Sometimes an every day innocuous indignity becomes the piece of straw that breaks the camel’s back.
The American Revolution was sparked by a tax on tea.
The Civil Rights Movement ignited because Rosa Parks held down her seat.
Now Major League Baseball Commissioner ‘Bud’ Selig is learning the same lesson as King George and Bull Connor: you better know where the hell the line is, and how much the camel is willing to carry.
When Commissioner Selig partnered with Columbia pictures to put a six by six inch Spider-Man 2 ad on the infield bases, fans across the country became incensed and the camels morphed into bucking broncos.
Before you could say “Give me Commercial Free or Give Me Death!” Selig and Columbia hastily pulled the campaign.
Both movie execs and Selig readily admitted that this ‘unexpected’ fan backlash spurred their about-face.
“We saw some of the polls on the Internet that said that 71 and 81 percent of the fans didn’t approve of it,” said Geoffrey Ammer, president of worldwide marketing for the Columbia. “Based on this reaction from the fans, we didn’t want to do anything to take away from their enjoyment of the game and if that was the case with this element of the promotion, we could afford to do without it.”
Fans did far more than ‘not approve’. In one ESPN.com poll 79.4 percent of roughly 50,000 readers, said they thought that baseball was “selling out” by allowing the “Spider-Man 2” advertisements on the field.
Always the courageous leader, Big Bud told the Associated Press, “It isn’t worth, frankly, having a debate about.”
The question that comes to mind is why this? Why did a six by six inch blurb of web inflame the baseball masses? On the surface, it’s like examining the conditions in Abu Ghraib prison and complaining about the food.
But Spidey-fying the bases crossed a psychic line that every sports fan has. Commercials assault our senses every minute of every day. From pop up ads on computers to those jarring radio spots seemingly written by the Marquis de Sade we all are captives in a commercial Valhalla.
This is especially true in baseball. I have heard a lot of sports radio cement heads telling fans to “grow up”, that this kind of commercialization is the future and “to just deal with it.” But the sports media elite that has been eating free press box sushi while the rest of us are paying $9.00 for a ballpark frank could never understand why our collective Spider senses are tingling.
This is what we fans go through on a typical trip to the stadium: First we drive to a ballpark whose name has been changed three times with every rise and fall in whatever dot com is above ground that month.
Then we park in a lot closer to our house than the stadium or ride on a subway packed tighter than Dick Cheney in spandex. We follow this by paying out the nose: bloated ticket prices, bloated food prices, and bloated beer prices for the privilege of feeling bloated ourselves. Along the way our bags are searched to make sure we aren’t smuggling a peanut butter sandwich iand cutting into anyone’s profit margins. Finally sitting like a contortionist in our nosebleed seats, the jumbotron, the super jumbotron and the mega jumbotron compete for our attention.
We suffer all of this because the end goal for the fan is worth it: seeing a baseball diamond both greener than the Irish hills, and as pure as a baby’s powdered bottom. For every fan that played as a kid in a park strewn with broken bottles and the random syringe, the Major League Baseball diamond is the physical representation of how sweet it was. For us, it is like the inside of a cathedral.
Putting ads on the bases is like going to your church, mosque or synagogue, and seeing the altar graced with the words ‘Hugh Jackman IS Van Helsing!”
Baseball learned the hard way: know your boundaries, know your limits, and leave the fan’s field alone. Because it was ours long before it was ever yours.