The Stupid Bowl

It seems that the ESPN baseball writers were given a directive to do a column tying in to the Super Bowl this week. Neyer has one up and, as usual, it’s very good. We all came to the man’s work because there was a time when he was the only mainstream writer doing good analysis, but Rob is at his absolute best when he goes historical on us.

Jayson Stark has one up too, but it’s not so good. Not because it’s poorly executed — I think Stark is an interesting writer and always does a good job, this entry included — but because the premise, however tongue-in-cheek it may be, is the stuff of nightmares:

So as another Super Bowl looms on our digestive system’s horizon, we thought this was the perfect occasion to ask a critical question:

Is there anything baseball can learn from the way the NFL milks every Roman-numeralized ounce of marketability out of the Super Bowl?

Broadly speaking, the ideas are to make the World Series a “cultural event” as opposed to a mere sporting event, turn Game 1 into a circus, insert the day’s hottest music stars and MTV into the mix, have MLB adopt the NFL’s micromanaging style, and develop some interactivity tools for the viewers at home so they don’t have to just sit passively and watch baseball.

Stark’s a purist, so I’m guessing he actually hates most of the ideas on this list. My fear, though, is that someone at MLB is reading, doesn’t get the joke and some of this stuff winds up on a meeting agenda at some point in the near future.

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Comments

  1. Sara K said...

    I get where you’re coming from, but I’m sure the possibility of an “accidentally” exposed nipple during the seventh inning stretch wouldn’t hurt ratings any.

  2. The Common Man said...

    Don Zimmer doesn’t have nipples anymore.  After this many years, his baseball uniform is a second skin that does not come off.

  3. MooseinOhio said...

    Nipples aside – let’s talk about why MLB and the WS is being compared to the NFL and the Superbowl.  I find it interesting that this conversation doesn’t happen with either the NBA or NHL and like baseball both leagues also have seven games series and neither get the same ratings as the Superbowl. 

    It seems to me that folks associated with baseball (e.g. within MLB, the media) seem overly occupied with the NFL.  I’m not sure it is an appropriate comparison as comparing leagues with championship series are a different animal than those with a championship game.  I believe crowning a champion through a best-of series results in a truer champion than those that use a championship game.  For example, while NC State winning the NCAA title over Houston was a great story if they played a series I truly believe that Houston would win 3-1 or 4-1.

    However the simplicity and marketing beauty of a one game, and date known well in advance, death match makes it a great single day event.  That is very hard to compete with especially given the party atmosphere that is associated with single day events. 

    I believe baseball needs to stop acting like the overlooked little brother and recognize that it has a great product and should focus it’s energy on selling it strengths (e.g. the drama of a series, the challenges of playing on the road) not trying to live up to the image of big brother.  For example, the Superbowl had last years Giant’s upset of NE but that does not compare to the Yankees being up 3 games to none, leading game 4 late in the late innings and then losing the series (technically that was the ALCS but you get my point). 

    One of my mentors has a saying – “you will always be a lousy copy of someone else but are a great original”.  Baseball needs to embrace its originality and leave the false comparison with the NFL alone.

  4. Sara K said...

    Gosh, if Moose is going to get all serious on us…;)

    One problem is that CW says they should be marketing their “stars” more, but I doubt that approach is going to work now that, rightly or wrongly, the masses suspect that anyone who hits a ton is juiced. I wonder if it wouldn’t be better, particularly given the current economic climate, if baseball wouldn’t be better off marketing its “stories” more than its big stars.  I think the country is in the mood for the homegrown Everyman-type of personality, the underdogs, the (somewhere, Ken Tremendous is gagging) little scrappers with hustle. 

    Of course, my favorite players have always been utility guys, so perhaps I’m indulging a fantasy here…

  5. lar said...

    I think the answer to that is pretty easy, Moose, and it’s not because of anything nefarious or because of self-esteem issues. Almost the opposite, probably.

    The Super Bowl and the World Series are compared like that – at times, and usually only when ESPN is looking to fill dead-air/space – because they’re the two most successful championships. They’re successful for two completely different reasons, and with two completely different metrics (NFL: revenue, MLB: excitement, drama), but they’re successful. And their success means that people care about them which leads to ESPN talking about the two of them more.

