Volume 92, Issue 28

Friday, October 23, 1998



Baseball finally acknowledges fans

Thank you.

A simple, quick but personal comment. Yet, also two words that are not heard all that often any more. People just don't take the time.

This said, it came as a personal and pleasant surprise last week to come across a simple, quick but personal advertisement by Major League Baseball.

To summarize the content of the 20 second advertisement for those that may have missed it – quite simply it contains star ball players thanking the fans for sharing in one of the best seasons in memory. Home run record breaker Mark McGwire leads off each version of the segment with several familiar faces following behind, including Toronto's Roger Clemens, Cal Ripken Jr. and slammin' Sammy Sosa. Each of them take their turn in thanking the fans with a real sense of emotion in their voices.

This was a great move by a sport which fell into the toilet only five years ago after the players' strike. The players spent 162 regular season games putting out the best product of baseball witnessed in years. There was never a dull moment and the highlight reel was always on maximum overdrive. The result – it brought back the fans to the seats and others to their brown leather lazy boy with an old black and white, rabbit ear television.

After all, this is what the sport is all about – the fans. Without them, there is no baseball. Gate receipts don't find their way into owners' pockets and players don't get paid. Players walk away and the game dies for good.

So after such a great season, what better way to cap off the year than paying thanks to the fans. Critics have complained that multimillion dollar contracts and charging for a simple autograph has created a rift between players and fans who simply cannot relate to their ball-park heroes. This may be a great first step forward to closing that gap.

The players appear friendly and warm hearted, although I am sure that was the director's idea in the first place. Nonetheless, there is nothing artificial or sappy about their comments, as they appear as role models. Even David Wells, the dubbed bad boy of the sport, seems grateful for the attention that fans have reverted back to baseball.

What I find most impressive of this approach by Major League Baseball is that they stayed simple and to the heart. There were no snapshot video clips of McGwire sending pitch after pitch into the stands or shots of Clemens sending another batter to the bench. After all, this is the norm in television commercial – grab the viewers' attention by blasting their senses.

Then again, maybe this is why this commercial seems so genuine. It stands out from the crowd because every one else has gone crazy with special effects. They've stayed away from the flash and dazzle of computer animation and split-second highlights.

Some complaints have been made that the commercial is overplayed and annoying after repeated viewings. There's a simple response to those individuals – get off the couch and do something instead of glueing your eyes to TSN for 12 hours at a time.

Granted, the league has spammed the television set, but for good reason – they have a limited amount of time to get their message out. In a month the season will have already lost some of its luster and the message just would not have the same meaning.

To Contact The Sports Department: gazette.sports@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 1998