Monday, September 11, 2006

"Feeding the Nation" by Danny Sells

There are three teams in the Major League Baseball who control the ebb and flow of the baseball season and as the post season approaches I feel the need to voice my concern with the current state of our national pastime. This is my call to action for the media outlets and the sports writers of America to turn the tide in their markets and strive to return the attention of local fans back to regional teams. Regional teams are the lifeblood of this sport and if ESPN continues to perpetuate stereotypes and only cater to the popular teams, baseball will eventually fail.

I do not use that term lightly. Everyday I wake up to see less and less local Denver merchandise in the memorabilia shops. I stop in a Denver sporting goods store and am unsure if I will be able to find a Rockies Jersey or "Twin Enterprises Franchise" hat on the shelves.

The Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, and New York Yankees are ruining baseball and causing the next generation of fans ( the kids) to turn away from their hometown teams and root for the common teams who represent "The Nation". Whether it is the homeless guy on the street with a 'C' on his hat, the east coast transplant at Minute Maid Park wearing his BoSox hat, or the Chinese guy at the store with a Jeter jersey, all these fans are contributing to the sickness. Having been a Rockies fan since '93, I have long hoped for the day when my illustrious Rox will once again return to the MLB playoffs. Although I don't think it will be this year, the team is finally playing meaningful games in late-August.

Last Wednesday night, a young vixen and I watched the Rockies play the Cubs at Coors Field under a lovely sunset. At gametime Colorado sat 3 back in the NL Wild Card Race while the Cubs were 14 games off the pace in the NL Central. We grabbed a beer, walked to our seats, and watched the first pitch leave BK Kim's hand (side note: good work Boston on that contract). Late in the 3nd inning Mr. Ramirez decided to take Kim deep, trying the ball game at two. When that homerun was hit, I hadn't heard such a roar since Dave Mandel hit the final cup to send it to the 16th game at 3:26 AM on 2/14/2004. I wasn't upset about the homerun, I was pissed by the abundance of Cubs fans and their obnoxious rooting for a sub-.500 team in a meaningless game for them. I was also pissed because Cubs fans outnumbered Rockies fans 2 to 1. I begin to question my existence as a sport fan and wondered if I had missed a private strip tease or a free chessesteak giveaway.

Never in any sport, at any level, in a meaningful game, should the home team have less fan support than the visiting club. I was first consumed by shame, as I realized my home park, had fallen victim to this travesty, but then was overcome by anger towards our national sports culture.

ESPN welds too much power as they decide what teams are popular and what teams will remain in obscurity. The program directors directly influence where the next generation of fans loyalties will lye. This thought process does not grow the game and causes local markets to continually struggle. We need to get the local fan to love their home team, not turn to national spotlight for their baseball. They need to learn the local players, learn their personalities and influence the local media to cover them exclusively. The kids need to know Albert Pujols and A-Rod, but they should be wearing Bill Hall replica jerseys to each Brewers game or Josh Barfield t-shirts at Petco. This form of loyalty will only breed success for each organization and the economic problems facing the league will slowly fade. Fans interest in geographic markets will become more balanced and national broadcasts will show more games to a larger audience.

Give up the Soxcenter and start caring about the local club on FSN.

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