There’s a tendency in sports for athletes with fame and cachet to want to take their skills outside the lines to Hollywood. It’s why elite physical geniuses like Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens spend their time ingratiating themselves on middling reality shows, and why Shaq, back when he was doing pretty well in Orlando—as well as a multi-millionaire bachelor with no state income tax can do—split for LA and stardom and a series of unintentionally hilarious movies. Advertising-wise, sports is a cloistered but healthy part of the entertainment landscape, and the popularity of live athletic competition with the 18-to-49 male demo translates into more ad bucks, which means bigger TV contracts, which means richer athletes, which means a better talent pool.
All this money comes from the simple fact that people like sports—not everyone, but all types of people. Only a complete idiot would say that the millions of fine folks who follow teams every day, pay with money for schwag and with time for content, are all or even overwhelmingly male. The coverage and ads might skew that way, but in reality baseball especially has had a rich association with both the counterculture and feminist spheres.
Many of us who watch sports—punkers, women, people with necks—put up with all sorts of delivery BS just for the on-field action. We’re used to moralizing announcers, racially-tinged analysis, subtle and obvious sexism, and the lot, but something about Baseball Boyfriend, a new low-intensity fantasy baseball game designed by A View from the Seats (whoever they are) and CBS Sports, who are usually outstanding, seems wronger than the normal course of things.
The game, described as “a single draftee fantasy sports mini game designed for those who love baseball players,” seems simple enough on first glance, if you discount the app name and stick only to the aforementioned description. But it looks worse on second glance and absolutely putrid after about 30 seconds of cursory research. In the game, you pick “the hottest player” to put in your “little black book,” and if “he stays past noon,” he’s your Baseball Boyfriend “for the night” (how risqué!). If he “can’t perform,” you can “dump him”—though, rest assured, said player sticks around in your “dating history” as a “past boyfriend.” All that’s missing is a pink hat.
Now, to be fair, it might be all some sort of joke, but they are charging for it. (If you pay for it, I don’t think that’s a “boyfriend,” honey.) The app’s founder says it’s a “game my wife originally created for her and her friends,” and while it appears to be marketed for girls, what with the handwriting and middle-school-esque hearts, the number of strange and downright confusing double-entendres make me wonder. (Per Frank’s Twitter, several guys are “set up” for 2012, though there’s no mention of any of that on either site description.)
So much sports coverage is broadly insulting, though as it’s always been, the game is the thing. Folks will deal with bad announcing, moralizing, cheese-dripping ads, and worse for the privilege to watch real-time competition among elites. But the game here is awful, and the delivery is worse.
Following sports will never be for everyone, and just as there’s no blueprint to be a fan, there’s no right way to be a female fan: There’s as much room for Grady’s Ladies as there is for Women in SABR, as there is for everything in between, and it’s certainly not my decision or interest how any of that manifests itself.
But there are respectful ways to sell baseball, the world’s most insane and best game, to girls, just as there are respectful ways to sell it to hippies, football fans, skinheads, and the French. If you think Baseball Boyfriend is selling America’s pastime the right way, just imagine what the outcry would be over an app called WNBA Girlfriend.