Another year of Mets baseball means another year of commercials on SNY. I already pointed out the one that bothered me the most, and happily, I succeeded in turning that all around. In my house when that door pops open, before Mr. Doctor gets to say anything, we yell out, “It’s Scott Rice,” or “It’s John Lannan.” We have stolen the message on that one.
But that spot is only one of many cringe-inducing minutes that take place every game. One example is good old David I. Pankin, Bankruptcy Lawyer. The “highlight” is when Pankin, auditioning for a part as a smarmy Gilbert Gottfried gushes:
“The great thing about bankruptcy is it’s a federal law.”
Yes, nothing makes me prouder to be an American than waking up every morning knowing I have the right to abandon my personal responsibilities. Later in the commercial there is a picture of a group of beaming people, who I assume are all broke, and every time I keep expecting Fred and Saul to be in that shot. They had to be airbrushed out, right?
The commercials for the Hall of Fame are, to me, particularly telling and clueless. The 10-year-old kid mooning, “I can’t believe we saw Hank Aaron’s uniform and Rickey Henderson’s cleat!” For starters, even if you happen to be the only 10-year-old on the planet who is a huge Rickey Henderson fan, staring at the cleat is not exactly a big thrill. Secondly, these kids don’t give a rat’s ass about Rickey Henderson. Third, Hank Aaron’s . . . uniform? His uniform?! Was a bat too obvious? Oh, the highlights!
Father: Look at this, Sport.
Little Timmy: It’s Babe Ruth’s jockstrap!
Father: That’s right, son. And in Sniff-O-Rama, too!
Little Timmy (inhales deeply): Wow, Dad. I smell cigars, booze, and stale semen!
Father (grins): Come along, son. Here’s one of the syringes that Roger Clemens used to pump himself up with steroids.
Little Timmy: Gosh, Dad!
Father: Think about it, Sport. That needle was actually sticking halfway out of Roger Clemens’ ass!
Little Timmy: That’s what I call a Hall-of-Famer!
Father (places arm around son): Not yet, Timmy. But mark my words, he’ll be voted in one of these days.
I mean to say: The Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown is outdated, out-of-touch, and dull as dishwater. As a museum for children, it sucks. Sorry, it does. I know there are many who hold it close to their hearts, and I understand that. But I contend that those are your feelings for the game itself, a lifetime of memories and attachments, rather than in response to the museum. Which is cramped, crowded, and in need of a major updating and overhaul.
You go there and read plaques and index cards, look at old bats and catcher’s gear. It’s like wandering onto the show, “American Pickers” and suddenly you are right there, sorting through the crap in Grandpa’s attic.
My son — co-captain of his freshman baseball team, btw — had little interest in the place. And we even slept there overnight, right below Tom Seaver’s plaque.
In contrast, he loved the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, MA. There’s a huge court where kids can shoot around. There’s an interactive area, where fans can try their hand a sportscasting (it’s harder than it looks). There’s stuff to do. Meanwhile, baseball has a “hall” of fame. And it’s literally a hall. With, yes, a bunch of bronze plaques. In a hall. You are supposed to go in there and feel the awe, but it’s boring to anyone other than a deep baseball historian. A kid should be able to go to Cooperstown and stand in against a 3-D projection of Randy Johnson throwing a slider, a batting machine that simulates a Nolan Ryan fastball. Something, anything! So when I see that commercial selling sentiment, the father sharing a special moment with his son, I think: No wonder why the sport is failing with young people. All they can think to sell is misty-eyed nostalgia.
I had a similar experience with my son. When he was eleven we went to Springfield and spent an entire day at the Basketball Hall of a Fame. When he was twelve we tried Cooperstown. After two hours he wanted out. The next year we went back for a second trip to Springfield. A few years later, we were right by the HOF, looking at local colleges. Matt had no interest in shooting over to the place, even for a brief visit. I understood. The information on the plague’s, there is this thing called the Internet now. You can read all that stuff anywhere, right on your phone. And that is mostly what the Hall of Fame is still selling, walls of stuff to read.
What is unfortunate about this is that the city of Cooperstown has re-invented itself as a bastion for youth baseball. They host multiple weekly Little League tournaments all summer, and a ton of kids from all over the country participate. The week I was there the kids all couldn’t wait to get out of the Hall of Fame and go play paintball. These were hardcore baseball kids — kids who played on multiple baseball teams.
Those kids are all in their early 20’s now, and plenty of nights a few of them come by to watch a game with Matt at our house. A basketball game, that is. Not once have any of them come over to watch a baseball game.
Sure, it’s silly to blame that on the Hall of Fame, but I do find the place symbolic of baseball’s out of touch relationship with young fans. When I see that commercial, what I find accurate is the very beginning and the very end. When it begins, that boy is glum, he seems as excited to be heading to Cooperstown as Leavensworth. At the end he is chipper, which also makes sense. He is done with the place, the experience is behind him. A weight has been lifted from his shoulders.
The commercial reminded me of what kids really love about the Hall of Fame.