Topps’ Lineage 2011 Review

Just last month Topps released a new set of baseball cards… sort of. The highlights of Topps’ Lineage are the inserts, which highlight classic Topps’ designs from over the past 60 years. It appears that retail boxes contain one relic per box, and I didn’t see any of these cards at my local hobby shop when I stopped in today looking for a few inserts I was hoping to pick up.

For some reason this set didn’t sit right with me. The base was too clean to be “vintage” and not clean enough to fit in with what I have come to expect from Topps over the past few years with their basic cards. I love a clean cut card, and the foil Topps has added in recent years is a nice addition to what might otherwise be boring sets. Lineage features foil as well, but only in the corner to embellish the Topps’ logo, and on for the players name, but not to enhance the overall player, team or general appearance of the card.

At $2.99 a retail pack I’ll probably give this set another try, but not if I have the option of picking up something more appealing like Allen and Ginter or even generic Topps.

Check out my pulls below, and let me know what your thoughts are on this pack.

A New Venture- Topp’s Allen and Ginter 2011

I have been fascinated by baseball cards for sometime now, I love reading about players and absorbing their stats.

This year’s Allen and Ginter set contains a short issue insert set, The Fabulous Faces of Flocculence, that I am very intrigued by. There is a Brian Wilson “The Closer” card which pays homage to his beard.

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I broke a box of A&G in hopes of finding the beard card, unfortunately I had no such luck. I am looking to buy sell and trade within the set. Below is a check list of all 350 cards in the base set, with a notation next to it of whether or not I have it. Let me know if you have any interest in them for purchase or trade.

