Monday, September 24, 2007

Remember me? I never really got into a game...

Just when I think I will run out of things to say about marketing, I get a gift from heaven in the form of an e-mail from MLB. (That's Major League Baseball for those of you who aren't frantically looking at the standings and calculating the Magic Number every twenty minutes or so. For the record, the Magic Number for the Red Sox is 6.

MLB is inviting me to:

Become a part of an exclusive group of Major Leaguers and baseball fans by becoming a member of the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association.

Well, I've heard that "being is becoming". Is this a case of MLB telling me that "becoming is being?"

Now, I am in absolute awe of sports marketers, and their ability to leave no stone unturned when it comes to building brand loyalty and extracting the last dollar out of the average fan wallet with surgical precision. I doff my regulation, authentic, MLB blessed, New Era cap to them.

But this is utterly ridiculous.

Shouldn't the MLB Players Alumni Association have as its members those who actually played major league baseball - at least for a couple of bench-warming innings? Doesn't this group already exist? Isn't it called the MLB Players Association?

I'll give them partial credit for their claim that this is an "exclusive group." If they're talking about ex-players, yep - it's exclusive. If they're talking about fans. Exclusive? Huh?

Basically, MLB is just looking for my $25, which will entitle me to discounts on buying MLB gear. Hmmmm. Could this be why they want me as a member? So that I can pay for a discount that will lure me into buying more junk. That sounds more likely than this lofty statement:

Join us in our mission of promoting the game of baseball, involving our members in community activities, inspiring today's youth through positive sports images and raising funds to support important charitable causes.

All well and good, but joining this organization really doesn't make me an MLB Alumna, does it?

Come on. I don't spit, grab at my crotch, or pat the people I work with on the butt. Nor can I hit a 97 m.p.h. fast ball. Catch a fly ball when 35,000 people are screaming at me. Slide head first - or feet first, for that matter, let alone execute one of those nifty little pop-up slides. I have no baseball card, no stats. At games, I pray that no ball will land anywhere near me. (Since I'm seldom in the kind of seats where a wicked line drive foul can get you, I'm not scared of the ball. I just don't want to get trampled on by fans going after it.) And despite all my best efforts, I still kind of throw like a girl.

And if I'm an MLB Alum, why can't I get Scott Boras, dream agent, to represent me. Scott would laugh himself silly if he knew the paltry per diem I command. If only I had Scott on my team, the two of us could laugh ourselves silly all the way to the bank. (Come on, Scott. How about it?)

No, I'm no major leaguer. I am, however, a member of several non-official baseball alumni clubs, none of them all that exclusive:

  • Fans who saw Ted Williams hit a home run.
  • Fans who saw Maris and Mantle hit back-to-back homers in 1961 (the year Maris broke Babe Ruth's record).
  • Fans who followed the sport before the invention of the pink baseball cap.
  • Fans who rooted for the Red Sox when they were cellar-dwellers.
  • Fans who have never - and will never - watch the 7th game of a World Series in which the Red Sox are playing. (In 1967, I took a walk. In 1975, I stared out the window. In 1986, I took to my bed. Fortunately, in 2004, the Series only went four games and I watched the entire thing.)
  • Fans who think that the fans should sing along with the National Anthem.
  • Fans who think that the words to "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" do NOT need to be displayed on the screen.
  • Fans who know that the seventh inning stretch occurs between the top and the bottom of the seventh, not between the sixth and the seventh.

None of this makes me a professional baseball player. Just a fan.

And I don't need to join this organization in order to get me to promote baseball. In my opinion, it is the most excellent of sports. Unlike most other team sports, which involve running (or skating) up and down a field/court/rink, trying to get some object past a goal, baseball is different. To me, that difference turns into something that makes the game more interesting to me than all others. I even find baseball's boringness interesting. So there.

In any case, this latest promotion from MLB marketing is a stretch. If they want, they can make up an organization called the MLB Players Alumni Association Auxiliary. Non-exclusive; all are welcome. (And all $25 membership fees welcome, of course.)

I seem to recall that this is what veterans organizations did after World War II, i.e., set up parallel organizations for the wives' of veterans.  Veterans joined the VFW and the American Legion; their wives joined the auxiliary. (To those who might be offended by this quaint notion, that's just the way it was.) Women veterans - and there were some, even "then" - had their own alumnae associations. My mother's great friend, Ethel McGinn, a WWII vet, was a member of the WAVEs group.

Joining the MLB Alumni Association is not going to make me an ex-professional baseball player any more than joining the VFW would make me a veteran.

MLB marketers can keep their discount. Time for them to come up with a more honest idea. This one is big league corruption of the notion of alumni. ("Exclusive group", my non-baseball-spike-shod foot.)

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