Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Doom and gloom

The International Herald Tribune is predicting hard times for baseball. Obviously, times are hard, but I'm not sure baseball is in such bad shape. They were hard back in the 30's, during the depression:

Attendance plummeted 40 percent from 1930 to 1933 and did not return to pre-Depression levels until after World War II, when millions of soldiers returned.

Players' salaries fell by 25 percent on average, yet nearly every team lost money for at least a year or two in the decade.

I don't know much about economics and finances, and things like that. And I know less about journalism. Its all I can do most days to just watch the Royals lose. But articles like this don't really make a lot of sense to me. The reporter talks about the dark days of baseball during the depression, and the current economic crisis, then casually states:

Optimists point to the shallow dips in attendance in past recessions, guaranteed television contracts, lucrative sponsorship deals and new luxury boxes in modern stadiums. These revenue streams were largely unavailable to owners in the
1930s and have helped modern teams diversify and bolster their incomes.
Well, yeah. The game survived the worst economic crisis known in history, without television, minimal radio coverage, and no merchandising tie-ins. Now that all of that is an integral part of the finances of the game, why would the game suffer? The contracts are signed, and the money will be paid.

So people might not go to as many games. Which means they will watch more on television and listen to more radio broadcasts. Which helps to increase ad revenue, if I'm guessing correctly. And if I'm correct, and I think I am, then actual attendance isn't the issue. Its the amount of money they spend at the park in parking, concessions and souvenirs. The people who have money will still go and spend money. The ones who don't have money will watch on television.

And I don't see these problems happening:

Attendance fell in 1932, when a 10 percent federal amusement tax was added to ticket prices, and again in 1933, when bank holidays left many Americans short of cash. President Herbert Hoover, an avid baseball fan, was lustily booed at
games he attended. The hapless St. Louis Browns drew fewer than 100,000 fans for
several seasons in the decade.

On opening day in 1933, half the 40,000 fans at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx sat in the bleachers, where tickets were 50 cents, according to Charles Alexander, author of "Breaking the Slump: Baseball in the Depression Era," which was
published in 2002.
Many teams, strong and weak ones alike, kept costs down by reducing the number of coaches, or by eliminating them and employing player-managers. Owners opted for 23-man rosters, down from 25. Even the best players - Babe Ruth among them - took pay cuts. Connie Mack sold many of the stars from the pennant-winning Philadelphia Athletics teams of 1929, 1930 and 1931.

I just don't see any of this happening in the game today.

And this little tidbit:

Some weaker teams survived partly because they received a share of the gate when they played against popular teams like the Yankees, the Cubs and the Giants.
Doesn't that still happen today?

I guess I just don't understand the point of the article. It talks about the problems faced by baseball during the depression, and the measures they took to keep the game going, then talks about the advantages the game has today to forestall any problems. I mean, if the game survived the 30's, why would anyone think it won't survive this crisis? I guess this guy had a deadline and had to fill it. The game is fine, it would seem. Or does anyone think the game is about to collapse into itself?


tHeMARksMiTh said...

This is a classical historical problem. We take a modern situation and compare it to something in the past that is relatively similar. Then, we magically forget that things are radically different from said period and write dumb things.

Ron Rollins said...

Pefect analogy.