above all else, ESPN is a business, owned by a company -- Disney -- that did not get to where it has gotten by forcing unwanted products down people's throats.

The Yankees and Red Sox are basically the Disney Princesses of baseball. Not familiar with the Disney Princesses? I can tell you all about them, because I have a preschool age daughter who, despite the fact that Mrs. Shyster and I place draconian limits on her television consumption and do our best to limit her exposure to the commercial world, is in love with them. And Mickey Mouse. And the Little Einsteins. Even the slightest exposure to these things makes ShysterDaughter go ga-ga. While there are many who would chalk this up to the insidious marketing practices of a large media company, it has far more to do, I think, with the fact that most little girls just love shiny and froofy princess things, cute mice, and precocious little kids who fly around in cool-looking rockets. Even if Disney's considerable marketing muscle helps this along nicely, there is nothing in the world that is going to force a three year-old to accept garbage, even if it comes in a nice package. No, there is a demand there and, much to the Shyster family's dismay, Disney is filling it with frightful efficiency.

And so it is with sports. ESPN doesn't provide so much Yankees and Red Sox coverage because they are biased by or irrationally love-struck by those teams. They do it because, I strongly suspect, such coverage brings higher ratings, page hits, and advertising revenue. While critics have and will continue to charge that this is due to brainwashing or something, the fact of the matter is that there are not yet any laws forcing people to tune in to a given game or to read a given column. Those Yankees eyes and Red Sox dollars are there because there is simply a bigger audience for that stuff and always has been.

And however annoying the Yankees-Red Sox mania can be at times, it would be folly to suggest that it is somehow detrimental to baseball. As so many have noted, attendance and revenues are up all around the game, and those gains have correlated well with the resurgence of the Yankees and the increased focus on the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry. Causation? I doubt it because there are so many other factors in play, but it seems ridiculous to think that spotlight on east coast baseball has been harmful, and I am inclined to think that there is some kind of trickle-down effect going on here.

I suppose in the end none of that makes the focus on the Torre/A-Rod saga any less annoying, but it does make it understandable.


Brett said...

In a similar vein, I think you'll probably also agree that the paucity of coverage for women's sports is likely not the result of misogyny on the part of the broadcasters.

Shyster said...

Most definitely agree. If anything, I think ESPN has gone above and beyond in trying to create interest in women's sports (recent coverage of women's world cup and, earlier, the WNBA). This interest-creation, I would guess, being inspired by profit motive as opposed to concerns about equality.

I also suspect that it doesn't fly all that well with the viewing public, and thus the coverage remains low.