Should the Arizona Diamondbacks and the LA Dodgers be playing the MLB season opener for 2014 in Australia?
I've been listening to the radio all week and whenever this game has been mentioned, this has been the question posed by pundits and presenters alike.
Their overwhelming answer is no. Baseball is America's pastime and it shouldn't be opened in another country, certainly not one with such a massive time difference.
It's not good for the players having to adjust, it's not good for the TV audiences or the fans, which means it isn't good for money.
In fact several of the pundits said that they would have declined to go if they were still playing.
We're not talking about not having a game outside of the US but whether or not it should start outside of it. No other sport does, does it?
Well, actually, one does.
Not the most popular of motor sports in America but certainly one of the most fun, Indycar flips their schedule around all of the time. The last time it started outside of America was 2009 in Brazil.
But for the most part, every single American sport starts in America. Now there is an argument that such a high profile game will do wonders for spreading the word of the game and expanding the MLB franchise.
The MLB, in much the same way the NFL has, is trying to give more notoriety to their brand internationally. And you've got to believe that if Roger Goodell could get away with starting an NFL game in another country, he totally would.
Another point though is if this is the right time for Australia to pay attention to basketball. The game is quite popular there but completely pales in comparison to Cricket and the Aussie Rules.
The World Twenty20 is currently taking place so surely there is much more focus for Australians on that competition compared to the length of a baseball game. Regardless of any preference for test cricket.
A further question to ask is if these two teams are the right ones for the game? The biggest draw of Australia would be that other countries around the area who also follow baseball could go to see it. Especially if they had a vested interest in it.
Having been to Tokyo, I can tell you that the Japanese are quite baseball crazy. Although the distance isn't particularly small, you would hope that a key game could get a devoted crowd, as long as there was a vested interest in it. In that regard, the Yankees would have been perfect for this game.
The argument for games abroad is always a bit contentious in America despite their obvious financial success and popularity. The rise of the NFL's international series and the NBA in the UK has certainly pricked up the ear of many a sporting governing body which knows that to survive, they must expand.
The trick is to find a place where the casual fan or patron will go. Not the hardcore 2,000-3,000 but the undecided 5,000-7,000 that are harder to get. In a way, it's quite like asking people to vote in elections. You can't make them go, even though you want their vote, but convincing them that just going will make the difference, regardless of the outcome, is more preferable than not at all.
It'll be interesting to see the crowd in Australia and elsewhere should other games move abroad, and to see if it's a formula that sticks or is put to the sword to appease MLB's number one customer, Americans.
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