Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Things to do in Montreal when baseball's dead

Or in Viera, Fla., for that matter, as the DC Examiner recounts

Some guys go to MLB "fantasy camp" to relive past (marginal) glory---or, more likely, to live a glory that never occurred. Now imagine traveling down to the Grapefruit League and rooting for a team that doesn't even exist. Just read the story of Sylvain Tremblay in the Examiner:

The blue Expos jerseys they wore daily said enough. [. . .] It's breaking my heart," Sylvain Tremblay says in a French accent. "But I can see it's not the Expos anymore." Tremblay, 39, and his son, Dominick, 11, became mini-celebrities during their stay here, without much effort. [. . .] "A few of them told us we were out of date, . . . and they'd look at us like we were from UFOs or something. But half the people didn't notice we were here."

When Baseball Prospectus and like publications stray from the party-line that---well, let's not soft-foot it---"Golly, those Expos fans really sucked there near the end!", they usually do so in a rather caustic manner. In fact, one BP writer has managed to jerk-store himself just one step short of "fatwa status" with a distinguished DC blogger. (Consequently, I'll be interested to read the comments on the Nats in the BP hardcover, which I purchased last week. Leafing through it, there appears to be a sentimental tribute to the Expos in the Nats team essay, plus---for our reading pleasure!---it looks like Dayn Perry wrote a lengthy essay on the whole situation near the back of the book.) [Late edit: False alarm, everybody. In the "Comments" to this post, Randolph corrects me; it was actually Derek Zumsteg, an entertaining if somewhat caustic writer in his own right, who penned/keyboarded the essay. Many thanks to you, Randolph!]

It's a shame that such takes usually swing the pendulum so far in the opposite direction, because then we lose sight of the empathy we really should have for die-hards like Tremblay:

They were among a minority in their home of Montreal, too: loyal Expos fans. The Tremblays would attend 40 games a year and last year, knowing the Expos soon would be gone, they purchased season tickets. They splurged for second-row seats behind the dugout. Often times, Tremblay and his son would arrive 90 minutes before the game, getting autographs, baseballs and pictures.

Unfortunately, franchise relocation (without remedial expansion, as with the NFL) is a zero-sum game. We just happen to have the "one," and Tremblay, the poor soul, is stuck with zero. From one baseball fan to another, my heart goes out to him.

Oh geez, what did Perry say? Those BP bastards aren't getting any more of my money, so I don't have the book.
Yeah -- I'm not paying them for the book either, but I'd love to know what he had to say about us.
Dunno yet. I just scanned the article last night. Looked like a general timeline with about five pages of text thereafter.

But don't worry; I'll give the thing due attention and report on my findings. ;-)

(BTW, it's funny; I bought the thing almost instinctively. Barely even thought about it. It had pretty much its own display table---well, that and "Juiced" and some other baseball book---in the center of the local B&N. I guess it moves well.)
The essay at the end is by Derek Zumsteg, not Perry. I don't know who the team essay is by... but both spend much more time bashing MLB and Selig and are generally sympathetic to DC and the viability of the DC market. The team essay also does some nice Bowden bashing, although I guess it's like someone criticizing your family -- you're allowed to complain all you want, but it seems inappropriate and annoying when an outsider does it.

Zumsteg argues that the Cropp-induced standoff was a good thing for DC and that MLB caved because the had already committed themselves to DC and all their threats to back out were pretty much empty.

He has an interesting discussion of race and the DC market -- pointing out the role that Griffith's racism played in his desire to move to Minnesota and the role that the economic destruction of the black business districts in the riots of 1968 played in the second Senators' exodus.

His point is somewhat contradictory. He's trying to argue against the idea that baseball can't succeed in DC because of the large black population (which I haven't really seen) by pointing out that the previous failures were more due to white racism than any inherent problem with having a largely black market. But at the same time, he's trying to argue that figuring out a way of marketing to African Americans and increasing diversity in the game's fan base in general is important. While I agree in general, I don't think it's necessarily relevant to the Nat's success -- the suburban market will be able to sustain the Nats regardless of race.
You know what, Randolph? Now that I think about it, you might be right; it might be Zumsteg and Perry. (Well, heck; I assume you are right.) I guess I was confusing the DC essay with the "Welcome to Prospectus" essay that appears at the beginning of the book. Or I just wanted to raise Ryan's blood pressure to dangerous levels. Either one.

And BTW; for those looking for that previously-mentioned review, well, there you go. Thanks Randolph!
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