Baseball’s image now? Super

During the latter stages of my Magazine Period — hey, Picasso had his Blue Period; my career has had Newspaper, Magazine and Dot.Com Periods — I merged into the press junket for a glitzy football movie.

Oliver Stone’s “Any Given Sunday” didn’t become a mega hit, but it wasn’t for lack of star power. Al Pacino, James Woods, Ann-Margret, Cameron Diaz, LL Cool J. Jim Brown (yeah, that one) and Lawrence Taylor. A driving, hip-hop soundtrack.

As I sat around tables rubbing elbows with the glitterati, the lifelong baseball fan in me would come out in one recurring envious impression: “Man, these people are kicking back and talking football, and are about to ingrain it deeper into American culture with the big-screen treatment.”

It was 1999. McGwire-Sosa notwithstanding, baseball was still in its post-1994 strike funk. The game hadn’t changed, but perception of it certainly had. Bland, stodgy, arcane, languid, out-of-touch, obsolete — everything football, as seen through the lenses of “Any Given Sunday,” wasn’t.

NFL was Dr. Dre. MLB was Lawrence Welk.

And I remember thinking, “Baseball would kill to have an image like this.” I believe I even used that line in my published review of the movie.

Well, no body has ever been found. But the makeover was swift and dramatic and in 2016, baseball is firm on  the  cutting edges of sport and technology — hip, global, social, 24/7, accessible, urban AND urbane.

The plot to reclaim America began with the advent of MLB.com in 2001 — only two years after “Any Given Sunday” was pulling cultural rank.

Bud Selig, Bob Bowman, Dinn Mann, all 30 club owners brilliantly masterminded the caper … and I, along with all the charter staffers of MLB.com, were accessories to the crime.

Guilty, as charged.

3 Comments

Dear Tom,
I, at once, deeply miss you.
Although we have only been acquainted over the last couple of years of your long and storied career, you certainly made a striking impression on me.
As a frequent replier to your blog, you graciously suffered my regular rants. Armchair managing, coaching, and general managing. Player critiques. Jubilant celebrations. Vulgar entries you would delete before other of your fans could see them.
But you always let me back on.
Having the unreal good fortune of meeting up face-to-face in the morass on Federal Street before the Cubs wild card game was surreal for me. One of the moments I will always remember.
My best to your so sad family. You are a great man, and my all too brief tenure with you and your personna

Bucks 7-19 in Spring Training! Ugh!
Hope the season doesn’t start like last year.

Hi Tom. I still think of you and your wonderful career.
It is 6/11/16, and the Bucs are just over .500, and their pitching sucks. 11 games back.
Cole (I call him Slo Play) has dogged this year from spring training throughout as he is not happy with his $542,000. salary. We will get no more than a cursory effort from our ‘Ace’ this year.
Finally, the new addition to the Bucco announcing crew, Joe Block, is painful to listen to. He obviously has never played baseball, doesn’t know anything, and fills the space with inane, boring comments. Save me!

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