I was scrolling through my twitter news feed on Sunday evening after the Superbowl had ended and was reading up on Joe Flacco winning the MVP, his pending contract, the wide frame of feelings on Ray Lewis, and how terrible the acoustics were for the godaddy.com commercial. Intermittent between the Superbowl tweets were several tweets from the brethren of baseball only fans I follow with tweets on how now that the Superbowl was over, it was baseball season. These were also coupled with some more aggressive tweets on how much they hated Superbowl dominating twitter and didn’t care about anything outside of Spring Training report dates. It was these comments that framed where I wanted to take today’s post.
I am a member of a baseball/softball first family; my dad, two siblings, and myself all played or still play Division I baseball/softball or professional baseball. Grew up as what I would call a baseball purist family, although we have evolved into a bit of a football family as well. I am wrapped up during the Fall and Winter in my fantasy teams, the New York Giants, my Wake Forest Demon Deacons, and sports talk radio that is football-centric. I choose to not have my interest in baseball and football butt heads with each other, and I am going to try to frame why all baseball fans that want to see the game grow nationally and on TV, should take football more seriously then identifying it as a twitter annoyance.
Domes, or more specifically, retractable domes and open-air stadiums, is where I want to take this conversation. Outside of Fenway and Wrigley (the two remaining beacons of baseball history), and stadiums positioned in California or Texas where dry and warm weather is a staple of the climate, shouldn’t all new stadiums have a retractable roof for open-air, closed options? The baseball purist in all of us cringes a bit at that suggestion, but from a business end, can baseball really afford to have its highest leverage games be so determined by weather?
In the last decade, we have seen the World Series play into November, be postponed in Philadelphia, Detroit, New York, St. Louis because of severe weather, and played in miserable conditions. Playing games in the cold is the least of my concerns, players all do it, all over the country in April/May and October/November, and can negotiate that just fine. My concern is from a television product for the World Series, when baseball should be showcasing the sport at its finest. This is where all baseball fans need to take bigger notice of the impact of football on how we consume sports.
The legions of die hard baseball fans, purists, and fans of the two participating teams will always consume the World Series. However, the World Series needs to be an opportunity that baseball uses to grow, and the only way to do that is have a firm plan to avoid an Alabama vs. LSU football window on Saturday night, or a Patriots vs. Broncos SNF game. To do this, cold weather cities need to have the ability to make sure games do not got cancelled.
MLB does a good job of planning a schedule that won’t butt heads with major football games that will keep World Series and Playoff ratings low, but that only holds true if games are played on schedule. Let’s give the example that the Minnesota Twins are representing the American League in next year’s World Series at beautiful open-air Target field. They are scheduled to host games one and two of the World Series at home. Those games are scheduled for Thursday night and Friday night. Both of these nights are no football nights (NFL network Thursday night games not withstanding, and they are brutal anyway). Its late October and Minnesota gets a snowfall or severe weather that knocks back the World Series two days.
Now games one and two are played on Saturday and Sunday night in late October. When the casual sports fans and largest rated sports television products will be dominating ratings on Saturday and Sunday nights, leaving baseball only with the base of fans that will watch regardless. This could all be avoided if all new stadiums had to place a retractable roof on their stadium. I have seen games at Safeco and Chase Field, and they are beautiful ballparks.
I don’t know how to make my point with Wrigley and Fenway… those two stadiums are both in cities where weather can be a factor, but that tradition and history supersedes this argument.
Throughout arguing this, I feel like I spent a lot of time trying to convince myself that I believed this was better for the game, but as I continue to try to evaluate baseball as a business and not just the game I grew up loving the traditions of, it is important to have awareness of the impact of the growth in popularity of the NFL and college football each Fall and its impact on baseball.
Seven more days until college baseball seasons begins, and Spring Training coinciding nicely with that, enjoy your day.