PLAYER BASE CARD
1 Carlos Gonzalez
2 Ty Wigginton Have It
3 Lou Holtz Have It
4 Jhoulys Chacin
5 Aroldis Chapman RC
6 Micky Ward Have It
7 Mickey Mantle
8 Alexei Ramirez
9 Joe Saunders Have It
10 Miguel Cabrera Have It
11 Marc Fargione Have It
12 Hope Solo
13 Brett Anderson
14 Adrian Beltre
15 Diana Turasi
16 Gordon Beckham
17 Jonthan Papelbon
18 Daniel Hudson
19 Daniel Bard
20 Jeremy Hellickson
21 Logan Morrison
22 Michael Bourn Have It
23 Aubrey Huff
24 Kristi Yamaguchi
25 Nelson Cruz
26 Edwin Jackson
27 Dillon Gee RC
28 John Lindsey RC Have It
29 Johnny Cueto Have It
30 Hanley Ramirez
31 Jimmy Rollins Have It
32 Dirk Hayhurst
33 Curtis Granderson
34 Pedro Ciriaco RC Have It
35 Adam Dunn
36 Eric Sogard RC
37 Fausto Carmona Have It
38 Angel Pagan Have It
39 Stephen Drew Have It
40 John McEnroe Have It
41 Carlos Santana Have It
42 Heath Bell Have It
43 Jake LaMotta
44 Ozzie Martinez
45 Annika Sorenstam Have It
46 Edinson Volquez 2
47 Phil Hughes
48 Francisco Liriano
49 Javier Vazquez
50 Carl Crawford
51 Tim Collins RC Have It
52 Francisco Cordero Have It
53 Chipper Jones
54 Austin Jackson
55 Dustin Pedroia
56 Scott Kazmir
57 Derek Jeter
58 Alcides Escobar
59 Jeremy Jeffress RC Have It
60 Brandon Belt RC
61 Brian Roberts
62 Alfonso Soriano
63 Neil Walker Have It
64 Ricky Romero
65 Ryan Howard
66 Starlin Castro
67 Delmon Young
68 Max Scherzer
69 Neftali Feliz Have It
70 Evan Longoria Have It
71 Chris Perez
72 Maxim Shmyrev
73 Brandon Morrow
74 Torii Hunter Have It
75 Jose Reyes
76 Chase Headley Have It
77 Rafael Furcal
78 Luke Scott
79 Aimee Mullins
80 Joey Votto
81 Yonder Alonso RC
82 Scott Rolen Have It
83 Mat Hoffman
84 Gregory Infante RC
85 Chris Sale RC
86 Greg Halman RC
87 Colby Lewis Have It
88 David Ortiz
89 John Axford
90 Roy Halladay
91 Joel Pineiro
92 Michael Pineda RC
93 Evan Lysacek
94 Josh Rodriguez RC
95 Dan Uggla
96 Daniel Boulud Have It
97 Zach Britton RC Have It
98 Jason Bay
99 Placido Polanco Have It
100 Albert Pujols
101 Peter Bourjous Have It
102 Wandy Rodriguez
103 Andres Torres
104 Huston Street Have It
105 Ubaldo Jimenez Have It
106 Jonathan Broxton
107 Ludwig Zamenhof
108 Roy Oswalt
109 Martin Prado
110 Jake McGee RC
111 Pablo Sandoval
112 Tim Scheif Have It
113 Miguel Montero
114 Brandon Phillips
115 Shin-Soo Choo
116 Josh Beckett Have it CODE CARD
117 Jonathan Sanchez Have It
118 Rafael Soriano
119 Nancy Lopez
120 Adrian Gonzalez
121 J.D. Drew Have It
122 Ryan Dempster
123 Rajai Davis
124 Chad Billingsley Have It
125 Clayton Kershaw
126 Jair Jurrjens Have It
127 James Loney
128 Michael Cuddyer Have It
129 Kelly Johnson
130 Robinson Cano Have It
131 Chris Iannetta
132 Colby Rasmus
133 Geno Auriemma
134 Matt Cain
135 Kyle Petty
136 Dick Vitale
137 Carlos Beltran
138 Matt Garza
139 Tim Howard Have It
140 Felix Hernandez Have It
141 Vernon Wells 2
142 Michael Young Have It
143 Carlos Zambrano Have It
144 Jorge Posada
145 Victor Martinez
146 John Danks
147 George W. Bush Have It
148 Sanya Richards
149 Lars Anderson RC
150 Troy Tulowitzki Have It
151 Brandon Beachy RC Have It
152 Jordan Zimmermann Have It
153 Scott Cousins RC Have It
154 Todd Helton
155 Josh Johnson
156 Marlon Byrd
157 Corey Hart Have It
158 Billy Butler Have It
159 Shawn Michaels Have It
160 David Wright
161 Casey McGehee Have It
162 Mat Latos
163 Ian Kennedy
164 Heather Mitts Have It
165 Jo Frost Have It
166 Geovany Soto Have It
167 Adam LaRoche
168 Carlos Marmol
169 Dan Haren Have It & Code Card (2)
170 Tim Lincecum
171 John Lackey Have It
172 Yunesky Maya RC
173 Mariano Rivera
174 Joakim Soria Have It
175 Jose Bautista Have It
