I accidentally tuned into TBS during the halftime show of the NBA All-Star game and saw another reason why baseball is preferable to another sport – in this case, basketball and how it markets itself to the public.
I saw the performance of the song “All of The Lights” and marveled at the lyrics and use of the N-word. I felt sorry for Rihanna and the female dancers who appeared to need prescription doses of Cruex to combat an apparently bad case of jock itch. All in all, a vulgar way to mark Black History Month. I was so happy that PBS helped disinfect my mind by showing the Ken Burns’ program “Unforgivable Blackness” The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson” later last evening.
The ratings for the All-Star Game and halftime trash may have risen approximately 35%, but once you cut through the hoopla you discover that Commissioner David Stern’s world is steeped in red ink. According to Forbes magazine’s economic analysis, sixteen of the thirty NBA teams lost money in the 2009-2010 season, and you can expect to add the Cleveland Cavaliers to that list in 2010-2011. Even more worrisome is that despite large national television contracts, salary caps and revenue sharing, the asset value dropped for ten of the franchises in the same period. The Cavaliers’ value may have dropped $100 million due to the departure of LeBron James to Miami, and the Miami valuation rose only $ 60 million, a net loss of $ 40 million in total NBA franchise value.
Baseball? The last available Forbes analysis for 2009 shows that only two teams (Arizona and Detroit) lost money during the height of the recession and that nine of the thirty clubs lost asset value despite the lack of a salary cap and the large national media contracts of the NBA or NFL . With major league baseball revenues rising sharply in 2010 and expected to rise in 2011, franchise values should rise for all teams and that no team may post a net loss in 2011.
As for an appropriate way to mark Black History Month through sports, I suggest this column by Andy at baseball-reference.com. He highlights two Hall of Fame players – Hank Aaron and Frank Robinson, living links to the Negro Leagues and Jackie Robinson – and the historical oddity that occurred on August 1, 1976. The game played that Sunday in Milwaukee’s County Stadium between the Cleveland Indians and Brewers turned out to be the last time either man played in the field. The rest of their major league appearances were as a designated hitter or pinch hitter.
Robinson, who was a player-manager at that time, started the game in left field and went 0-2 with a walk before being replaced by Tommy Smith in the seventh inning. Aaron pinch hit in the eighth inning, drawing a bases loaded walk that made the score 3-3. Indians reliever Tom Buskey had a horrid performance, as he hit George Scott to force in a run and then walked Aaron to tie the game. Hank went in to play left field in the top of the ninth inning.
The Indians won the game in 10 innings by a 4-3 score on a Ray Fosse single which drove in Tommy Smith, who had singled to lead off the inning. In the bottom of the tenth inning, Aaron made the last out with the tying run on second by lining out to Indian centerfielder Rick Manning. The winning pitcher (Don Hood) and losing pitcher (Bill Castro) would be my teammates five years later in Kansas City. The Indians improved to 50-50 with the victory and ended the season at 81-78.
Robinson and Aaron were quality players and people who truly suffered discrimination and who quietly and forcefully fought back to keep their dignity in the face of oppression and threats. It’s better to think of them during this month than the self-indulgent entertainers who in their attempts to “keep it real” only reinforce negative stereotypes of African-Americans.
I stand by the sentiments in my article posted on Martin Luther King Day.