The cobwebs have piled up a bit since the “For Sale” sign went out front of the Tavern a couple of years ago. The bank never could push a sale through and there it sat. The shameless huckster in me saw an opportunity – I was able to take it off their hands for a steal, and when I got the keys I found Old Harry still over in the corner, all pissed off that no one had been back to give him some service.
The physical plant is a little worse for the wear, but it’s mine again – and that’s what really matters. I’m happily reopening the tavern doors on this baseball’s opening day. The synergy is delicious…if not the hors d’oevres. In fact, I’m not so sure I would touch those things – I found them in the cooler when I opened up the place.
The first game of the season? Rangers/Astros. In my opinion, nothing more abominable than this game to start the season. I never understood the Milwaukee Brewers moving to the National League – it messed up the parity of the leagues, accomplished nothing, and now to rectify that we’ve moved the Astros into the American League some 14 years after that regrettable move. I stand with Lance Berkman.
For some 100-years, the Cincinnati Reds held the distinction of playing the first game of the season at home, when in 1990 they opened the season in Houston…another reason to hate this game – Houston swoops in to again steal the spotlight. And to make matters worse, it’s at night – what a terrible way to kick off the season.
Why do I harp so much on baseball walking away from tradition, while football, hockey, even basketball evolves? Because. And that’s exactly the conundrum that faces baseball.
In the age of 100’ flat screen HDTV, surround sound, mobile devices, and let’s not forget escalating player salaries, MLB finds itself a prisoner of it’s own tradition – and I’d argue the short-sightedness of ownership and the special anti-trust exemption bestowed on baseball by a 1922 Supreme Court decision. The other professional sports have neither the longevity/history of baseball, nor the anti-trust exemption and as such have made it a point through out their histories of evolving and changing with the times – the most successful of which has been the NFL, a game tailor made for modern televisions.
Football and basketball have had their labor challenges, but they have always evolved with the times. They have never enjoyed the same stability of the NHL (6-teams for 50 years) or MLB (the same 16 teams in the same place for 50 some-odd years, the same number of teams for more than 60 years). The game began in the pre-media days of the late 1800’s-early 1900’s. The game barely changed with minor tweaks along the way until the designated hitter rule came into place in 1973, the biggest change was the addition of divisions with the expansion of the 1960s. Then interleague play in 1997, began ushering in the most change ever seen in the major league game. More divisions and wild cards were changes that while controversial, were largely popular. And, of course, Cincinnati losing the honor of hosting the first game of the season. Not to mention limited "instant replay."
They were tweaks, and met with some resistance, but by far the biggest backlash from MLB’s modernization was the 2004 agreement to advertise “Spiderman 2” on the bases . The outrage actually stopped the campaign cold. The same people who criticized the move, are the same people who willingly watch NHL players skate across corporate logos frozen beneath the ice. DO yourself a favor – watch the video of Bobby Orr’s Stanley Cup winner.
Not one corporate logo to be found. The NHL gets away with these moves because for most of their history, they were a small regional game unnoticed by most folks.
MLB was fat dumb and happy for the better part of a century. Unchallenged. Unchanged. Given the benefit of monopoly they behaved as monopolies do – they failed to innovate, evolve and change. They allowed the MLBPA to become the most powerful union in sports – perhaps in American industry – though their boneheaded behaviors. They leap into “on base” advertising, and get slapped down. You will notice, though, that since that debacle, advertising does appear on the sides of the bags. They’re a prisoner of their own history.
But it is Opening Day. Even with everything that’s wrong, it’s still baseball. The curtain comes up on the 2013 season today. The world is new again. There’s a 30-team tie for the best record in baseball. It only happens once a year. And I’m happy to be re-opening the doors of the tavern on the day baseball officially pronounces it is spring. Unlike Punxatawney Phil, baseball is never wrong...at least on opening day. Over time, you should get used to baseball evolving more quickly...it's just taken them a lot longer than the other sports to do so.