176 Brian Bogusevic RC
177 Aaron Crow RC
178 Ben Revere RC Have It
179 Shane Victorino Have It
180 Kyle Drabek RC
181 Mark Buehrle
182 Clay Buchholz
183 Mike Napoli Have It
184 Pedro Alvarez
185 Justin Upton
186 Yunel Escobar
187 Jim Nantz
188 Daniel Descalso RC
189 Dexter Fowler
190 Sue Bird Have It
191 Matt Guy
192 Carl Pavano
193 Jorge De La Rosa
194 Rick Porcello Have It
195 Tommy Hanson
196 Jered Weaver Have It
197 Jay Bruce Have It
198 Freddie Freeman RC
199 Jake Peavy
200 Josh Hamilton
201 Andrew Romine RC Have It
202 Nick Swisher Have It
203 Aaron Hill
204 Jim Thome Have It
205 Kendry Morales
206 Tsuyoshi Nishioka RC
207 Kosuke Fukudome Have It
208 Marco Scutaro Have It
209 Guy Fieri Have It
210 Chase Utley
211 Francisco Rodriguez
212 Aramis Ramirez
213 Xavier Nady Have It
214 Elvis Andrus
215 Andrew McCutchen Have It
216 Jose Tabata Have It
217 Shaun Marcum Have It
218 Bobby Abreu Have It
219 Johan Santana
220 Prince Fielder
221 Mark Rogers RC
222 James Shields Have It
223 Chuck Woolery
224 Jason Kubel Have It
225 Jack LaLanne Have It
226 Andre Ethier
227 Lucas Duda RC
228 Brandon Snyder RC
229 Juan Pierre Have It
230 Mark Teixeira Have It
231 C.J. Wilson
232 Picabo Street
233 Ben Zobrist Have It
234 Chrissie Wellington Have It
235 Cole Hamels Have It
236 B.J. Upton
237 Carlos Quentin
238 Rudy Ruettiger
239 Brett Myers
240 Matt Holliday
241 Ike Davis Have It
242 Cheryl Burke Have It
243 Mike Nickeas RC
244 Chone Figgins
245 Brian McCann
246 Ian Kinsler
247 Yadier Molina Have It
248 Ervin Santana
249 Carlos Ruiz
250 Ichiro Have It
251 Ian Desmond Have It
252 Omar Infante
253 Mike Minor Have It
254 Denard Span
255 David Price
256 Hunter Pence Have It
257 Andrew Bailey
258 Howie Kendrick Have It
259 Tim Hudson
260 Alex Rodriguez
261 Carlos Pena
262 Manny Pacquiao Have it as code
263 Mark Trumbo RC Have It
264 Adam Jones Have It
265 Buster Posey
266 Chris Coghlan Have It
267 Brett Sinkbeil RC
268 Dallas Braden
269 Derrek Lee
270 Kevin Youkilis Have It
271 Chris Young
272 Wee Man
273 Brent Morel RC
274 Stan Lee Have It
275 Justin Verlander Have It
276 Desmond Jennings RC Have It
277 Hank Conger RC Have It
278 Travis Snider
279 Brian Wilson
280 Adam Wainwright Have It
281 Adam Lind Have It
282 Reid Brignac Have It
283 Daric Barton Have It
284 Eric Jackson
285 Alex Rios
286 Cory Luebke RC Have It
287 Yovani Gallardo
288 Rickie Weeks
289 Paul Konerko
290 Cliff Lee
291 Grady Sizemore
292 Wade Davis
293 Royal Wedding Have It
294 Jacoby Ellsbury
295 Chris Carpenter Have It
296 Derek Lowe 2
297 Travis Hafner
298 Peter Gammons
299 Ana Julaton
300 Ryan Braun
301 Gio Gonzalez
302 John Buck Have It
303 Jaime Garcia Have It
304 Madison Bumgarner
305 Justin Morneau
306 Josh Willingham Have It
307 Ryan Ludwick
308 Jhonny Peralta
309 Kurt Suzuki
310 Matt Kemp
311 Ian Stewart
312 Cody Ross
313 Leo Nunez
314 Nick Markakis
315 Jayson Werth
316 Manny Ramirez Have It
317 Brian Matusz
318 Brett Wallace
319 Jon Niese
320 Jon Lester
321 Mark Reynolds
322 Trevor Cahill
323 Orlando Hudson
324 Domonic Brown Have It
325 Mike Stanton
326 Jason Castro
327 David DeJesus
328 Chris Johnson Have It
329 Alex Gordon
330 CC Sabathia
331 Carlos Gomez
332 Luke Hochevar Have It
333 Carlos Lee Have It
334 Gaby Sanchez
335 Jason Heyward
336 Kevin Kouzmanoff
337 Drew Storen
338 Lance Berkman
339 Miguel Tejada
340 Ryan Zimmerman
341 Ricky Nolasco
342 Mike Pelfrey
343 Drew Stubbs Have It
344 Danny Valencia
345 Zack Greinke
346 Brett Gardner
347 Josh Thole Have It
348 Russell Martin
349 Yuniesky Betancourt Have It
350 Joe Mauer Have It


