Friday, June 28, 2019

Sports Radio And Baseball - Cart Or The Horse

I listen to quite a bit of Sports Radio. I am partial to Fox Sports Radio because I like Dan Patrick, Colin Cowherd and Doug Gottlieb. My second choice is ESPN and CBS. While I enjoy the banter, the bravado and the discussions on these shows, the content is always the same: The NBA and a sprinkling of the NFL. If MLB is mentioned at all, there is always the "pale in comparison" thought and the "boring" thought and the "not a players' league" thought. Otherwise, something bad must have happened such as an unfortunate foul ball incident. They talk about how their metrics strongly suggest that the NBA is what the audience wants them to talk about. But is this the cart or the horse?

I could type a thousand words on why MLB is not boring nor are the games too long. Suffice it to say that NFL games last the same amount of time and if you break it down, less action actually occurs in a football game than a baseball game. NBA games are generally an hour shorter, except for the last two minutes which take as much time as the first 118. When it comes to revenue, the last figures I saw state that the NFL has about $15 billion in revenue and the MLB has about $9 billion. The NBA has less revenue than both the NFL and MLB.

But this is really not my point in writing this piece. My point is that the idea that listeners do not want to listen to stuff about baseball is driven by the numbers, but what causes the numbers? Let me give you an analogy.

During an economic downturn, the cause can be a myriad of things. The bubble bursts or the mortgage giving goes unchecked. The stock market hits a big dip or this is a crisis of some sort such as fuel shortages. Some of those take time to fix but others can bounce back in a heartbeat.

What generally happens is that the news media, always on the lookout for a sensational story, gets all over whatever the crisis happens to be. Once there is constant news scrutiny that a problem has occurred, then the consumer panics and closes ranks on their spending. Doing so deepens the economic crisis, causes unemployment and loss of profits. This is a lot more complicated than I am making it. But, again, suffice it to say that the continued media frenzy adds to the problem and increases the depth of a recession. It is not until the news starts reporting more positive stories such as a jump in GNP or a drop in unemployment that the consumer starts to come out of the shell a little and spends a little money, which in turn fuels a recovery.

I believe that Sports Radio has jumped all over the NBA news party because it has become fashionable and "cooler" than those other "fogies" sports like Baseball, Golf, etc. But you can narrow it down even further. Sports Radio does not talk about ALL of the NBA, they talk about a few teams and a few players. Do you ever hear them talk about the Memphis Grizzlies, the Phoenix Suns or the Charlotte Hornets?

No! They talk about the Lakers, Warriors, Knicks, Nets, Raptors, Kings and Rockets. Listen to them! That's it! And the only reason the Raptors are mentioned is that they won the Championship and are trying to keep Kawhai Leonard. All the talk now is about the big free agents, the top three draft picks ("Zion is overrated!"). When is the last time that Blake Griffin and Kemba Walker have been mentioned on Sports Radio? When?

It is all Lebron and Rivers and Kawhi and a few others ad nauseum. So this isn't even about the NBA. This is about a few teams on the NBA and a few players. Repeat and rehash. Every show. Every day. Every night.

Getting back to my analogy, I think the metrics that Sports Radio hang its hat on are self-created and self-driven. The cart is not in front of the horse. The cart and the horse are the same! They talk about (part) of the NBA because that is what their metrics say fans want to hear. And fans want to hear about (part) of the NBA because that is all they hear.

Now let's talk about Major League Baseball. Is $9 billion in revenue a fluke? Major League Baseball with its, and MLB Network and all the merchandise that goes along with it is raking in the money. The owners are fat and happy. The top players make scads of money just like in the NBA. If all I have said so far in this paragraph is true, there is interest in Major League Baseball and that interest is very strong.

The number of sports blogs that cover baseball and baseball teams triple and more the amount of blogs that cover other sports. The NBA has started to talk about metrics now. Kawhi was worth 8 points in that game over average. The MLB has been obsessed with this for YEARS!  Why? Because no other sport garners the same degree of interest in the numbers generated by players like baseball.

My challenge to Sports Radio will never be taken up because they are so comfortable in their zones. I do not see change happening any time soon. But my challenge would be to talk about baseball, Sports Radio. Make it at least a block of discussion in each of your three hours shows. If you do that, I would bet you that your metrics would reflect a change and that people would start wanting you to talk about it.

The one caveat though is that you would have to bring the same sort of excitement you bring to what you cover now. Do not sit there and talk about what baseball has to do to be less boring. Talk about some the cool things happening with the young players and the challenge that is going to happen for the next player-owner agreement to take place because of that emphasis on youth. Instead of vocal sighs when discussing MLB, Colin will need to do just as many WOOOooos! as he does with the Lakers.

Try it, Sports Radio. You won't, but I still dare you to. Maybe then we listeners will not have to see all sides of the Lakers for twenty of every twenty-four hour day. That does get old, folks.


Alicia said...

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William J. Tasker said...

Thank you very much, Alicia. It is nice to hear positive feedback. I used to have a large audience, but hit a wall for a few years and am slowly building back.