Glenn Beck uses MLB’s video platfrom to spew his bile. So what?

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I’ve been trying to avoid this — and other outlets have been talking about it already, including my compadre Rick Chandler over at Off the Bench — but the PR guy from this group keeps emailing me about it so why the heck not.

The group in question is Americans United for Change* and the change for which they have united is to get Glenn Beck off whatever airwaves will still have him.

Major League Baseball has become one of their targets because the interactive arm of the league — MLB Advanced Media — provides the streaming video platform for Beck’s loopy webcasts.  The goal: to get the owners and GMs meeting in Milwaukee this week to dump Beck.  They’re running radio ads in Milwaukee this week and have a petition drive going, trying to get MLB to act.

I think Beck is one of the biggest clowns on the planet. That’s not even a partisan thing. If I was a hardcore conservative I’d find him awful because he does a terrible job of advocating legit conservative views.  That’s because he’s not terribly interested in them. He’s just an unhinged attention-seeking freakazoid who is laughable at best and downright toxic at worst, but does not seem to care as long as he can sell some books and snag a paycheck. He could be in favor of a cancer cure and he’d probably do a horribly counterproductive job of pushing his agenda.

But that’s America, right?  There are all kinds of people like Glenn Beck, even if they’re not as (decreasingly) popular. They send out their silly newsletters and show up on radio shows and reserve time on cable access television. And we don’t seek to have the postal service, Kinkos, WBUT radio and the Hooterville Municipal Cable Company boot them from their client lists.  They’re the medium, not the message, and as the saying goes, don’t kill the medium provider.  At least that’s how I think it goes.

I hate Glenn Beck but I love that Major League Baseball takes his money and uses it to make their stats page better. And to work on the research that one day may allow MLBAM to unlock the secret to letting people embed videos from last night’s game (one day soon, I know it!).  Their doing so doesn’t constitute an endorsement of Glenn Beck. And even if you can spin it that way, it’s not a really significant endorsement. Heck, the most famous baseball player in the world spoke at a Glenn Beck rally last year and that didn’t help Beck stay relevant. I’m not sure that some boring video platform agreement is going to do any better.

So good for Americans United for Change for doing something they believe to be important. I just have a hard time seeing it being all that important.

*Note: the name of any piece of legislation or any political action group is almost 100% guaranteed to be misleading in the extreme. If a bill is proposed called the “Everyone Gets Free Pizza and Hugs Act,” watch out because it likely hides horrors behind its euphemistic name. If a group speaks of “united” Americans, rest assured that it only represents a motivated but small number of folks who are absolutely not united with the folks who think about things differently than them.  Just sayin’!  

The Braves are not just a baseball team. They’re a real estate company too.

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I’ve taken the Braves to task quite a bit in this space lately. This post and then, later, this post got a lot of attention, both from Braves fans who agree and nod their head and those who disagree and think I’m an overly cynical bad fan or whatever.

I don’t think I’m a bad fan or that I’m cynical. I just look at the facts on the ground and draw conclusions from them. The overarching fact that seems to matter here — separate and apart from any individual move or non-move the Braves front office makes — is that the Braves, as an organization, have interests other than winning baseball games and those interests, in turn, cannot help but impact the Braves’ approach to winning baseball games.

Interests like real estate. As the Cobb Business Journal reported yesterday, the Braves are involved in a complex bond transaction, the details of which bore me, but the upshot of which is that the Braves are building office towers:

The Development Authority of Cobb County signed off on a necessary step for the Braves to get the loan on Tuesday . . . Jonathan Smith, deputy general counsel for the Braves, said at Tuesday’s meeting that the project will span about four acres owned by the Braves. About half the land is being leased by Thyssenkrupp for the R&D tower, which the German conglomerate will own.

The other half will house the office building, which the Braves are building and will own, according to Smith. Half the office building is being leased to Thyssenkrupp, Smith said, and the other half is being leased to other companies, though no tenants have been announced yet.

This is all part of the Battery complex which surrounds SunTrust Park and in which the Braves — through a vehicle called Braves Development Company — have a substantial interest. When you appreciate the magnitude of that development and the sort of revenue the Braves are realizing from it now and will realize in the future, it’s hard not to conclude that the Braves did not get SunTrust Park built for them simply or even primarily to become a more competitive baseball team. They got it built for them so that they can become a real estate development company that happens to have a baseball team as one of its many components.

And don’t think that that the relationship between the development and the ball club is some weak and attenuated thing. Check out the Braves’ org chart, as set forth on MLB.com, with my highlight added:

Whatever the legal relationship is between Braves Development Company and the baseball team, both entities answer to Terry McGuirk, apparently on equal footing based on the titles of the people who run them. As such, when McGuirk says, as he did last week, that he “couldn’t be more optimistic” about the Atlanta Braves, it makes one wonder if he means the baseball team or the overall venture, only one part of which is concerned with baseball. Indeed, one of his answers to the question about why all the increased revenues aren’t being plowed into the team was “it costs a lot to build this edifice.” That answer was likely more literal than most people understood.

Sure, the Braves want to win — I truly believe them when they say they want to — but achieving that desire is far less critical to the Braves, financially speaking, than it would be if they did not have office towers to build, own and lease out with favorable tax treatment and other governmental assistance. The hit from missing the playoffs, for example, is a drop in the bucket compared to what it might’ve been back when they played in Turner Field or Fulton County Stadium. At the same time, money that is realized by the Braves, their real estate ventures, or both, can be used in any number of ways. Maybe the baseball team is the priority sometimes. Maybe it’s not.

Observing that does not make one cynical. The Braves are a baseball team with real estate interests. Or maybe they’re a real estate company with baseball interests. The proper way to characterize that depends on a lot of stuff about their financials and their priorities the Braves are likely unwilling to share with us, but it’s a simple fact that they have priorities that have little if anything to do with baseball. It’s fair game, then, to question the organization’s priorities when scrutinizing the baseball decisions they make.