I’ve long been of the belief that baseball should not try to market itself as hip. It should accentuate the positives, hide the negatives. The positive: baseball will always be the North American sports leader in nostalgia. Even though it doesn’t hit home with kids on the surface (games are too long, games are on too late, wooden bats and gloves are expensive etc.), by the time these kids are older, they’ll likely be nostalgic for something they didn’t even really like in the first place. Think Saved by the Bell or Frosted Mini-Wheats.
Baseball is just different and it needs to own that fact. It needs to corner the market in nostalgia and what triggers nostalgia more than smells?
The smell of freshly cut grass? Baseball’s got it. The smell of hot dogs and sausage fresh off the grill that reminds you of a more innocent time in America’s history, when hot dogs and sausage weren’t entirely thought of as a health hazard and immediate heart attack causer? Baseball’s got it. The smell of stale beer that reminds you of grinding with husky girls on the dance floor in the basement of a college frat house? Baseball’s got it.
Baseball’s also got Jim Leyland, the manager of the Detroit Tigers, whose team is currently playing the Red Sox in the American League Championship Series. Leyland looks and smells like he smokes cigarettes in the dugout, frankly because he SMOKES CIGARETTES IN THE DUGOUT (see photo above). With America currently in love with cigarette nostalgia (Mad Men, anyone?), MLB should take advantage and market itself as the only sport where it’s acceptable to smoke cigarettes while watching, or hell, while playing (just kidding … sorta, kinda).
Leyland could be baseball’s modern day Marlboro Man, or at least its Joe Camel. His face could be plastered on every outfield wall in the majors, vaguely implying that baseball stadiums are a smoker’s friend. This won’t happen, of course, because of things like laws. There are no cigarette ads to be seen on TV, all cigarette machines have been removed from your favorite dive bar and most smoking sections at ballparks have been removed.
At Comerica Park in Detroit, smoking has been banned since May 1, 2010, but according to Detroit4lyfe.com, Leyland got in one last dig at progressive America. He smoked the last cigarette at the ballpark. Partially for nostalgic purposes, but mainly because he needed it to survive.
“I’ve got till 6 a.m.,” Leyland said the day before the ban went into effect. “It might be two cartons. I don’t know.”
Follow Metro Boston sports editor and columnist Matt Burke on Twitter @BurkeMetroBOS