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Business vs. Fandom

It was only natural for me to become a sports fan. My father was an avid sports card collector, a youth baseball and basketball coach, and a fan of any team from sport. I remember the first time my parents took me to Fenway to see the Red Sox play the Oakland Athletics. I don’t remember the smells or the sounds but, what I do remember was seeing the field and feeling that Fenway breeze on my face. However, for anyone who knows me, knows that this first magical experience was not where my fandom began. It was sparked by those little pieces of cardboard with pictures on them.

We all have a similar story as to when our fandom had begun and about our first Major League game, the story just consists of different characters and locations. This memory is most shared among any sports fan no matter what team they support. Now think of the future... are the rising prices created by the business side of baseball going to make something as simple as going to a game unobtainable to the average fan? Think of how it would be if a sports fan never got an opportunity to have this core memory. Is this where we are heading?

Baseball has evolved and has created a new modern-day player, a player who hits further and faster, a player that can pitch as well as DH with ease, and a player who can easily create history. With the evolution of the modern-day player, comes the modern-day dollar sign. Baseball contracts have increased dramatically, ending with zeros that some of us can’t even fathom. How do these MLB teams pay these astronomical figures? Well, each MLB team makes their money from their contracted television broadcasts; both at a local and national level, on large corporate sponsorships; on a league and team level, and there is also the revenue from game day festivities; ticket sales, concessions, and souvenirs. MLB also has revenue sharing set up to help balance out the teams.

Let’s quickly touch on where it started for most of us as fans. We were kids, going to our local store to purchase packs of baseball cards and candy. Several of us have bonded and shared that our fandom had started with us opening cards and looking at the stats of players. This was where it had ignited for us and we became fans of specific players based off those stats. This was where we could fight with our friends about why one player was better than another and/or trade cards with them. But now, many cards don’t have stats on them and for a pack of baseball cards you are looking to spend anywhere between five to ten dollars. That is wildly steep in comparison to packs of cards we use to buy for under a dollar.

Yes, we can all logically and rationally agree that baseball is a business. However, fans are now at a crossroad and priorities have changed. With the annual median household income not rising enough to support inflation, the cost of living has priced out a baseball fan. You are seeing less of a mixed demographic where retired grandparents could take their grandkids to a day at the park and more corporate type guys on their cell phones. A family day at Fenway is in the hundreds and has to be a special day to attend because that money could be paying bills and stocking the fridge.

We knew that the days of rough and rowdy bleacher parties were going to come to a close one day... that is where the evolution of baseball and the business of baseball has led us. However, are we confident that the modern-day ticket price hasn’t made the die-hards of generations extinct? Maybe or maybe not.

Fandom will always find its way and I will continue to see how the next decade of fandom plays out.

Article submitted by Top Fan contributor, Sarah Retalic.

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