Blogs > Jim Collins' Editor's Notebook

Jim Collins is editor emeritus of The News-Herald and also serves as executive in residence at Lakeland Community College. His popular weekly column appears each Sunday in Comment in The News-Herald.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Winning overcomes TV's allure

There was almost a full page of messages in the paper early in the baseball season from readers who expressed their views on why people weren’t going to Indians games.

I will make one positive observation about the letters. Every one was signed with a name and a hometown address. That I like very much. Unsigned letters (and anonymous comments at the end of news stories) are so much garbage. They have no credibility. Zero.

I cannot say this too strongly — if you think your opinion is worth anything, sign your name to it. But I digress.

None of those good people who wrote those letters expressed my feelings. (One letter even came from a former News-Herald sports editor in Florida.)

None of them articulated one of the main things that keeps people away from ball games. They blamed poor performance on the field, bad weather, bad ownership, the price of tickets, even competition from the Captains at Classic Park in Eastlake.

I believe what keeps people away is simple — TV.

But something is happening — something remarkable — that is causing me to change my mind. It is called winning. When the Indians win, as in sweeping a three-game series at home against the Cincinnati Reds, there is a renewed interest in being there in person — just to make sure, I presume, that what we are reading in the paper and seeing on TV is real and not some kind of an apparition.

I was at Opening Day, as I always am, when attendance was over 40,000. And I was at home in my living room for the next five games when attendance was closer to 9,000. I’ll tell you the difference. Opening Day is a pageant. Every other home game is one of 80 others. The World Series is a pageant, and so is a playoff game. But the rest are just games, unless something happens to shake the team out of its lethargy. Something like excellent pitching and timely hitting. Those two elements have rocketed the Indians to the top of the standings. Let’s hope they keep it up all season — and that attendance continues to skyrocket.

But if performance lags — and keep your fingers crossed that it will not — then attendance will sag along with it.

Let me point out that I will put my compassion for baseball (and football) up against that of any fan. Both are spectacular games. I love them dearly.

But there is only one thing that keeps me away from the ball park. It is the magic of big screen, high definition TV. I can see so much more in my living room on my 59-inch screen (which I got decades ago from Mentor TV) that I feel I would miss half the game if I went in person. This is more true of football than it is of baseball, of course. And it is why I stopped going to Browns games in person. Every good play is replayed half a dozen times.

So it’s not the weather, the prices nor the ownership (I really like the Dolans) that keep me away. It’s the incredible, high definition, color rendition of the game that comes through into my living room.

And when the game is over I turn off the TV. I don’t get caught in the crowd that is leaving.

I have been to two games this year. Besides Opening Day, the lady of the house and I went to the Friday, April 29 game with Mickey and Jan Kapostasy to see the fireworks. Some fireworks! Carlos Santana hit a grand slam home run in the bottom of the ninth to win the game.

That makes being there worthwhile. But there was another game April 24 when Michael Brantley hit a ball that was originally ruled a home run but was called off in a 4-3 loss to the Minnesota Twins because the ball hit a limestone facing and not the top of the wall. The overturned call was correct. If you were there, you may have missed it. But at home you saw the replay a dozen times.

But late that game, Jim Thome of the Twins hit what was ruled a double, but the TV replay clearly showed he was out sliding into second base, that he was tagged on the leg before he reached the base.

If the Indians keep winning, they will continue to pack the fans in. But if they start losing more than they win, TV clarity and replays provide a wonderful alternative to being there in person.

All things considered, I’d rather see them keep winning.

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