A Sunday Without Peyton

For the eighth time in eight years, I woke up on the day of the Colts’ kick-off, pulled my Peyton Manning jersey out of my closet, and got ready to watch the game.

This tradition, started my junior year of high school, is my greatest sports superstition. Days where formal wear has been required for school related events the jersey has simply gone over my button-up shirt or jacket. The Peyton Manning jersey has all but become my signature piece.

Why not? The Colts have boasted an impressive record over the past eight years. And have never been anything but fun to watch. Manning has directed the team to numerous play-off appearances, two superbowls, and one superbowl victory.

Peyton Manning has been nothing but consistent.

And fans, like myself, have taken Peyton’s consistency for granted. Playoff appearances have been all but guaranteed. But perhaps what has been taken most for granted, was that Peyton would be there.

For the first time in 14 years, for the first time since I started wearing my jersey, for the first time in 227 starts, Peyton wasn’t there.

I had held out hope until the announcement that Manning’s neck injury was too severe for him to play was made early last week. Despite the knowledge that it was likely Peyton would miss his first Sunday in 14 years, it couldn’t resonate with me until the official announcement (and even that took time).

So on Sunday, for the eighth time in eight years, I woke up and put my Peyton Manning jersey on. But for the first time in that same period, Peyton didn’t.

Watching the Colts under veteran-replacement Kerry Collins’ lead was painful. Not only because of his two fumbles in the first half, but because it wasn’t the same as watching Peyton. Seeing the Colts get stomped on by the Texans, despite Arian Foster’s absence as well was painful as well.

But, the good news is, I survived my first Sunday without Peyton. And the Colts’, though bruised and defeated survived theirs as well. As with every new football season there is still hope, because anything can happen. There is still hope for the playoffs, hope for young players like Austin Collie to fully develop, and mostly, hope that Peyton will come back healthier and stronger than ever.

And I think all Colts’ fans have learned a valuable lesson: never take even the most consistent person for granted.

A Tourist In Yankee Stadium

Baseball is considered America’s past time, and for baseball fans there are a few sites that really embody the game as a whole:  Cooperstown, New York (where the Baseball Hall of Fame is located), Fenway Park, Boston (where the Boston Red Sox play), Wrigley Field, Chicago (where the Chicago Cubs play), and Old Yankee Stadium (where the New York Yankees played until 2008). These sights are relevant because they have seen the most baseball history go through them. The Yankees, for example, have won 27 World Series, the majority of which were played out at Old Yankee Stadium. And the legend of the “Yankee Tradition” of all time great baseball players cannot be overlooked. I know these things because I am a baseball fan, tried and true, I had been to many stadiums, but never considered myself a tourist there- just a baseball fan. However, according to Erik Cohen, author of “Who is a Tourist?: A Conceptual Clarification,” despite all of my baseball knowledge (or anyone else’s), I was a tourist at Yankee Stadium. I was certainly a tourist under Cohen’s description, but because Yankee Stadium exhibits all the tenants of Dean MacCannell’s (author of The Tourist: A New Theory On The Leisure Class) sight sacralization I found I became a stereotypical tourist as well.

There are two parts of being a tourist. Firstly there is the common stereotype for a tourist that Cohen defines as “the slightly funny, quaintly dressed, camera-toting foreigner” who is “ignorant, passive, shallow and gullible” (Cohen 527). Through Cohen’s lens of what it is to be a tourist and what the common conception of what a tourist is, it is clear that despite my love of baseball, and my knowledge of Yankee history I was nothing more than a tourist in a ballpark for as Cohen uses his definition of “a ‘tourist’ [as…] a voluntary, temporary traveler, traveling in the expectation of pleasure from the novelty and change experienced on a relatively long and non-recurrent round-trip” (Cohen 533). While it is relatively easy to see that most people on a trip are tourists according to Cohen’s definition, it is also easy to see that many may not look at themselves as a stereotypical tourist. However, it seems that it is very easy to fall into becoming the stereotypical tourist- especially when one is visiting a sight that has been sacralized.

Cohen breaks up his definition into six aspects of what it is to be a tourist: to be temporary, to be voluntary, to be on a round-trip, to be on a journey with length, to be on a non-recurrent trip, and to be on a non-instrumental trip (Cohen 531-532).  I was all of these things. I was temporary, as I was only in New York for two days, and at Yankee Stadium for three hours (the length of a game). It was voluntary for me to go on this trip, and in fact something I had been looking forward to doing for my entire life. It was a round-trip, since I had to come back to California in order to attend school. It was non-recurrent; I have only been to Yankee Stadium once. And the trip had no point, other than to have fun and experience Yankee culture.

