No one shows up for Florida baseball and the myth of new stadiums

If you follow Major League Baseball, you know Florida’s two baseball teams are in trouble. The Miami Marlins are just bad, and the Tampa Bay Rays can’t draw fans.

The Marlins were just handed a brand new, tax payer funded, stadium that no one goes to. The Rays have been good, despite a low payroll, but they play in such a hideous ballpark that no one is willing to open their wallets for seats unless it is playoff time.

The Tampa Bay Tribune is reporting that Rays management knows the precarious position they’re in, explaining:

Cash in the form of Major League Baseball revenue-sharing is sustaining the Tampa Bay Rays, but the patience of other team owners is running low as they wait for the Rays to secure a new ballpark.

That’s a key point local business leaders took Wednesday from an hourlong discussion with Tampa Bay Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg and president Matt Silverman at the offices of the Tampa Bay Partnership, a nonprofit economic development organization.

The Rays are pushing the city of St. Petersburg to build them a new stadium, just like working families just paid for in Miami. But will that really make a difference? Real baseball fans will show up if they want the product, as evidenced by Fenway Park and the soon to be demolished Candlestick Park (SF Giants always drew decently well there).

But what lesson can the leaders of St. Petersburg learn from Miami? According to Miami Herald, quite a bit:

What has moving to Miami brought the Marlins? About 100 extra fans per game.

That’s the current gap between this year’s attendance and the average gate count for the Marlins’ last season at Sun Life Stadium, the football field that owner Jeffrey Loria blamed for the team’s long-standing attendance and revenue woes.

Those problems ended up following Loria to the government-owned Marlins Park, which is on track to face the worst fan rejection of a new baseball stadium in at least a generation.

The sad but very real truth is these new stadiums don’t generate revenue, they cost far more than they bring into local government. But politicians keep running to keep rich sports owners happy. The Atlanta Journal Constitution dove into the subject last year as talks continued on the construction of a new, possibly $1 billion, retractable roof football stadium for the Atlanta Falcons:

Despite the economic realities, cities continue to pursue new stadiums because of an industry “arms race,” the experts said. Owners don’t want to be last on the Forbes list of “most valuable teams” and elected leaders don’t want to be the one who loses a team to another city while in office. They will work to convince the public that the benefits outweigh the risks and that they have the formula for success.

“In part, it reflects the import some people put on having a major league sports team,” said Heywood Sanders, a professor of public administration at the University of Texas at San Antonio. “Los Angeles has not died because it does not have the Rams.”

The AJC reported that even the beloved SuperBowl cost the city of Indianapolis $1.3 million. And this is on top of the $10 million a year their new Lucas Oil Stadium is falling short each year.

I love my San Francisco Giants, but in no way does the presence of the team in the city make me want to live there. Fortunately for the city by the bay, the Giants ending up paying almost all the freight for their stadium and will reap the benefits when the debt service is finally paid off.

It will be a great day when cities tell owners to pay for it themselves or bug off.

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Dumb parents, unconstitutional ruling

I’m the first to make fun of parents who, for the life of me I don’t know why, decide to give their children the dumbest names. I don’t have to name off a list, everyone knows what I’m talking about.

But mocking and ridicule are a giant leap away from ruling that someone, under penalty of law, must change their baby’s name. Cue the crazy judge from Tennessee who just crossed that line, from the local NBC station:

A Newport mother is appealing a court’s decision after a judge ordered her son’s name be changed from “Messiah.”

. . .

“The word Messiah is a title and it’s a title that has only been earned by one person and that one person is Jesus Christ,” Judge Ballew said.

Martin [the father] responded saying, “I was shocked. I never intended on naming my son Messiah because it means God and I didn’t think a judge could make me change my baby’s name because of her religious beliefs.”

According to Judge Ballew, it is the first time she has ordered a first name change. She said the decision is best for the child, especially while growing up in a county with a large Christian population.

I agree that strange names can cause problems for children as they grow up. But as much as I hate the name, it isn’t our place to force the parents to change it. From a legal stand point this Judge doesn’t have a pulpit to stand on. I don’t know if she missed the day the First Amendment was covered in law school, but she may want to take a refresher course.

