Friday, August 1, 2014

An Open Letter to Doug Franz

(Note: For those readers not in the know, Doug Franz is the co-host of the Doug & Wolf Show-- a sports talk show on 98.7 FM on weekday mornings in the Phoenix-metro area.)
Dear Doug,

I am a longtime listener of the Doug & Wolf show and tune in faithfully every morning during my work commute from about 7:30 to 8:10.  I am also a diehard baseball fan and stats geek.  While I am also a big football fan, baseball is my first love.   During the summer months I often get frustrated at the disproportionate amount of football talk compared to baseball talk.  On some mornings I hear about nothing but football (other than Paul’s Arizona sport’s desk updates) for my entire commute.  Indeed, I often chuckle to myself around 7:50 or so when you say, “Coming up at 8:00, the mandatory football fix,” as though you hadn’t already been talking about football for the previous 20 minutes.

It is for this reason that I am compelled to present a counterargument to the thesis you presented this morning that listeners want to hear you guys talk about football more than baseball.  (I know that oversimplifies what you were saying, but that was the gist of it.)

First off, I should point out that I understand that when you say, “you” want to hear about football, you mean the collective “you,” as opposed to me, specifically.  (I’m not a psychopath.)  Given the nature of your job I get that the radio station has a responsibility to cater programming to the majority of listeners.  And perhaps it is true that overall more listeners want to hear about football than baseball, but I would conjecture that people who are sports fans generally would love to hear more about baseball during baseball season.

The argument you gave for people not caring about baseball as much as football seemed faulty.  As proof of this disinterest in baseball you pointed out that only 20,000 people attended last night’s Diamondbacks – Pirates game.  The implication here was that since the Cardinals sell out the 63,400-seat University of Phoenix Stadium for every game, but only 20,000 chose to go to this particular Dbacks game, people in this town are more interested in football. 

But let’s think about the mathematics of this premise.  Cardinals fans have only eight opportunities to see their team at home during the regular season every year; if they sell out every game, that adds up to an annual attendance of 507,200.  Diamondbacks fans have 81 opportunities to see their team at home during the regular season every year.  Even if they only brought in 20,000 fans per game (and that’s a very low estimate) that still adds up to 1,620,000 seats filled for the season—or more than three times as many as will have attended Cardinals games.  (And obviously, in both cases, a large amount of this number is repeat fans.)

The other point that should not be lost here is that since the Cardinals only have eight home games, each game takes on the quality of being a special event much more so than a random Diamondbacks game among 81 home games.  And let’s keep in mind that seven of the Cardinals’ eight games last year were played on a Sunday, making it much easier for people to attend.  The fact that only 20,000 people attended a Diamondbacks game on a weekday night, two-thirds of the way through a season in which they are currently 13 games below .500, when most people have work the next morning, and many kids are already back in school,  does not somehow prove that people have no interest in baseball—it proves that people have lives that need attention and perhaps they’ve already been to five Diamondbacks games this season (which quickly gets expensive for a middle class family of four) so it didn’t seem like the best idea to go to this particular one.  (Okay, it doesn’t actually prove that last part, but you get my point.)

Another argument you gave to prove your point, which seemed riddled with illogic was (and I’m paraphrasing here), “Would more people watch a World Series between the Pirates and Brewers (as though it were 1997—and yes, I know you noted the fallacy of that pairing) or a Super Bowl between the Steelers and Packers?”  First off, the Steelers and Packers are two of the most storied franchises in the history of football and the Brewers and Pirates are, well…not their baseball equivalents.  Secondly, the Super Bowl is an event that has become an annual cultural touchstone, for which the entire country practically shuts down for that one day.  The World Series takes place over the course of a week or two, and again, the final game could be played on a random weekday night, so there would be no way it could garner the type of ratings that the Super Bowl could. 

Having said all this—and man, I said way more than I set out to—I have no idea if people would switch the channel more so if you were talking about Andrew McCutchen than if you were talking about Ben Roethlisberger.  My hunch is you may already have some folks switching the channel because of football talk overload, but hey, you can’t please all of the people all of the time.

Personally, I won’t switch despite not getting the level of baseball talk I desire, because I enjoy the witty repartee between you and Wolf and you never know when your partner is going to go rogue, which is always amusing.  Of course, the second you guys start talking about hockey the radio gets turned off, so thanks for doing that only four times per year.

Respectfully yours,