But why was it so important to experience Yankee culture? Other than the fact that the stadium had existed for a long time what made it so important to me? The answer lies in MacCannell’s explanation of sight sacralization. MacCannell writes that sight sacralization takes place in five steps; the “naming phase”, the “framing and elevation phase”, the “enshrinement” phase, the “mechanical reproduction” phase, and finally the “social reproduction” phase (MacCannell 44-45). The completion of these five phases is, according to MacCannell what makes draws tourists to a sight as it has become “worthy of preservation” (MacCannell 44). Yankee Stadium has undergone all of these phases. Firstly, it is referred to as Yankee Stadium, so it has a name and it is authentic- it is in fact where the Yankees play. Secondly, it has been framed and elevated, it is on display, more World Series have taken place there than anywhere else, you have to pay to get in, it is not a normal baseball field, it is (was) the baseball field. The field is enshrined by the Stadium itself, it is lifted up as the sight where all the greatest players in the history of baseball have played at one time or another, and behind the walls there is monument park, a shrine to the players themselves. Mechanical and social reproduction is abundant. There are countless photos of the stadium, streets named after the stadium or the players who once called it home (Babe Ruth has a street named after him), there is even a subway line going directly there. Yankee Stadium is the essence of a baseball sight, which has been sacralized.

Perhaps more than the Stadium itself is the fact that it holds the aforementioned Monument Park within it. Again Monument Park has gone through all of the stages of sight sacralization, and if anything sacralizes former players. As Ali and I walked in through the left field gates, we saw the field- and there was Monument Park, where all the Yankee greats have plaques with the achievements etched in them and their numbers retired- a must see for any fan of the classics. This is the shrine within the shine, and it is unique to Yankee Stadium. Of course, the Yankees have more players to enshrine than any other team, but even still it gives the ballpark a special feel, that ultimately raises the tourist value of the Stadium as a whole. MacCannell writes that “is the putting on display of an object- placement [..] on a pedestal” in this case the plaques are on a pedestal (MacCannell 44). They are behind a fence, which is behind Center Field, they are guarded by security, and most importantly visitors have to get to the game hours early in order to view them up close (I learned this the hard way). In this way Yankee Stadium itself serves as a marker for Monument Park, the sight of desire. And since it is so difficult for one to visit Monument Park, even a regular to Yankee Stadium may not get to see it regularly it creates a sense of urgency to act like a tourist and take photos of it. To look ignorant as one gasps in awe at the feats that are denoted on the plaque of their all time baseball hero, no matter how many times they may have read these statistics in books. To appear gullible as an older fan may tell stories about how Mickey Mantle was the fastest player they had ever seen in their sixty years of watching baseball, a story that is more than likely exaggerated, but after the travels and trials that a traveler has gone through to get to this enshrined area, one cannot help but believe it- if only for a minute, or if only to bring home a unique narrative of their own.

While Monument Park, and Yankee Stadium as a whole, were juxtapositions from my “home” ballpark of Angels’ Stadium, the entire atmosphere of culture was unique from any stadium. Cohen writes that a key component of the tourist is how much they wish to “immerse [it]self in the novelty and change offered by the host society” (Cohen 544). By going to see Monument Park and listening to older Yankee fans tell stories I was seeking the novelty of Yankee Stadium- something that cannot be found at Angels’ Stadium, if only because the Angels have only been a Major League team since 1961 (to put this in perspective Mickey Mantle’s rookie year, as well as Joe DiMaggio’s final year were 1951, a whole 10 years prior). This history is part of the sight sacralization, as Yankee Stadium is framed as the place where so many World Series have happened and so many great baseball players have played, it creates a unique culture of prestige that cannot be found anywhere else in sports (here is the elevation factor coming into play). Furhtermore, I ate a hot dog in order to be a part of the culture, to maintain this experience. This is something absolutely “touristy”- as I would never eat one at Angels’ Stadium (I’m a vegetarian), but to be a Yankee Stadium and have the “stereotypical” meal was something that I could not pass up, or at least I was “ignorant” enough to believe that. I had become the “gullible” stereotypical tourist that Cohen warns of in the beginning of his article as I listened to stories of players past. I had become a camera toting tourist who would take pictures of and with everything- eating that hotdog, Monument Park, Center Field, the seats, the players, all of it.

