Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Problem of the Cubs

Marty Brennaman's perspective on Cubs fans: [per chris w]



Here's the thing:

This debate is essentially a question of elitism.

I've realized that my problems with Cubs fans are rooted in their unabashed lack of baseball knowledge and general boorish behavior [both at Wrigley and in Cincinnati]. That's what I was getting at in my last post, when I criticized Paul Daughtery for suggesting that the Reds ought to embrace the Cubs' ability to draw fans.

Considering two of the comments on my most recent post, I realized that it boils down to a larger question about professional sports:

Is the purpose of a baseball team [or any other sports team] to provide entertainment, play good baseball, profit the owners, or something else?

In my somewhat-elitist point of view, the priority is to play good baseball. This is also because I believe that well-played baseball provides entertainment and can generate profit.

However, considering there are quite a number of people in society who don't have an appreciation for well-played baseball as I do, baseball is often an entertainment-provider. It's true that when people go to sit in the bleachers at Wrigley, it's for Take Me Out To the Ballgame, Right Field Sucks and Old Style. The Anonymous commenter properly suggested that a good model might be the Red Sox, who have hordes of annoying fans (perhaps even worse than the Cubs and Yankees) but still manage to play good baseball.

Obviously, if I were a Red Sox fan, I would be pleased at the quality of baseball in Fenway Park - but I still might be more than a little pissed at the quality of fans in Fenway Park. I'd hope that most franchises aspire to cultivate a fan base who appreciate good baseball. For my money, actually, the franchise that best approximates this is the Cardinals - reasonably informed fans and reasonably successful teams.

To conclude: I'm with the elitists here. I'm willing to castigate Cubs fans for being morons. I think it should be a franchise's goal to win games - and it can surely help you win games if you draw a lot of fans and generate a lot of income. But I think it's antithetical to the goal of winning games if you pursue entertainment over baseball, as the Cubs have done. So, maybe I'm an elitist, but I've never had a problem with that anyways.

Here's a guy who ascertains the real problems: [pretty bad language. nsfw. or kids. but it's still hilarious].

4 comments:

Martin said...

The thing about Daugherty's comments though was that he used the Cubs, a hapless franchise who have barely been relevent in baseball the last 100 years. Great, they make a ton of money, but as a franchise, they are nothing to emulate in terms of the game. Is he asking the Reds to make lots of money, but not win anything, because by using the Cubs as his example, that's what his article is pretty much encouraging. Some of the comments missed the point, that this wasn't in the business section, or a piece written by a disgruntled share holder, but a sportswriter about the local team. Teams are suppossed to win, or at least try to win. They are a business yes, but the business is baseball, which is something done to win, not merely compete. What does the writer care how much money the Reds make? The A's have been competetive for years with far less payroll then the Cubs, as have other teams, such as the Astros, the Twins and Padres.

Anyway, he also misses the point. The Cubs non-baseball traditions and entertainment have been created by 100 years of losing, and the uniqueness of the last day baseball team, not from Fast Pitch machines, Kid Parks, and batting cages. That makes it very difficult for the Reds, or any other team, to emulate the Cubs "business model" for success.

SteveKerr said...

Okay, I have a few ideas here. First, let me say that I'm a White Sox fan. So although I don't root for the Cubs, I definitely don't root against them either so I like to think I'm a relatively neutral party (which may or may not be true).

I don't put any stock into what Marty Brennamen says about the Cubs franchise or its fans. Let's keep in mind that Thom, his son, was a commentator for the Cubs in the early to mid 90s. He and the Cubs didn't get along so well, so Thom has left and he's had a successful career being a terrible commentator for Fox. He is probably bitter over what happened to his son and that had alot with what was said.

Also, I don't think this "business model" argument is very applicable any more. During the Sosa era, I could definitely see that argument having some validity. Sosa was the Cubs, and they knew as long as they had Sosa blowing kisses to the fans and cranking out roided out home runs with corked bats the fans would continue coming back. Since then, it seems like they have put forth a solid effort to put together a playoff-contending team. While I personally find many of their moves questionable at best (ie Soriano, Dempster as closer, continually signing Prior and Wood, Dusty Baker, etc), it does seem like the effort is there.

Is there really even any proof the Cubs were using that mentality anyway? It sure looked like it, especially in the Sosa era, but there really is no proff saying that the Cubs valued money over winning. Maybe previous GM's were just terrible at constructing a competent team.

And finally, I do agree that many Cub fans don't know much about the game of baseball or even about the Cubs. But there are also many Cub fans out there who do. In my opinion, fan knowledge is inversely proportional to size of the fan base. The more fans you have, the stupider they are. It carries over to all facets of life. Nickelback is probably THE band with the least musical talent I've heard in my life, but they're also one of the most popular. Well I guess that doesn't totally apply. But Nickelback sucks. And you don't really see any boorish idiotic Royals fans.

dan-bob said...

I don't put any stock into what Marty Brennamen says about the Cubs franchise or its fans. Let's keep in mind that Thom, his son, was a commentator for the Cubs in the early to mid 90s. He and the Cubs didn't get along so well, so Thom has left and he's had a successful career being a terrible commentator for Fox. He is probably bitter over what happened to his son and that had alot with what was said.

That's one of the worst ad hominem attacks I've ever seen. Is it possible that Marty bases his opinion on thirty years of going to Wrigley and watching Cubs fans in Cincinnati? No, he's probably just a bitter old man angry about something that happened to his son fifteen years ago.

I'm not the world's biggest Marty fan, but that accusation is pretty baseless. He's been in and around the NL Central for 34 years. He might know what he's talking about.

stevekerr said...

I think having been around the organization may have contributed to him making the comments, but I doubt it's the sole reason. I would think it would take more than that to say comments as unprofessional as those on the air. It's one thing to make an offhand comment about Cub fans, but a totally different one to go on a rant like that. There's clearly some bad blood between himself and the organization here.

Have you ever heard commentators other than Brennaman go off on rants like that about other teams' fans? Not even commentators for the Cub's biggest rival, the Cardinals, have done that.