Monday, March 07, 2005

Urgent correspondence

March 5: "A media deal 'not imminent,' sources say."

Allan "Bud" Selig
Office of the Commissioner, Major League Baseball
350 Park Avenue, 17th Floor
New York, NY 10022

March 7, 2005

Dear Mr. Selig:

I know you are not reading this.

However, it is my belief---based on years of careful observation---that you are in fact not human; instead, you are an alien named Dissemblor from the planet Remulac Seven.

You came to our late, great planet Earth almost four decades ago, assuming the bodily form of---of all people---a used-car salesman from Milwaukee. You have been charged by your species with staging an occuption of our planet by weakening American intellectual resolve. To that end, you have essentially killed the National Pastime and instead inflicted upon us a generation of gambling degenerates, paving the way for the dominance of the National Football League. Our minds now such vacuous jello that we find pondering Fred Smoot's "cap number" a fascinating exercise, we face a perilous age where NASCAR---the sport of "watching people drive cars"---is poised to ascend even farther in popularity. While not all of your machinations have resulted in success---thank goodness the "Bass Masters" craze never caught on five years ago, for instance---I will concede that "televised poker" is a masterstroke. ("Look, some idiot in sunglasses just owned some Thai guy! Awesome!") Nevertheless, I am on to you. And because your kind is as talented in telepathy as you personally are in dissembling, you know that I know, you know?

Okay, down to business: While you usually defer such matters to your lackey earthling, Bob DuPuy, your own little Captain Byron Hadley, you might have noticed that Washington, DC, has a baseball team. In that you had previous snuffed out a veritable clamoring for a team there, thus depriving the Nation's Capitol a stake in the grand American game while bestowing the honor upon such hot-to-trot markets as Phoenix and Tampa (Bay), your acquiescence is a bit strange and signals to me either that:

a) you are employing a diversionary tactic; or,
b) some bit of humanity has been absorbed in one of your nine biological hearts.

If it is the latter, please indulge me while I make an appeal to sentiment: PLEASE PUT THIS TEAM ON THE TELEVISION.

You see---and the concept may still be foreign to you, so to speak---regional media revenue is rather important to a baseball team. By definition, a team cannot derive any regional television revenue if it is not allowed to enter into an agreement with a carrier. Currently, you are "negotiating" with Peter Angelos, owner of the Baltimore Orioles. Negotiations---or whatever these talks are that your butt buddy DuPuy is having with Angelos---are fine in December and January. But things get a little more urgent in, oh, March.

Now, I'm one of those weird souls who is perfectly happy with rooting for both teams; I assume no strange, para-social "hate" of cities that are not my own (actually, neither is my hometown, though I did live in DC for several years and may again in the future, I suppose). I'd like to see both teams succeed. And while I sympathize with the geographical plight of the Orioles---hemmed in by DC about 40 miles to the south and Philly not much farther to the north---as our earthling saying goes, them's the breaks.

Consequently, my advice---my plea---is that you do something soon. Delay is not an option at this point; in fact, delay is exactly why we are in this little quagmire. You see, last week, Washington Post sportswriter Dave Sheinen---accused of being in the pocket of Angelos by many fans of the Nats---commented that Angelos is still "seething" that the Nats are positioned "right next to his doorstep." This comment invoked the ire of a poster at a Nats internet board, who retorted:

"No, the Orioles have been trespassing for 34 years!"

Well, considering in most states the statute of limitations for adverse possession is 15-20 years, that's kind of the problem. In your desire to kill baseball, you let baseball sleep on its rights to Washington, DC. Every time you "considered" DC as an expansion or relocation option, it was all talk, and everyone knew it; you were just trying to extort a stadium out of other places. In the interim, Angelos and previous (better) Orioles' owners snuck in the property, erected a few rickety farmhouses (WTOP radio---though that one keeled over, and its replacement, WTEM-AM, is little more than a cardboard box. Local television. Some space in the Post and less space in the Wash. Times. A pathetic merchandise store.). Now, nothing he planted on the land really grew all that much (as a result, there's little avidity for the O's in the District), and now that Organized Baseball's back, he's trying to fence whatever property he can. Truth be told, from his perspective, this is shrewd business and fairly reasonable. "Get what you can, while you can."

So, assuming you really care about our best interests as fans (and especially of those who live in the DC media market), those are the stakes. Let's work from here.

Here's a plan: Give Angelos a sop; after all, by rights, he should benefit to an extent based on your lack of vigilance toward (read: disrespect for) the DC market. Angelos has no real claim on DC proper or land to the south of it; let him broadcast there for all he wants (it's a free country, or at least, it should be---though, of course, not in the un-American cartel you conveniently inherited), but ensure him compensation for those areas closer to Baltimore in which he might have legitimate interest. Set a Mazzilli/Robinson Line somewhere to the north of the DC Beltway, calculate roughly what media revenue that area would generate, and then give him a stake in that revenue. Maybe, if you want, throw in a marginal percentage of the revenue from anything south of there, but not much. THEN MAKE HIM SIGN THE DEAL. It's not like he's got a bunch of owner-buddies rallying to his cause, you know.

Remember, you can't sit on this; otherwise, you might hem in the Nats with no secondary markets. The Nats should have the right to compete for the interest of Richmond, Norfolk, Raleigh, Greensboro, and Charlotte---among others---but they can't when you won't even green-light a TV deal in their own market.

You're the trustee of this team right now; don't kill it before it has a chance.

Or is that actually your plan, Dissemblor?

"inflicted upon us a generation of gambling degenerates"

Amen! I cannot tell you how many time some moron tried to convince me to join his football pool because "how else can you make the Bengals vs. Chargers ineteresting?" or something along those lines. Umm, maybe I will just do something else with my time...
Precisely, WFY. I could really care less whether the Lions are going to cover.

Speaking of which, in what kind of bizarro world do we live when sports talk show hosts say condescending things like, "No, if you like to discuss a guy's average on the road with two outs [or other made-up baseball statistics], this is not the show for you?" and then have on betting touts who drone on about teams records as road dogs the past decade and introduce their own "rescoring models" (which sound a lot like Pythag records)? Or, better yet, spend an entire segment---hell, an entire hour---analyzing the freakin' salary cap?

Tagliabue must be a genius. (And I guess that's the best argument _for_ a baseball salary cap; it would place salary debates in some sort of game-theory-like context.)
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