A whole bunch of stories broke in the last few hours that, along with the temperature, rose my frustration level with the realities of being a sports fan these days.
No matter how much personal joy any one of us can glean from the sheer act of fanaticism, we are bombarded with the reality checks that it all revolves around one common theme–the pursuit of money, and how it drives every moral and business decision.
— Brooks Koepka joined 17 other PGA members, including his brother Chase, in joining the Saudi-backed LIV tour. I’ve already discussed this issue ad infinitum; until any one of us is actually presented with life-changing money no one should feel entitled to judge the decisions of those who have been. And yes, that includes even the millionaires who are becoming multi-millionaires. Who among us has the right to say how much is enough? Anyone who has ever gone to an all-you-can-eat buffet cannot pass judgement on setting limits for others.
— 20 of the 24 women who accused DeShaun Watson of unsoliticted sexual advances somehow agreed to settlements, coincidentally on the heels of a controversial mini-camp and as we head into the home stretch of the off-season. Earlier reports indicated many of them had previously been offered about $100K each, but were rejected due to the “magnitude” of the allegations. Considering the Browns have invested $230M in Watson, who as a football talent is undeniable, and that the Texans stood to lose much more than credibility should further details of their enabling emerge, it is hardly cynical to believe that another $2-$3M to sweeten the deal might have been quietly slipped into to the negotiations. So in 83% of these cases there does seem to a price where moral indignation can be bought out.
— Kyrie Irving is seriously considering rejecting his option to continue to play for the Brooklyn Nets and take his talents elsewhere. Interestingly, high among the rumor mill would be rejoining a former Cleveland teammate who did the same thing a couple of times himself, one Mr. Lebron James. Los Angeles sports media is apopletic about the possibility of such a disruptive personality, particularly another guard, joining a team already reeling from a similar move that has stuck them with Russell Westbrook, and an 11th place conference finish two seasons removed from a world championship. As national media reminded us, he has fallen quite short of the expectations Brooklyn put upon him, particularly in a year where his regiment stand against vaccination limited his regular season to 29 games, and his MIA performance against the Celtics limited his post-season to four.
Shouldn’t $39.5M be enough for him to at least try and make it up to the disgruntled Nets fan for another try? Again, put yourself in Kyrie’s shoes (at least stuffed with lots of handkerchiefs to fill out the gap). If the Lakers choose to spend the money because it might make Lebron happier, and you’re in LA to build your multimedia career the way Lebron has, would YOU say no?
—And, finally, the news that Bally’s regional sports networks are launching direct-to-consumer app options in four of their regions that will, for the first time, allow passionate fans of the Royals, Tigers, Brewers, Rays and Marlins the chance to see home games of their teams without a cable or satellite subscription. The monthly price just for that? Just under $20 a month; just under $190 a year if you want the option of watching NHL and NBA teams as well.
In Boston, the Red Sox actually beat Bally’s and Sinclair to market just after Memorial Day with a NESN-branded channel for the Red Sox (and Bruins) that costs an additional $10 a month–just under $30 a month. Again, the hue and cry among the less passionate, cost-conscious fans is “how dare they?”. And in the spirit of woke marketing, no definitive data is yet available as to how successful they’ve been so far.
But here’s the honest truth: it almost doesn’t matter. There are enough truly passionate fans who will subscribe, and at that price point the lines between ad revenue from linear advertisers (the Red Sox own a piece of NESN) and the subscription revenue will cross within months, particularly if they remain competitive for a playoff berth. A recent surge has them actually ahead of Tampa for the newly created third wild card slot. How convenient. And if those teams indeed battle down the stretch guess where those games will be telecast? So there’s room for growth for sure, steep price point or not.
We’ll bitch, we’ll moan, we’ll complain, we’ll tweet. But more of us than we’d like to admit will ante up. And that money is how these teams can pay these salaries, or even these settlements. And, sadly, we also know that as soon as Watson, Irving or Koepka perform well more than a minority of us will react favorably .
Because money talks.
We know how that phrase ends, too. And I’m challenging anyone who’s reading this to dispute it.