The question that begs to be asked is why at Yankee Stadium? Why not at Dodgers’ Stadium, which is a mere hour away from Angels’ Stadium? Or why not at the Coliseum in Oakland? Why not Wrigley Field? Why not Camden Yards in Baltimore? In order to go to these places I had fulfilled the same tourist criteria that Cohen lays out. These had all been journeys I had taken that were relatively farther away than Angels’ Stadium, they were voluntary, and fun, even exciting, but I had not become a stereotypical tourist there- I had not eaten hotdogs, I had not listened to stories of players past, I had not spent hours looking at etchings of retired players, and I certainly had not spent the majority of games taking pictures of the ballparks. The pictures I had taken are even posted in a “New York” album on facebook, inherently presented in a touristy way, as I grinned in front of center field where Joe DiMaggio played. The answer seems to be in the fact that Yankee Stadium has been fully sacralized, as MacCannell might put it, while the other stadiums have not undergone these processes to the same extent- sure they all have names, but none has been framed and elevated even as closely as the small Monument Park has- none of the players raised to the same extent either.

Cohen explains that “tourism connotes a change from routine, something different, strange, unusual or novel” and that change in Yankee Stadium is exactly what fans are looking for- and what seems to drive them to acting “stereotypically” towards this sacralized sight (Cohen 532-533). It is an experience they cannot get anywhere else in the league. And it is exactly what Ali and I got on our trip, it was exactly what we had hoped for- a slice of history. We wanted to remember things exactly as they were at that moment in time, which was especially important considering ground had just broken on New Yankee Stadium the day before, because it was unlike anything I could experience anywhere else- people on the East Coast are simply more passionate about baseball and as a result the atmosphere they create and the way they worship their baseball heroes is unlike anything on the West Coast. Ultimately, we simply looked like the stereotypical tourist, but after having gone through the actual tribulations of being real tourists to get to the stadium and being confronted with the sight that we had heard so much about it was nearly impossible not to act like a tourist, to be honest we were acting like excited baseball fans- who had waited 18 years to see a stadium- but perhaps the only reason we had waited so long is because of how Yankee Stadium has been sacralized. Anyway, it is an experience I will always remember fondly, despite how foolish I may have looked to native New Yorkers, though I think now that all people at Yankee Stadium have been tourists on at least one visit there.

 

Is Brian Wilson the Next Peyton Manning?

Many have discussed the marketability of
Peyton Manning. BusinessWeek’s Joel Stonington describes power in sport as “the
combination of athletic achievement plus the ability to connect with an
audience on a deeper, more personal level that separates mere jocks from the
stars” (Stonington, Power 100 2011). In addition to being an elite level
quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts, a perennial record setter, and a
SuperBowl winner he is also ranked number one on BusinessWeek’s 2011 Power 100
in large part because of his ability to market himself, as well as many other
businesses. As most any sports fan (and even many non-sports fans) can tell
you, Peyton Manning is in the business of appealing to fans both on an off the
field as he has starred in commercials ranging from Sprint to Mastercard to
Reebok. But, there seems to be another face, or beard, on the sports marketing
horizon- Brian Wilson. 

Could Peyton’s stance as America’s
Sweetheart, and the most powerful man in sport (at the very least the most
likeable), be in jeopardy to a closer from the Bay Area? Possibly.

Labor negotiations in the NFL have left
fans frazzled, and if there is one thing the owners and players seem to have
missed in their sports history lessons, it is that fans are not quick to forget
labor disputes. Baseball players, for example, have gone on strike a total of
eight times. World War II couldn’t
stop the game because of Roosevelt’s Green Light Letter, encouraging
commissioner Kenesaw Landis to
keep the game going, but greed certainly could. The most egregious of the
strikes came at the end of the 1994 season – the only year in Major League
Baseball history where no World Series was played. 

