Major League Baseball Owners
We live in an age of euphemisms, or as the Scoreboard prefers to call them, "cover phrases"--- rhetorical deceits that make harsh reality sound less forbidding or like something else entirely. The current popular cover phrase is "undocumented immigrants," avoiding that harsh but absolutely accurate word "illegal." "Undocumented" makes it sound as if the immigrants who eluded the Border Patrol just misplaced their library cards or were the innocent victims of a clerical error, and shame on any news organ that is so craven as to use the term. Now Major League Baseball teams are using a new cover phrase that is absolutely intended to deceive consumers, though a consumer would have to be a pretty dim bulb not to see what's going on.
You see, baseball teams in Denver, Toronto, and Oakland have begun the practice of closing off thousands of seats in the pursuit of "intimacy"…that charming feeling of involvement experienced by spectators at cramped old ballparks like Fenway and Wrigley, where fans are packed in like sardines and nobody can feel their legs after the fourth inning. But the clubs' actions have nothing to do with intimacy and everything to do with pushing ticket buyers into the more expensive seats. It is always the cheap seats that get roped off, after all…gee, I wonder why that is? Could it be that when a large ball park is not selling all its seats, and a team's fans know they can show up five minutes before game time and get into the bleachers, it is in a team's financial interests to make tickets scarce? You betcha!
There's nothing unethical about this practice, of course. The teams can charge what they want and put on sale as many or as few tickets available as they choose. That's capitalism, and Adam Smith would put down his hot dog and applaud it. In the Scoreboard's humble view, baseball teams would be smarter to increase the number of cheap seats so families could afford to bring their children to the games without having to take out a second mortgage. If a kid isn't a baseball fan by the time he or she is eleven, it's probably a lost cause, at least until the kid hits 65. But the issue isn't sales tactics; it's lying.
If all seats cost exactly the same, then cutting off the distant seats would indeed promote intimacy, and nothing else. The seats don't cost the same, however, and eliminating cheap seats drives up the average cost of tickets. The baseball owners are eliminating seats for the same reason they do absolutely everything else…inter-league play, more play-off teams, night games, domes, luxury boxes, no double-headers, ignoring steroids, testing for steroids…to make as much money as possible. Issuing press releases that use cover phrases like "promoting intimacy" to disguise a commercial tactic that is enshrined in Economics 101 as classic demand and price manipulation is not just dishonest…it's insulting that they would expect to be believed.