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Sunday, January 29, 2006

This Sun Wannabe is a Real, er, Moon

Classic Shaughnessy today. His make-believe fight for the little man is really a front for shots at Red Sox management.

Let's start at the top:
It was an announcement that barely got anyone's attention. A couple of weeks back, the Red Sox and NESN declared the end of their Friday night relationship with Channel 38, committing all locally televised Red Sox games to pay cable.
Could it be that the reason it flew under the radar was because the Boston Globe's lead sports columnist was too busy whining about Larry Bigbie to notice? (Note: He offered essentially the same approach when writing on Bill Mueller's departure in December.)

Then he writes: "It's unfortunate. It's also elitist, classist, and probably greedy, too. The Sox are putting all their games on NESN because it means more money for the organization." Funny, just a few weeks ago the Globe was conducting an online poll asking whether readers would be willing to pay for Web content -- including Shaughnessy's. Why? "More money for the organization," perhaps? Where's the column on that?

Heck, a historian like Dan should know that over time teams (read: businesses) do all they can to separate fans from their wallets. Time was, baseball allowed fans to watch live games for free. Then they built bleachers in order to generate -- what was it again? -- more revenue. And not long ago fans could bring their own food and drinks to games. No more (a few stadiums excepted). A better argument would be to ask why the Atlanta Braves and Chicago White Sox, for two, can sell gameday tickets for under $10 and still compete with the high revenue squads. (Hint: A park that holds more than 34,000 people would be a start.)

And maybe he missed the decade-long legal wrangling between the Tribune Co., which owns the Cubs, and nearby landlords who let fans watch games at Wrigley from their rooftops. The Cubs went so far as to erect giant sheets to keep the would-be Peeping Fans in check -- until they ponied up millions for the viewing rights, that is.

One would think that if Dan were truly outraged by whether Joe Six-pack gets his games for free, he would offer to do something about it. He could take a page from Baltimore Sun columnist Dan Rodricks, who in an effort to reduce that city's out-of-control homicide rate wrote an open column inviting drug dealers and gang members to call him for help in finding a way out of their criminal lives. He could have used his mighty pen to command the city's wealthy to help subsidize cable for those 5% who don't have it. He could even have offered to donate the first $30. And maybe he could enlist those poor kids the Globe dispatches to city neighborhoods to hawk subscriptions to take up collections for those put out by the Sox's money-grab.

But, as we noted at the top, The CHB's true agenda lies somewhere else, as this line makes clear: "It's a little lame for Werner to pin this whole thing on McGrail. The move is simply too big for the NESN president to make alone. This goes all the way to the top: John W. Henry."

That would be Red Sox chairman John Henry, the same man who has been feeding scoops to Globe reporter Chris Snow while shunning the man who thinks he is the sun around which Red Sox Nation revolves.

That's the real story.

9 comments:

jenny said...

Well, I began the latest article with high hopes. I thought, "Great! An article that does not revolve around the premise that Theo Epstein is an evil little bastard!" Then I realized what he was really doing. So, a few questions:

1) 95% of people in Boston have cable. I don't have figures, but that has to be way higher than the national average. Of course I feel bad for the 5% of people that don't have cable, but they are a shockingly small minority. Maybe it's a bit socially unaware, but isn't it understandable? Why would you base your business practices on a tiny minority?

2) The Red Sox are a business that exists to make money. You do realize that, Dan? I think selling dirt to fans is a lot worse than this.

3) Why doesn't he rip the Braves? The Red Sox aren't the only one doing this. All Braves games are on TBS, TS, or FSS. None are available without basic cable. Could it possibly be because it's easier to rip a face that you already hate, John Henry, than a corporation like Time Warner? No, that couldn't be it...

I admire when people stand up for the little man. But I don't admire when it's Dan Shaughnessy. What a hypocrite.

Anonymous said...

TBS actually comes over the air in Atlanta, but they have cut back to a game or two a week at best. Most of the games are on Turner South. If you watch games on TS, you are forced to sit through that horrible "MY South" song at least 3 or 4 times per game lol.

Joe Calapai said...

When I first read the column and saw he was taking a "Stick Up for the Working Fella" tact it was like watching two cars ahead of you on a collision course - nothing good was going to come of it and you were powerless to stop it.

I actually posted an open apology to Dan for his terrible burden of disclosing the 17% ownership stake in every column about the Red Sox:

17% of CHB Bitterness

objectivebruce said...

