Another lazy article on Florida baseball

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Nothing is worse in writing than lazy writing.

(A close second is one-sentence paragraphs.)

Lazy writing does little to help public discourse. News articles should help mold and inform public discourse. When writers are lazy, the public is fed lazy facts, then the public speaks lazy facts, and our societal discourse is hijacked by people who have little to no idea what they are talking about. Lazy writing is a scourge that better, more educated writers should push back on whenever possible.

With the Major League Baseball All-Star Game in Miami last week, the subject of Marlins attendance was in the news. Like the Rays, the Marlins have attendance problems.

There are several differences between the Rays and Marlins situations. The Marlins play in a much nicer, new ballpark. Marlins fans hate their owner, who is consistently rated as the worst in baseball. The Rays, on the other hand, have a problem with stadium location. Neither of these mean that Major League baseball cannot survive in Florida.

But that didn’t stop Associated Press writer Steven Wine from writing a hack piece on whether or not baseball “belongs in Florida”. Being that it was the Associated Press, the article was picked up far and wide, from sports blogs to national newspapers.

I can’t put out that many fires.

My biggest complaint with Wine’s article, and so many like it, is that they almost always interview the wrong people. Wine interviewed Joe Maddon, Don Mattingly, Jeff Conine, Logan Morrison, and Mike Lowell. All players or managers. Not one regional business or marketing person in an article about the business of baseball in a region. Not even someone from a local tourist board or sports commission.

That’s like asking a cook why people don’t come to a restaurant. Yes, if the food sucks, the cook could probably take a good guess, but if the food is good and no one patronizes the establishment, is the cook really the best source? Or would you interview the owner or marketing head? Or someone who studies the local economy?

And how many other business articles start with the premise that the business shouldn’t be there? Typically business cases try to solve the problem, not advocate the business giving up and leaving town.

Wine also makes several generic claims without providing any statistical evidence:

  • Like the Marlins, the Rays are … battling the kind of chronic fan apathy that has plagued both franchises
  • the failure of the Rays and Marlins to develop a robust fan base
  • Many spectators who do show up care more about the visitors — even if that means booing them.
  • One issue is the transient nature of the state, which makes it different from markets where fan support goes back generations.

While these are often said, there is no empirical evidence in the article to prove any of these statements. He passes them off as fact. I’ve written in depth about most of these topics. Did Wine reach out? Of course not. He merely stuck to the rivers and the lakes he was used to.

Then there is this garbage line:

Theories might outnumber empty seats.

This is lazy to the point of ignorant. This is admitting he didn’t want to do the research necessary for a good article. The theories don’t outnumber seats. The Rays face four problems:

  • stadium location
  • old, out-of-date stadium
  • demographics
  • market saturation

They don’t all have the same impact, but they all have an impact.

Had Wine googled “Rays attendance”, he might have found my site. Its usually the second result behind ESPN’s MLB attendance page.

I guarantee Steven Wine got paid for his article. That’s a shame. If he submitted it for a grade, any business professor would have asked him to re-write it due to bad sources and lack of research. Writing about the successful growth or lack thereof of a fanbase is a sports business issue. But when you are lazy, you interview baseball players and managers, do little research, recycle theories without fact, and fail to write the best article possible.

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