I am very curious to know what fraction of Major League Baseball fandom I represent when I say: I do not care about the lockout.
Let me clarify. My favorite game in the world might not start on time; of course, that upsets me. So in that regard, I care. What I mean is, I do not care to keep up with the negotiations (or lack thereof). I am not going to pick a side, nor am I going to keep checking for a return date. Just tell me when to turn on the television for opening day. I do not mean this in an “everything will be okay” kind of tone; I mean this in a “you both disappoint me” kind of tone.
Here is the biggest problem with the lockout from the fan perspective: I have no idea how to explain this to casual sports or baseball fans. When Joe-next-door asks why he cannot take his wife and kids to a game like he usually does, I would struggle for a way to explain the issues in a way that does not confuse him. Yes, this is a problem.
Diehard fans like myself are going to come back to the game whenever it returns. We are not the prize at stake here. The issue is Joe-next-door. He does not drown himself in sports media but instead wants to enjoy the game with his family. I have said it before and I will say it again; baseball needs to get a better grip on attracting Joe-next-door, because he is the majority of people and has the most money to spend. In case you have not noticed, Joe is giving his money to a lot of other forms of entertainment instead.
I really want to reflect on a tweet that I read during the spring/summer of 2020 (by someone who I cannot remember). This is not verbatim, but the tweet was along the lines of “usually during strikes, Americans side with workers, but for some reason, we actually have about half of the fans siding with owners. Why is this?”
I think I have an answer to this.
Up until 2020, the average American can relate to workers who always feel taken advantage of by their bosses. So, naturally, these average Americans sympathize with the players who feel the same way towards their bosses. And then Covid-19 happened and shut down the entire economy. Now, average Americans are hurting for work and money, Many are thankful for bosses and company owners who provided people with work in order to survive. Furthermore, workers now care immensely about their companies because they want to make sure they were going to still have a job when quarantine is over.
This can directly affect fan views of MLB during negotiations. As Americans struggle for money to maintain their lifestyle, or in some cases to survive, MLB players are whining about not having enough money, when in “people money”, they are stupidly rich and therefore seem out of touch with the current situation. According to dqydj.com, “In 2021, the threshold for a household to be top one percent was $504,420 in earnings.’ (https://dqydj.com/household-income-percentile-calculator). The 2021 MLB league minimum salary was $570,500. This means any full time major league baseball player is making a higher salary than 99 percent of the rest of the country. In a time of crisis, the average American has very little sympathy for players crying for more money.
With all of this being understood, it is reasonable for an average American to sympathize with team owners who need to make sure they take care of the countless more team and stadium employees and make sure they have enough money to continue operations. But that is not to say team owners get off so easily. Teams like the Pittsburgh Pirates and Baltimore Orioles have given their fan bases nothing to hope for in a very long time, and frankly, the vast majority of my entire life. Tanking ruined the sport of baseball. Selling an intentionally poor product with the promise that it will eventually get better at some point in the future with no specified date or time is the definition of taking advantage of your fan base.
This all-encompassing train-wreck of a lockout can only lead to MLB’s second symbolic failure in two years. The first came in 2020 when MLB had the chance to be the first major sport (besides WWE) to return out of quarantine. The chance for baseball to symbolize the triumph and emotion of America was handed to the league on a silver platter from the heavens above. Instead, they chose to argue and missed their chance.
As of publication, there are no reports of negotiations even being planned to take place. The rest of the country, and all other major sports, are practically back to normal. Except for MLB. The owners and players did not learn the pandemic lesson. So to owners, players, and the commissioner: the net time you want to know why the National Football League fills up a stadium and crushes you in the ratings, look in the mirror to find your answer.
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