Sunday, March 15, 2009

Respecting the Game

Nuke: How come you don't like me?
Crash: Because you don't respect yourself, which is your problem. But you don't respect the game, and that's my problem.

- Bull Durham

On April 12th, 2002, on the original site, I raved about a new independent program/scorecard that I had just found:
The Little Things

A progressive rock radio station I can listen to while driving to work. A sauna in my health club that is truly hot. Hometown beers that I really like. A body of water within walking distance. I've come to the conclusion that a lot of the things I value the most are little, but are big enough that I can't really control. They're the icing on the cake.

I found a new one yesterday at the Twins game - Gameday, a $1 independent program and scorecard which is being sold across the street from the Metrodome prior to each game. If you like this website, you will LOVE this magazine.

It's exactly the program I want to have at a Twins game and I'll not only be buying one at every game, I wouldn't be surprised if I end up going to a couple of extra games this year because of it.

That year, while I was getting – at most – twenty to thirty hits per day on this site, I wrote to GameDay and volunteered to write for various issues, and I did so on and off again over the next year or two.

Four years later, I received an email from Tom Genrich, one of GameDay’s founders. He asked me if I had any interest in becoming the editor and a partial owner, and we met over a beer at Dan Kelly’s to discuss it. I suspected it would go well. We were both fans of each other’s work.

But as I sat across from Tom, it seemed like the enormous mirror behind the bar was playing tricks. I was staring at myself in that booth. We had both been doing the same thing, starting at the same time, but in different products.

We both had scars we were reluctant to show. We had both had dedicated way too much time to our passion. And we both admitted that the passion was fueled as much by anger and disgust as by love. We were driven by coverage that didn't respect the game.

That's a term that's used in relation to ballplayers, but it's applicable to baseball writers, announcers and promoters, too. Tom and his brothers were fed up with the overpriced, glossy, vapid programs that dominated most ballparks in the 80s and 90s. So were a lot of baseball fans. Independent programs and scorecards had been popping up in all kinds of major league cities at that time.

I remember once paying $5 to get an official magazine because it had a scorecard in the middle. Fully 2/3 of the scorecard area was advertising, meaning I was essentially trying to keep score on an index card. And the kicker was that it was glossy paper, so the pencil that came with the scorecard couldn't write on it. You had to buy a $4 pen. For a baseball fan, it was not unlike an inner circle of hell.

I had been fighting the same beast only with daily coverage. The corporate dailies were determined, or at least satisfied, to cater to the lowest common denominator. I didn't start because I wanted to write this stuff. I started it because I wanted to read this stuff. And now I can, both in the blogosphere, but also in local newspapers, whose coverage is roughly 523% better than it was earlier this decade.

And MLB teams have embraced this movement with their content too. It's no longer solely promotional or blindly positive. When you lead fans out of the shallow end of the pool, they can find all kinds of facets to appreciate. Those are fans who stick with a team when they aren't divisional favorites. And I think that's what led to an agreement between GameDay and the Twins.

Today Tom and I signed a contract with the Minnesota Twins to be the exclusive content provider for their official scorecard. The heart and soul of GameDay - the Dugout Splinters insert - will now be the heart and soul of the Twins Scorecard and updated for each and every home series. And it will be sold for just $1.

I could not be more excited about this, and that excitement is largely based on how impressive the Twins have been while working out details. Twins President Dave St. Peter has shown a real commitment to providing this kind of content, and a high level of patience in dealing with a couple of baseball geeks. I think the three of us - GameDay, the local baseball blogging and writing community, and the Twins - are going to make a great team.

My favorite St. Peter moment was when he was delicately suggesting that maybe we didn't need to pack words into every square quarter-inch of the page. "We could, maybe, add a graphic someplace to break up the text?" Blasphemer. Blasphemer!!!

The change is not without some mixed emotions. While the Dugout Splinters will live on, the GameDay Program will not, or at least not this year, and I'm really going to miss some of those more in-depth stories. It also means we won't be working with some of our partners - our vendors, printers and advertisers. THANKS so much to everyone for the support you've provided GameDay over the last seven years.

But this is just too good an opportunity to pass up. Pairing the Twins organization with the talented local baseball writing community is something we've sought for years, and I hope this is nothing more than just the first step. Because there are a lot of things we can do together. And because the game is worthy of respect.


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

That is terrible news as I will miss GameDay!!!! Perhaps this is selfish of me, but the on of the reason I bought Gameday everytime was that it was INDEPENDENT from the Twins. I dont believe that i will be buying the Twins scorecard as I will not believ that it will have the same independent critical view of the organization.


John said...

Shoot. I should've addressed this in the story.

I wrestled with this quite a bit, and I'm convinced that the coverage in the Splints will remain even-handed, objective and fair, which is what we've strived for. And I can guarantee it will NOT be promotional. But both sides have worked hard, and will probably need to work hard, to maintain that quality. It will be one of the definitive factors to how long this partnership lasts. But I gotta say, I'm very optimistic.

For those who have their doubts, all I can say is: Try it. You won't be dissappointed.

Anonymous said...

Great to see your labors (of love) rewarded. Congratulations!

DrJubal said...

Congratulations! I'm excited for you all.

Will the content be available on line for those of us outside the area who don't make it to the game very often? Perhaps on a delayed basis so you don't steal your own thunder?

John said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John said...

Will the content be available on line for those of us outside the area who don't make it to the game very often?

Great idea.

One of the challenges in this new partnership will be that we need to get the text to the printer earlier than we used to. So we have discusses making sure to have updated information on a web site that readers can access on their mobile phones from the game. So we are investigating how to best make some of the content available on the 'net.

But I'll need to talk with the Twins to see how available we want to make the content that is part of the scorecard. They will own the rights. I'll make sure to look into that.

tborg said...

Will there still be a place to get peanuts before the game for half the cost inside the stadium?

Anonymous said...

Congratulations! Well earned.

beth said...

First of all, congrats! This sounds like it will be awesome for the fans.

I have season tickets. For every homestand, I bought the GameDay magazine/scorecard purely for the Dugout Splinters. (I enjoyed each magazine, but buying one each homestand meant I had multiple copies!) I'll also miss greeting the salesman before every game.

One question: will the scorecard include all the fancy stats that the Dugout Splinters insert included?

Anonymous said...

Just want to add my own "congratulations," John. I'm looking forward to seeing the finished product whenever I get around to making my first trip up to the Dome this season.

I'd second beth's question, though. I loved the in-depth stats on head-to-head matchups, etc.

I'm sure part of you must feel like you've gone over to the "Dark side," but I'm sure you'll make it all work out for yourselves, the Twins and the fans. Best of luck

SoCalTwinsfan said...

This is awesome. It says a lot for the Twins when they embrace something like this and it says a lot of the kind of quality Gameday put in each edition since the Twins are "buying out" the competition. I have no doubt of the quality, because the passion John has for the integrity of the game comes through loud and clear through this blog.

Anonymous said...

I'm so disappointed. We've been looking for GameDay on our walk to the dome and couldn't find it. I of course haven't bought an official Twins program because I prefer GameDay. While I'm glad the economy didn't cause you to fold (that was my worry), I miss the articles. Yes, I only bought one per month because I don't actually care about the scorecard - but I liked the writing! I guess I've found your website, so that will help, but I'd like to have some independant reporting at the game. I miss you guys!