What the MLB Could Learn From the Other Leagues
Learning from one another is something that every person is taught the importance of from the early ages of being a toddler. Unfortunately like many lessons that were given to us at those preschool ages we often times forget as we grow older and learn new ones through this difficult journey of life. We shouldn’t however forget the lesson of learning from one another because it is one that will undoubtedly help us grow as individuals and as an entire group of people known as the human race and the four major American professional sports leagues are no different.
Over a four day span I will attempt to instill some valuable lessons into the NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL on what they can learn from the inner workings of one another which will enable them all to grow individually and collectively as the major powers of American professional sports. Yesterday I embarked on an endeavor to teach the NFL a thing or two (actually three) now today the MLB is up to bat.
Before the dreaded player strike of 1994, Major League Baseball was the “it” league of professional sports; by far the gold standard of pro sports leagues after all baseball was America’s game then. Since then the NFL and football has taken its place in that regard and it’s not simply because some fans never embraced baseball again, it’s that American society and culture has changed drastically. One thing the MLB can learn for the NFL however is how to control the nation’s attention which will in turn dominate the sports viewers’ attention.
Before 1994 going to a baseball game was the must go-to sporting event for families and singles alike now it’s all about heading to your local NFL stadium to watch the gladiators of the gridiron compete. How can the MLB get some of that back you ask? It’s quite simple they have to learn from the NFL and the ways of the almighty shield, replicate some of those ways and then watch their fan base receive a boost. Now there is no guarantee that the MLB will ever become the most popular American professional sports league again, but they do have some catching up to with the NFL and if they don’t watch it the NBA could rapidly be breathing down their necks for number two.
Speaking of the NBA, the MLB could pick up on one key attribute which is vital to their success and that is individual star marketing. Even though NBA commissioner David Stern is the closest thing to a dictator that professional sports has ever seen he has watched the league grow leaps and bounds since his arrival as commissioner back in 1984 and that is largely due to him marketing his stars. No league does it quite like the Association does; from back in the 80’s when everything was centered around Larry Bird and Magic Johnson and then shifted over to Michael Jordan.
From then the league decided to market each team’s biggest star more flamboyantly year-after-year and the bigger the star the more you see his mug on television or in billboards or where ever else the Association could stick it. Honestly think about it LeBron James’ face is literally everywhere you go, as was Kobe Bryant’s before him and as will Kevin Durant’s be after him. This is secretly one of the reasons why there was an NBA lockout at the beginning of last season; the owners and Stern did not want anymore Miami Heat situations to arise where three superstars all played for the same team while in the process robbing two small-market franchises of their bread winners (while I have no evidence to prove this I’d love for someone to produce some to dispute it and would truly, truly love to get an on the record response to my accusation from Mr. Stern himself), but I digress. If the MLB can find away to get guys like Miguel Cabrera, Andrew McCutchen, Bryce Harper and Josh Hamilton all over the tube and print publication advertisements then they would see a popularity boost throughout the nation ultimately making them a much better league.
Yet again I must think hard and long when it comes to the NHL and what the MLB can learn from them (thanks a lot David Stern protégé and trainee Gary Bettman for really doing a job on this league), but I guess the MLB could learn how not to operate. No I’m truly being serious here; if you want to learn how to do something correct you must first watch someone do it wrong and hey isn’t that what Mr. Bettman is currently doing right now, a lot of wrong.
The MLB has been work-stoppage free for almost two decades now with the last one being that awful, god-forsaking strike of ’94 that I mentioned earlier. No league has endured such pleasantry between the league, commissioner, owners and players than Major League Baseball. One way to keep that going is by watching how the NHL (who is now on their third work-stoppage within that same time span) continues to get it wrong. It’s just like when a parent tells a child if you want to be a good kid and get good grades don’t do what the “bad kids” do. MLB if you want to continue to thrive then just watch the NHL and do exactly the opposite of what they do, it’s woefully sad to say because I enjoy hockey (especially playoff hockey) almost as much as the next American but it’s the truth.
So MLB the bell has rung and class has now concluded, maybe just maybe you have picked up on some of these helpful lessons that I’ve laid out for you and just like the NFL with yesterday’s lesson can take them, grow from them and become a better league in the process for all sports fans alike. NBA I’ll see you guys tomorrow!