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10/17/03

FOX SPORTS, BASEBALL, AND THE CUBS CURSE

By Sheldon Drobny

I was born on October 9, 1945.  The next day, the Cubs lost the 7th game of the last World Series they have played.  Therefore, I want to tell the world that the poor fan that interfered with Alou catching the ball in game 6 is not at fault.  The fault lies squarely on me.  Therefore, I officially am giving up my support of the Cubs in the best interest of all the suffering Cub fans to whom my birth has caused so much pain.

That explanation makes about as much sense as the media bringing national attention to the poor fan who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Perhaps there is a Cubs curse, but that cannot be proven.  There is clear evidence, however, that the media, especially Fox, as well as major league baseball, should be ashamed of the damage they have caused.

Baseball, like all sports today, is not just a game.  It is a business that is guided by greed and profits more than the pure and healthy competition it is supposed to bring to the players and fans.  Major league baseball itself is much to blame for the anger and violence shown in the Boston/Yankee and Cubs/Marlins series.  It is clear that the officiating is also to blame.  The Fox announcers must have been watching different games than the ones I was viewing.  I have never seen such bad judgment on the part of the umpires in both series.  The umpires lost control of the Boston series clearly last Saturday, and they had the opportunity to get the fan off the hook in Wrigley Field by calling fan interference.

It is absolutely unforgivable that the umpires did not eject anyone during the brawling incident in Boston last Saturday.  Someone has to explain that to all the fans.  Either the umpires are under enormous pressure to keep fan interest at all cost, or they need some better training in making quick courageous and fair decisions.  I think that the problem is a little of both.  The umpires had little or no risk in calling fan interference in Wrigley Field in game 6. At least 90% of the TV audience and close to 100% of the fans at the game would have been happy with the call, and it would have been the right call.  The Marlins on the field would surely have argued vigorously, but most of the baseball fans in the civilized world would have supported the call.

The umpires had plenty of time to discuss the play and make the right decision, given the circumstances.  Making the wrong decision instead was horrible judgment.  By sticking to their original decision in an attempt to show umpire “integrity,” they have shown that the integrity of baseball and its officiating is a complete sham.

But I am thrilled about the results for another reason.  Fox is now stuck with the Marlins in the World Series, instead of the Cubs.  And not having the Cubs in the Series will cost Fox and Rupert Murdoch millions of dollars.  The Cubs would have brought a much greater audience to the World Series.

Fox, the “fair and balanced” conglomerate, made a very bad business decision.  The Cubs/Marlins series had better ratings, and therefore was usually the prime time game.  But for some strange reason, Fox chose their second broadcast team to cover the series.  Instead of Joe Buck and Tim McCarver, we got Tom Brennehan, Steve Lyons and Al Leiter.  Not exactly household names.  More importantly, the Cubs had fired Brennehan, Lyons was an ex-Sox player, and Leiter had played with the Marlins championship team.  Not exactly a “fair and balanced” team.

Instead of appealing to an audience dominated by Cubs fans, these broadcasters consistently commented on how courageous and gutsy the Marlins were.  In the first game, the Cubs scored four runs, primarily because the Marlins center fielder misjudged two fly balls.  The Marlins shortstop made an error on an easy Sammy Sosa ground ball.  The commentators then began to emphasize what a great defensive team the Marlins had, by ending with a score of 9-8.  It was hardly a defensive battle.

After game four, where the Marlins gave up about 40 runs, this same crew became hysterical about the great defense that had given up 40 runs in four games.  To most fans, a great defense is one that wins close low-scoring games.  Not so with this clearly biased crew.  They were in there own world without any understanding what audience was listening.  I hope that comes back to bite Fox.  I am sure that this was not an intentional decision by Fox.  Nevertheless, it is a testimonial to corporate stupidity .

I invite all Cubs fans around the world and all true haters of Rupert Murdoch to boycott all sports events on Fox.  It is a protest that will hurt Fox, and may even teach baseball to think about getting some logic and sense into America’s pastime. 

After all, it’s supposed to be a GAME.

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Sheldon Drobny is co-founder of Air America Radio, providing talk radio for the majority of Americans.

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