In 1993, the year before the strike,
Major League Baseball set an attendance record of 70,257,938 fans, with an
average of 30,984 fans per game (http://bss.sfsu.edu/tygiel/hist490/mlbattendance.htm).
In the strike shortened 1994 season only 50,010,016 total fans attended games,
with 31,256 fans per game. With more fans attending games in 1994 the league
stood to break the previous year’s record. A shortened season in 1995 yielded
more fans than the previous year, but lower per game attendance (50,469,236
total fans, 25,022 fans per game). The 1996 and 1997 seasons showed
improvements of about 1,500 fans per game per year (26,510/27,877 respectively), but
neither was on par with the pre-strike rates.

It was not until the Home Run race of
1998 that fan attendance reached (and slightly exceeded) the pre-strike totals
(even then attendance per game was down). The data indicates that it took three seasons for fans to come back to
Major League Baseball – in other words, for baseball to recover from the
strike. Admittedly, there are likely other factors for fan’s demotivation to
attend baseball events, but the strike
is the most obvious correlation.

Three years, and a home run
record-setting season is a lot to ask for the public to fall back in love
with its national pastime. While
fans were not attending baseball games, they were spending their discretionary
income elsewhere – meaning there was an opening for other sports to gain
prominence while baseball was not viewed as favorably.

With the impending football lockout, and
NFL attendance dropping for the third straight year in 2010 (to its lowest
level since 1998, the year baseball saw its upswing), it seems just the time
for baseball to take advantage of what was once rightfully theirs – America’s
adoration. Despite football fans
disinclination for attending live events in recent years, ESPN noted that
17,007,172 total fans attended in 2010. According to USA Today the average
ticket cost at an NFL game is $75.00 per seat, totaling over 1.2 billion
dollars in discretionary fan income in ticket sales alone.

With that much discretionary income, and
a history of fan dissatisfaction after a strike season, baseball was ready to make its move- insert
Brian Wilson.

Manning is the poster child for on and
off-field performance, as discussed above, but he is also lead plaintiff in a
lawsuit that embodies the greed of the lockout. As much as Manning has enamored
fans in the past, many are wondering why he and the rest of the league can’t
come to terms with the owners when they are making so much money every year
(Manning’s 2010 income was estimated by BusinessWeek at 30 million dollars).
The majority of Americans cannot fathom making 30 million dollars in their
lifetime, let alone in one year. Manning’s on the field prowess and off the
field humor cannot mask his- and the rest of the league’s- perceived greed.

Brian Wilson made his debut in 2006 with
the Giants and has been with the club for his entire career- much like Manning
has been with the Colts. He is a two-time All Star selection (2008 & 2010)
and led the league in saves last
season with 48 while pitching in 70 games. In addition to having impressive
individual statistics with a career 290 strike outs and 139 career saves (as of
April 24, 2011), he helped the Giants win their first World Series since 1954
by allowing no earned runs in 11.2 postseason innings.

However, on the field reliability is not the only thing that what wins over American sports fans. Wilson is
incredible in his ability to make
fans laugh through his commercials, which include video games (MLB 2k11), SportsCenter
(again like Manning), and ESPN Opening Day. Moreover, there doesn’t appear to
be an end in sight, eliciting spoof websites such as the sportspickle.com to
write an article entitled “Brian Wilson’s Beard Apparently MLB’s Entire 2011
Marketing Campaign”.  In addition
to commercial’s Wilson is incredibly personable, intelligent, and eloquent in
his interviews on film and in text. And the man has a heart of gold as evidenced
by a YouTube clip of Wilson and fellow teammate Cody Ross, staring internet
sensation Keenan Cahill, all lip syncing to Taio Cruz’ popular “Dynamite” to
raise money for charity.

If Wilson’s ability to market himself, or
have someone else extremely intelligent do it for him, hasn’t been evident to
this point, just look at his beard. The 2010 “fear the beard” campaign was
wildly successful, as Wilson’s beard “Weez” took center stage during the
playoffs. The beard has inspired clever sayings, cakes, fan beards, and a wide
array of t-shirts from online retailers and Nike.

