February 15, 2010
So the NBA just hosted its All-Star Game at Cowboys Stadium in front of 108,713 fans and our guy Kelly Dwyer says Mark Cuban's grand experiment was a rousing success.
I find that kind of hard to believe, seeing as how I once attended a basketball game (Wisconsin-Davidson, 2008 NCAA Sweet 16) in a football venue (Detroit's Ford Field) and it ended up being the worst spectator experience I'd ever had (the sight lines were terrible, the atmosphere was morgue-like and Stephen Curry hung around 78 points on my Badgers).
Still, I'll accept KD's view because I respect him as a basketball writer and because it initially caused me to to wonder what huge venue baseball could book to generate similar PR.
But after getting stuck after mentioning the Los Angeles Coliseum and Rose Bowl, I quickly realized that MLB would want to take the opposite approach of NBA's All-Star Game and NHL's Winter Classic. The smaller, the better for the Midsummer Classic.
Now, I'll admit that choice of venue is on the list of settings that Bud Selig doesn't need to toggle when it comes to the annual meeting of the AL and NL. The list of franchises wanting to host the game will never end — Jeffrey Loria just thrust his Marlins to the front of the line for the 2015 contest — and the difference between baseball's unique ballparks is enough that a change of pace isn't necessary for a jolt of energy.
But for the sake of imagination, let's say that MLB wanted to take a one-year respite from the regular rotation and do something different to generate excitement and grab headlines. Wouldn't Doubleday Field in Cooperstown be the place to do it? Or maybe the Field of Dreams in Dyersville, Iowa?
I'd be up for the idea. The crowd would be small, the camera angles would be tight and baseball would finally come close to that agrarian past it's always trying to sell to us. Who wouldn't want to see Derek Jeter(notes) or Tim Lincecum(notes) bringing the game back to its roots and performing in a park built on a Pony League scale?
It's really an interesting dynamic if you think about it. Though the NBA All-Star Game would have been awesome if played in a high school fieldhouse, we made a big deal of it being played in the biggest spot possible. We also rarely decry the fact that such an intimate sport is played in bland and corporate settings that seat 20,000 people and over.
But when it comes to baseball, which hosts a playing surface many times bigger than a basketball court? Well, the closer the better. We stage a ballpark revolution that puts more of us on top of the action. Foul territory and steep upper decks are the enemy. We want to feel like we're watching from the top step of the dugout.
This is to our preference and benefit, of course, and going micro would be the only way baseball would ever truly succeed with an All-Star Game gimmick. Millions of dollars in lost ticket revenue guarantee that it would never happen, but it's nice to think about.