By Dan Bernstein-
CBSChicago.com Senior Columnist
(CBS) It’s hard to “upstage” something nobody cares about. Or maybe I mean it’s easy, and should be.
The World Series is upon us, about to test all-time lows for national interest, as two teams from flyover country play in the rain and wind while most Americans watch reality shows.
Thousands of tickets remain available to see the Rangers and Cardinals, and the secondary market gives you the chance to sit wherever you want for less than you’d think.
(CNBC’s Darren Rovell reported earlier today that a seat eight rows behind the Cards’ dugout was a mere $399 [!])
As this occurs, a dramatic, high-profile saga plays out involving two heritage major-league markets. A dynamic young executive has agreed to take the challenge of turning around one of sports’ great losers, and the owners of the respective teams are engaged in a staredown over compensation – tight-lipped Tom Ricketts on one side of the table, thin-skinned drama queen John Henry on the other. Soon, we expect the deal will be completed, and the announcement made.
Naturally, fusty commissioner Bud Selig has imposed his long-held policy: no news of that sort is to be released during the World Series, because he apparently believes there’s something wrong with having everyone talking baseball.
In yet another case of his shortsightedness, this small-minded protectionism exposes his fear of the game’s fragility, and the lack of trust he has in the fans.
This is just all kinds of wrong.
Either I want to watch the Series or I don’t. Nothing about the Cubs wresting Epstein from Boston changes my desire to see Albert Pujols in the ninth against Neftali Feliz, for better or worse. One has nothing to do with the other.
A splashy press conference at Wrigley Field makes baseball top-of-mind nationally, instead of merely in two cities far removed from the material media nerve-centers. In fact, one could make the case that Epstein to the Cubs magnifies the significance of the games occurring, since the subtext of his acquisition is the title quest, itself: he brought two sacred championships to one city, and is now being trusted to bring more. The gravity and excitement of the showcase is underscored by the significance of the hire.
Really, Bud? You want to avoid that kind of attention?
If you wait until the Series is over, you catch us after most everyone has mentally packed baseball up and put it away for the winter in that little compartment in our heads where it stays until February. Let it happen naturally, now, while we’re still actively paying any kind of attention, and the games are enjoying a prime-time, national-network TV platform.
It’s good news, not labor strife, steroid allegations or arrests. Epstein is telegenic and charismatic, and we’re talking about two heritage franchises here, not Toronto and Seattle. Any marketing pro would tell you that a chance to put that kind of brand-power out there while you have more eyes and ears available is one not to be missed.
Most importantly, we can handle two things at once. Most sports consumers are mainlining everything we need in whatever order we want – we’re not slaves to local 10:00 news or highlight shows like we were, say 20 years ago. The story is being heavily covered as it is – even before any official conclusion – as the final games begin. There are plenty of reporters, plenty of cameras, plenty of newsprint, segment-time and web-pages.
There can be more cities talking baseball, or fewer. Boston (which means New York too, of course), Chicago, perhaps San Diego if rumors regarding executives there prove true, and more will be all about the game, especially as NBA talks stall.
Epstein’s probable move is more interesting to many than the two remaining teams.
Trust us to handle all of it. Trust baseball.
Dan Bernstein has been the co-host of “Boers and Bernstein” since 1999. He joined the station as a reporter/anchor in 1995. The Boers and Bernstein Show airs every weekday from 1PM to 6PM on The Score, 670AM. Read more of Bernstein’s columns here. Follow him on Twitter @dan_bernstein.
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