The Star-Ledger‘s Steve Politi and Jeffrey Mays just published a story this weekend about how the Newark Bears are not in a good place, financially, and could be on the way out. As a big baseball fan and someone who attends a few Bears games every season, it’s something that would definitely create a hole in my baseball habit, especially as we go into a season where both the Mets and Yankees will have
less fewer [ahem, grammar…] tickets available at their new stadiums, and prices are going up for those teams.
Politi and Mays report on some facts that should probably not be too surprising, including the ever-unfortunate “philanthropy” quote from current team owner Marc Berson, which has about as much surety behind it as does the reverse effect of a pro sports team’s owner giving a “vote of confidence” to a coach or general manager. Over the years, it’s typically been pretty easy to walk up on game day and buy a pretty darn good seat (not that there’s really a bad one in the house), but that lies at the core of what the problem is. While it is probably nice to walk up with your significant other (as I did earlier this year, getting second row tickets behind the visiting team’s bench) or your kids, it doesn’t push much desire for people to buy a block of ten tickets, or season tickets, even.
Obviously, some people have chosen to throw the “white people in Newark” statement into the fray, which only makes matters worse, but there’s obviously a bigger issue of *anyone* purchasing tickets to see the Bears on a regular basis, irrelevant of race. All that said, having the Bears in town is definitely part of making Newark a better place for everyone, whether it be those who live there, those who work there, or those who like to dine or be entertained, isn’t it?
Beyond the simple economics of going to the game, it’s probably important to discuss how baseball – as a sport, not one particular league – is positioned to younger generations of any race these days. While there have been a number of great articles written on the subject, the Seattle P-I‘s Larry Stone wrote a great article back in August of 2005 about how there was a significant change in the population breakdown of the sport of baseball, as a whole. At the time, there were five teams – count ’em, five – that had not one African-American player on their rosters, and a total of 9% of all MLB players were African-American – half of the number of players from 1994. In 2008, it’s slipped to about 8.2%, according to a recent study, and the trend doesn’t appear to be reversing. That’s brought about discussions that baseball hadn’t done a good job “marketing” itself to the African-American community, something that a statistician might point out as potentially valid in this discussion, given the population breakdown of Newark, according to the 2000 Census. Although, as the Star-Ledger‘s Dan Graziano wrote earlier this week, this year’s World Series features a number of longtime players and stars who are African-American, and calls this a “huge opportunity” for baseball to change the way it’s perceived.
What about you, Baristanet readers? Do you (or your families, friends or kids) attend a Bears game here or there? Would losing the Newark Bears be a big thorn in the side for the city, and for baseball in general?