Saturday, May 12, 2007
Bill Simmons; Yankee fan.
Quoted from yesterdays Bill Simmons mailbag:
Q: Everyone outside of New York and Boston thinks Yankees and Red Sox fans are the same exact person living in two different cities. I see no difference at all between the two fan bases. You are both loud, obnoxious, have ridiculous accents, put stupid pressure on your players, spend money to the point it makes the game unfair, spend way too much money on Japanese pitchers and think your city is far superior to everywhere else's. Am I missing something?
--Josh, Tampa, Fla.
SG: Yeah, you're missing the part where we root for teams that win 95-100 games every year and finish 30 games ahead of the Devil Rays. You left that out.
If anything, Josh didn't go far enough. One of the cardinal statutes of baseball over the last few years has become the idea that Major League Baseball consists of two teams: The Yankees and Red Sox. Certainly with their local cable networks and broad population bases they would end up with a ton of fans anyway, and the Yankees would draw in more with their still-recent World Series titles and rich winning tradition. However, the fact remains that the ESPN-ization of these two franchises has made it impossible to get away from them, and this in turn generates them even more fans. Unless something insane happens or they are playing on the West Coast, they usually lead Baseball Tonight. SportsCenter? Same thing, really.
It's all a big cycle with an easy conclusion: ESPN is the Red Sox and Yankees. While they have competitors, ESPN is able to win more viewers and put its name out in the marketplace more than say, FSN. ESPN pats themselves on the back (see: ESPY's), but fails to care about the long-term growth of the product as much as they care about appeasing the bottom line. So why would they talk about teams other than the most popular?
Red Sox/Yankee fanbase (high population) + ESPN viewers (high population) -> Obscene amount of Red Sox/Yankee propaganda on ESPN = Even more people watching ESPN, even more people becoming Red Sox/Yankee fans.
I'm not even arguing that it's a bad move for either side, tossing aside any hopes for an idealistic version of baseball (While you were reading that last sentence, Bud Selig was trying to find idealistic in the dictionary): This has helped to make all three franchises the most popular in their sport, at the cost of a bunch of internet keyboard jockeys taking shots at them. As Family Guy once taught us, (Selig just found idealistic; he's laughing at me now) the price of our souls is 8.4 million dollars a week.
Heres the thing though: Bill Simmons, in his day, has probably written hundreds of anti-Yankee pieces about how they outspend everyone. I'd look them up for you if I had ESPN Insider or cared to wade through his crying. Every Red Sox fan who has been a fan for more than the last 5-7 years has done the same thing. Sometime over the last 2-3 years though (think: World Series), the Red Sox hit Malcolm Gladwell's tipping point and went from being the strongest Yankee competitor in the eyes of Yankee-haters to simply being the Yankees.
You'd think long-term Red Sox fans like Mr. Simmons would understand where Josh from Tampa is coming from. Either Simmons doesn't, or Simmons doesn't care. The ends have begun to justify the means for Red Sox fans. Remember that whole argument Red Sox fans used to lead about how X homegrown players are key parts of the Yankee dynasty? And the answer was Bernie Williams, Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, and Mariano Rivera. Well, Jonathan Papelbon, Dustin Pedroia, and Kevin Youkilis are the only three players on the Red Sox active roster who were originally drafted and developed by the Red Sox, and I'd say as a whole those three have meant much less than those four. Theres your true team of mercenaries.
And Bill Simmons' response to this question? Classic Yankee fan answer.
Posted by chris at 4:13 PM