The World Series is shaping up to be a classic after Clayton Kershaw’s dominant pitching for the Dodgers in Game 1 on Tuesday night and the Astros’ four home runs in the ninth through 11th innings to win Game 2 on Wednesday.
We should all be thankful that YouTube TV is presenting this World Series to us, because if they weren’t, who knows what kind of baseball might be taking place right now?
Craig Calcaterra of NBC Sports wrote a column on Wednesday about YouTube’s presence at the Fall Classic titled “The 2017 World Series: when the advertising Rubicon was crossed” that covered all the bases on how Major League Baseball and Fox are letting corporations into the game in unprecedented ways. It’s quite good, and takes an interesting turn into questioning the editorial independence that MLB.com claims to have for news coverage of baseball.
One line at the end sticks out: “But I feel like Major League Baseball’s pursuit of ad dollars has gotten out of hand. It is intruding upon the game itself and what most of us have come to appreciate as straightforward coverage of the game.”
The key here is “what most of us have come to appreciate.” Growing up in the 1980s, baseball stadium walls were solid colors, marked only by “NO PEPPER” stenciling behind home plate and distances from home plate on the outfield walls. It was stunning to see photos of old ballparks whose walls were plastered with advertising, something that, at the time, was a feature only of the minor leagues. Now, there are ads all over ballparks, and blank walls are the vintage weirdness – what, they couldn’t sell any ads for baseball?
But the key here isn’t us and what we’ve come to appreciate. It’s that Major League Baseball is establishing a new standard that people getting into baseball now won’t think twice about. Adults who have gotten into European soccer can appreciate this, because there, corporate logos on jerseys are just part of the package. You know that it wasn’t always that way, but it’s totally normal to you that everyone on your favorite team is a walking billboard. It will eventually be that way with NBA jerseys, and you can bet every other American sport, too, before too long.
It all feels a little intrusive now, especially the between-pitches split-screen ads, but the assessment made – almost certainly correctly – by everyone involved is that it’s not going to make anyone turn off the games. As far as the presenting sponsor goes, yes, it’s gauche, but it’s also easy money and something the sporting public is used to thanks to college football, currently featuring such spectacular events as the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl, the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, the Dollar General Bowl, and our favorite from last year back again, the Belk Bowl.
Nobody is uncomfortable with any of the college bowls now, because it’s been this way so long that today’s college football players weren’t even born when the final edition of the Blockbuster Bowl was held in 1993 after its inception in 1990. That game, corporate and nothing else from the time it began, has since been called CarQuest, MicronPC, Florida Tourism, Mazda, Champs Sports, and Russell Athletic. This year, it gets a new name, the Camping World Bowl – the same Camping World that was the title sponsor of the NLCS, where the Los Angeles Dodgers presented by Guggenheim Partners punched their ticket to this World Series presented by YouTube TV.
Wait, the Dodgers still are just the Dodgers. For now, anyway. But with each passing incursion of corporate America into baseball, and even this year’s “Players’ Weekend” special jerseys with nicknames, it feels a little more like Ted Turner was just a man ahead of the times in 1976 when he gave pitcher Andy Messersmith the sobriquet “Channel” and put it on his jersey over the number 17 – which just happened to be WTBS’ spot on the dial.