It is also worthwhile to know that, according to Slate, 700 children where named Messiah in 2012, and the world didn’t come to an end. I guess when some people speak of the freedom of religion, what they really mean is the freedom to impose their religion on you. I find this also comes with an amendment; they get to make up the rules as they go along.

I know PR when I see it

I’ve worked in communications long enough to know good public relations and Sunday’s Yahoo “article” on Michigan basketball coach John Beilein is a prime example.

Yahoo “expert” Dan Wetzel does an expert job of playing hand maiden to the PR folks at UofM. Check out this journalistic tour de force:

. . . Through the years, the one constant has been Beilein. Even when West Virginia and Michigan allowed him the chance to coach elite talent such as Trey Burke and Mitch McGary, he remained the same. Now paid about $1.7 million annually, in charge of a large Big Ten operation, he’s still the one who cuts up the game and practice film. That’s how he did it at Erie, that’s how he’s still doing it.

“We’re talking about every practice, plus games,” said assistant Bacari Alexander. “He cuts it personally. He’s an old football coach from his high school teaching days, reel to reel.”

. . .

They might not all know his back story or understand the lessons he learned on those bus rides through snowstorms home from Saint Anselm or Niagara County CC or someplace they’ve never heard about. They realize the wisdom he imparts, however. They never question the strategy.

“There is a humility about John Beilein that is something to be admired,” Alexander said. “He is just a guy who really benefitted from sweat equity. He is a guy who has coached at every level and, regardless of the roster he had, he maximized it. Every stop. Here at Michigan, it’s just more of the same.

I’m a Michigan fan and John Beilein appears to be a good person as well as an excellent basketball coach. I just can’t get past the PR fingerprints all over this story. There is the detailed back story of all the little places Beilein coached, how he still does his own yard work, and how he cuts his own game film, all very old school. There are the quotes from friends and family, swooning in their praise. All of this could very well be true, but why write it?

You don’t have to knock people down, tear them apart, but to me this story could have gone so many other more interesting directions. For example, Beilein is getting paid $1.7 million a year and the NCAA signed a 14-year broadcast deal in 2010 (for just the tournament) with CBS and Turner Broadcasting for $10.8 billion. Tell me again why players don’t get paid? College sports are huge business, and everyone seems to making out like bandits except the players, you know, the ones who do all the work.

And with Kevin Ware’s injury, Coach Beilein’s pay and benefits package could have been a great segway into talking about how players are treated after an injury. Do they get workers comp? Are they kept on scholarship? Are all their medical expenses covered? We know there have been instances where “student-athletes” have gotten shafted after getting hurt, as Chris Hayes discussed in a segment on his new show last night.

Isn’t Beilein a more complicated figure than this? I would love to learn how this working class guy who gets paid a ton of money connects with his players. Does he feel that Michigan and the NCAA are exploiting these kids? What does he do to ensure that his kids graduate?

Just like Coach Beilein, I’m sure Mr. Wetzel is a good person, he just shouldn’t write up the stuff the PR flacks at Michigan give him.

Finally

After 55 years in Major League Baseball, most of those as a broadcaster, Tim McCarver will leave the air after the 2013 World Series. From the Associated Press:

McCarver had been thinking about moving on for a couple of years. This winter, Fox executives visited him at his home in Florida to discuss extending his contract, which expired after the 2013 season.

They never even started negotiations. McCarver had already made up his mind.

He has worked 28 consecutive MLB postseasons on network television dating to 1984, providing analysis for a record 23 World Series.

I’m not going to disparage Tim as a person. However, he is a horrible broadcaster. Baseball fans have had to suffer his “analysis” for many years and I’m so relieved that he is leaving TV. His comments have always been less than insightful. He is consistently wrong describing pitches, his comments give no insight into the game and are usually made up of pre-written PR material handed to him by organizations. If you want to see and hear a great broadcaster, just listen to John Miller of the San Francisco Giants. Enough said.

Now that’s how you retire

We are always hearing about pro-athletes who take themselves way too seriously. Anthony Adams however, is breaking the mold and setting the standard for funniest retirement announcement and making him my video of the day. Just watch, you can thank me later.

http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/nfl-shutdown-corner/anthony-adams-announces-retirement-sad-yet-hysterical-fashion-152143975–nfl.html