    We all know that ESPN hates the NHL, so they’ll never make that comparison. They do love the NBA, but the mystique and tradition and all of that of the NBA Finals just isn’t there. Why talk about lesser events when you don’t have to?

    Personally, I think MLB has the best events (World Series, All-Star Game), and I’ve heard many TV personalities say the same thing. But when you have two weeks of nothing but hype to fill, those hypemakers are going to be looking for every possible angle. This is just another one of their dumb ideas.

    —lar
    http://wezen-ball.blogspot.com

  6. Rob said...

    Count me as one who is sick of hearing about The Stories.  If it were the story of the series, that would be different, but the pre-packaged storylines of veteran redemption, utility hustle, or Manny-being-Manny are a waste of time.

  7. Sara K said...

    @Moose – somewhere, somebody is considering the merits of mesh alternate home jerseys. 

    @Rob – Oh, no doubt.  Those of us who enjoy the game on its merits don’t need shmaltzy selling points. Just trying to figure out what would “reach” more fans, new fans, if that’s a goal worth pursuing.

  8. GBS said...

    Stark has some good columns, but one thing that drives me absolutely nuts is his use of “we.”  Does he have a co-author for every story?  If so, put the person in the byline.  If not, say “I,” Jayson!

  9. Jason Rosenberg said...

    No one’s mentioned the main reason this can never happen – planning! The Superbowl festivities have been planned for years, literally, in advance. As long as the WS is played in the teams’ parks (please, Dear God, don’t change that), MLB can never make it the extravaganza that the SB is, right?

  10. lar said...

    (I tried posting this before, but it said it needed to be moderated… let’s try one more time)
    I think the answer to that is pretty easy, Moose, and it’s not because of anything nefarious or because of self-esteem issues. Almost the opposite, probably.

    The Super Bowl and the World Series are compared like that – at times, and usually only when ESPN is looking to fill dead-air/space – because they’re the two most successful championships. They’re successful for two completely different reasons, and with two completely different metrics (NFL: revenue, MLB: excitement, drama), but they’re successful. And their success means that people care about them which leads to ESPN talking about the two of them more.

    We all know that ESPN hates the NHL, so they’ll never make that comparison. They do love the NBA, but the mystique and tradition and all of that of the NBA Finals just isn’t there. Why talk about lesser events when you don’t have to?

    Personally, I think MLB has the best events (World Series, All-Star Game), and I’ve heard many TV personalities say the same thing. But when you have two weeks of nothing but hype to fill, those hypemakers are going to be looking for every possible angle. This is just another one of their dumb ideas.

    —lar

  11. MooseinOhio said...

    @lar – Good points about the ESPN effect and how they have a vested interest in coverage based on which sports gets airtime.  The NHL is case in point for limited coverage due to no programming and the X-Games for way too much coverage to support its own programming.  Another great example of an overhyped event in the NFL draft and the dozen or so mock drafts that Mel Kiper will produce. 

    @Sara – I have two words to express my biggest concern with the mess alternative jersey – David Wells.

  12. Ron said...

    The burning questions is:

    If B.J. Upton were a tree, what kind of tree would he be?

    That tells me all I need to know about the difference between the Super Bowl and the World Series right there.

  13. Tony Antonielli said...

    Craig, I understand your concern, and I would add mine.  That someone at MLB will read those words, GET the joke, and still introduce some of the ideas at the pertinent meetings this winter.  After all, part of the article stressed the ability of the NFL to wring the proverbial turnip blood from a televised event, and we all know who that sort of thing might appeal to…

  14. Jerome said...

    The comparisons between MLB and NFL constantly come up because baseball is desperately trying to figure out how football has completely and utterly usurped its position as the country’s most popular sport. It’s gotten to the point that calling baseball the “national pastime” is actually laughable, because everyone knows football is the real national pastime—and it’s not even particularly close. Unfortunately, I believe it’s a problem endemic to the sport of baseball itself; I don’t think any of these quick marketing fixes are going to make up for the fact that people are more inclined to watch the violent, relatively fast-paced action of football than the more cerebral, leisurely-paced sport of baseball. In other words, it’s the product itself, not the packaging.

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