Fans are so awe struck by Wilson (and
Weez’) presence they have started an online campaign for Wilson to host
Saturday Night Live. As of April 20, 2011 the page has 45,882 likes. Similarly,
Manning hosted Saturday Night Live on his 31st birthday just after his SuperBowl win in 2007.

While Wilson is not as clean cut as
Manning (in addition to The Beard there are also tattoos) that doesn’t seem
particularly relevant to fans. The American public has shown that Brian Wilson
can be their new hero, and the NFL lockout seems to be affording him the
perfect opportunity to embrace that role. It is likely that a man entirely left
off BusinessWeek’s 2011 Power Rankings could top the 2012 edition.

 

Fear the Beard, Peyton.   

 

 

Spring Training- A Baseball Heaven

There are some things you promise yourself you will do before you die- some of them might be simple, some of them might be daring, and some of them might change your life. 

This weekend I took a daunting check off on my bucket list as I finally made my way out to Arizona for Spring Training. I had always wanted to go out for the spring, but inevitably there was a reason not to- school, work, conflicting schedules. 2011 was different, this year I was going. 
Often times when you look forward to an event like I was looking forward to spring training you are let down. People tell you how fantastic it is to get player access, and watch minor leaguers compete, and you might think to yourself, “can it really be this great?”. The answer is yes. 
The pundits on ESPN, your friends, the cashier at the grocery store- they are not lying when they say that spring training is a baseball heaven, and after this weekend I thoroughly believe that anyone who considers themselves a true fan of the game should make the pilgrimage out. 
Watching any MLB game is fun, but there is something about the spring atmosphere that is different. Yes, guys are competing for roster sports. Yes, it is the first taste of baseball anyone has had since October. But in all honesty, it seems that the real difference is the caliber of fans that can be found at the ballparks. Instead of people interested in being seen at the game, or getting something to eat, these fans are interested in watching and talking about baseball and baseball history (I told you this was heaven). These fans know their statistics, they know their players not only by the number on their jersey, but by their batting stance. These are real fans who want to talk baseball for the entirety of their stay. And that is what they do. 
I had the privilege of visiting four ballparks in three days (Camelback, Maryvale, Diablo, and Scotsdale). I saw three baseball games and one round of B.P. in three days. And I talked about more baseball history in three days than I ever have before. I was surrounded by Dodgers fans, Giants fans, Angels fans, Red Sox fans, Yankees fans, Brewers fans, A’s fans, and just baseball fans in general who wanted to rehash their favorite memories while creating new ones. 
Leaving Spring Training was saddening, and the only thing that has a smile on my face right now is knowing that the next trip is only 350 days away. 

ALL ABOARD FOR PHOENIX

While I promised to start blogging about being a Sports Management student (and I have every intention of doing so) I couldn’t help but use this entry to discuss my imminent trip to Spring Training. 

Every year I tell myself, this is the year, I am going to Spring Training, but inevitably people’s schedules fill up, school gets hectic, and the trip gets lost in the shuffle- but not this year. My Sports Management program is full time and meets between one and three nights a week. How is this a full time program you might ask? Because we are required to do 200 hours worth of internships a semester, this coupled with working a regular job and doing homework seems like a daunting task, and it is- if you are planning a trip. 
Lucky for me, the Angelswin.com Spring Fanfest falls at the end of college basketball season, which means that I can sneak away for the weekend and not really neglect my duties as the social media intern. 
The plan is to hop in the car early Friday morning and drive to Arizona (seems obvious enough). Once we arrive we are going to the Giants vs. Dodgers game on Friday, the Angels vs. Brewers game on Saturday, the Angelswin.com shindig Saturday night, and on Sunday we will see where the baseball gods take us. 
In addition to watching all the baseball that I could possibly hope for (ok this isn’t true, I would love to go to multiple games every day), I’ve also picked up some fantasy baseball reading to get ready for this years draft. Instead of playing with my heart (which I do for every fantasy sport, every year) I have dedicated this season, in honor of my Sports Management degree, to doing the most logical, rational draft I can. The fact that I have a co-managing a team this year will help ensure that happens (I hope). 
I suppose the moral of the story is, when you are a graduate student, studying something you are passionate about, even your vacations turn into school related trips.