Once again, the hatred obscures logic (continued comment on the incoherence of the inarticulate blogger's posts is no longer necessary). The Red Sox make money because of the rabid interest and emotional investment of millions of people in the team, interest that transcends ticket-buying and has been passed on from father to son. Everything from selling trinkets to selling radio-TV advertisements is possible only because of that interest and investment. Many of the people who can't afford cable today are the parents and grandparents of people who fill the stadium, buy the trinkets,provide the sellable demographics and pay the taxes for the police who patrol outside the park and the maintainence of the streets that bring millions to spend money at the games. The emotional investment and rabid interest is handed down from generation to generation; it is an interest that wasn't built by Henry and Werner, but by the people who are being cast aside like a used athletic supporter. Free TV games, the very vehicle that helped build the interest that is making these rich men richer, is now snatched away to add a few more dollars to the till. Shaughnessy stood up for the people who had more to do with creating value for the Boston Red Sox than Henry and Werner ever will. These people are being cast aside -- "We sell out everything and anything, we no longer need you people who created the passion that makes us richer, so if you're going to watch, you're going to pay." There have been over-the-air games for more than half the team's existence, the removal of all of the locally-produced games to pay TV deserves a column if not an outright crusade.

The Chief said...

Dan Shaughnessy, everybody! He's here all week!

Merv Tedwards said...

Subjective Bruce- you're killing me man. Your rant below is very convoluted. Do you have any facts?

My father hates baseball and only took me to Bruins games growing up. I grew to appreciate the game myself. My grandfather liked the Sox but we spent our time golfing.

So the Red Sox have such a great fan base because the greatest generation used to watch them on free tv? Nonsense, Red Sox attendance was horrible pre-1967 and one can argue it was not that great until Roger Clemens came around. Excluding a few great seasons in the mid-to-late 70's.

Did the Red Sox even approach record attendance levels until Pedro showed up? Clemens and Pedro did more for the Red Sox growing than Williams or Ruth ever did. The Sox fan base grew as the Red Sox grew more competive. That is the simple truth. Better ownership created a better fan base. Not the other way around.

Sure Henry and Warner are capitalizing on the game, but that's called capitalism. It's a professional sport with contracts, salaries, and taxes where the foremost priority is to make a profit.

Your argument that tax payer dollars go to the team is not backed up with facts and misleading. If you looked into that I think you'd see that the Red Sox create more tax benefits for the Commonwealth than they expend. By a large amount so spare me that the cops walking the beat and the sewer costs are burdening the taxpayer. Tom Menino knows exactly what the deal is and it's a good one for the city of Boston and its residents. Furthermore, Kenmore Square is improving. Residents who live there have very little to cry about since Fenway has been there since 1912. I think they had notice of the situation before they moved there.

As for TV revenue the Red Sox are also adding to the economy. There are more sports related locally produced shows and DVDs further increasing jobs. What about the industry of books and clothing that have sprung up? Advertising is up and businesses are prospering based on the Red Sox success. Advertisers would not go to NESN if they were not benefitting and if they did not reach more consumers than they were reaching on free TV.

One might even argue that it is the present younger generation of fans who have grown up with the Red Sox since they have been on cable who have pitched in to make the Red Sox better with our dollars. Not some 70 year old guy who saw Ted Williams in his heyday once a week on free-tv. The 86 year drought of championships was largely due in part to the Red Sox being run poorly and therefore the interest and likelihood of a consumer buying tickets was lower.

Subjective Bruce what you are refusing to accept is that technology, demand, and the fact that the owners have added value to the Red Sox is what has allowed them to make the Red Sox a harder ticket. If Yawkey could have went to cable in the 60's I bet he would have. The technology was not there. You seem to think that professional sports owes the citizens anything. Maybe it is a generational gap between you and I but I see baseball as nothing more than a physical expression of American ideas and enterprise played out through an athletic medium. That is how I identify with it and what I enjoy most about it. The Red Sox are not an amateur sport and the fans do not provide a subsidy. We pay for the entertainment value. I also enjoy watching great college ball but I expect less in return. College games don't draw me out to watch them like the Red Sox do.

Look at the Royals. They are owned by the founders of WalMart. The team has a decent fanbase but they have suffered the last twenty years because The WalMart family has one of the cheapest payrolls in the league. I bet the average Royal fan would pay more per ticket, and welcome a bump in their cable bill to see their team in a World Series. But hey, you probably can see a lot more games for free in KC.

I just don't think your defense of Shaughnessy's article bitching about free tv for the fans really demonstrated in a rational way how the Red Sox must maintain free access to the viewer based on any legitimate reason.

Anonymous said...

Bruce Allen made a great point today about how if Shaughnessy is so concerned about Sox games not being free, then he should get on his employers' case for not handing out free copies of the Globe to the economically disadvantage. A month of the Globe costs more than a month of NESN.

I was going to suggest Shaughnessy put his money where his mouth is and give away his books to the impoverished for free, but then I realized the poor have a tough enough time in life without being further punished.

The Chief said...

Now that's funny!

Anonymous said...

If Shaughnessy is so concerned about the plight of The Little People, he should write a column taking his employer to task for firing their janitors so that the NY Times can make, say, a 30.0001 percent profit this year instead of 30.000099.