Here's some shocking news: Lots of women go to major league baseball games. In fact, according to a study from the commissioner's office, the average stadium crowd is 46 percent female. Not just that, but women often control the family finances. What? Apparently, commissioner Bud Selig has just figured out that wives, moms and other female significant others have decision-making power in their families. Natch, Selig, once handed those amazing and seemingly never-before-documented facts, went right to work on how to better serve all those female sports fans. Oh, and, along the way, his creative marketing suggestions might just enhance revenue.
Something has to be done, because while women attend baseball games, they're still not "fans" in the way men are. Just 67 percent of the women surveyed in the study could name a single player on their hometown squad.
"Although women easily identify baseball as one of their favorites and one of the best sports for the family, they have a much more difficult time translating this belief into the behavior of an active fan," Selig wrote in a memo accompanying the study. "While they can talk about baseball's positive traits in the abstract, women often do not relate the game and the ballpark experience to the needs of their daily lives."
I'm not really sure how I, a baseball fan, relate the game to the needs of my daily life, which I consider more along the lines of food, shelter and bedtime rolling around for a 4-year-old without a fight. Nor am I sure what Selig means by that part of his statement, but I'm pretty sure I know what he means by "active fan": one who shells out. Along those lines, he has some great ideas on how to bring ladies into the stadium and get them to use their sway over the family budget to buy some souvenirs.
Let's take a look at Selig's ideas one by one:
Each team should create a "Father of the Year" award. I'm not sure how this will get women to the ballpark. Stand by your man during the seventh-inning stretch?
Major League Baseball should establish a promotion in which each mother or grandmother would get a reduced-price ticket on Mother's Day -- or the next home Sunday if the team is traveling -- if accompanied by child. Are they going to ask for an I.D. at the gate? Hey, you're just an aunt, no discount for you! If I were Selig, I'd take it one step further: Set up a day-care corner so moms can actually watch the game instead of spending three and a half hours shuttling from the bathroom to the concession stand, with races around the ballpark's perimeter thrown in for fun.
Teams should create updated "Ladies' Nights" with reduced-price tickets and merchandise for women. Do you get a free bleacher seat if you wear a bikini top and promise to pretend it's Mardi Gras?
Baseball should create a "women's corner" on its Web site. This is one of my favorites. Sample topics: Make stadium-quality hot dogs at home -- our secret to perfecting the soggy bun. Ten stats to impress your man. Plus: Baseball's biggest bats model their team's sexiest logo-wear.
Teams should invite prominent female reporters for "insider" tours of ballparks. Look, ladies, this is how you get to the luxury boxes. Have you ever seen a bullpen before? Do you know what that is? Here's the dugout where the players sit when their team is up ... and look, ladies, this is where the players parade around naked!
Teams and the commissioner's office should try to get women-oriented cable stations to cover baseball. Baseball on TV: Braves vs. Mets, 7:30 p.m., Oxygen; with Oprah. Between-inning discussions on five-minute miracles. Ways to enhance your self-esteem during pitching changes.
Teams and the commissioner's office should pitch player personality stories to morning and daytime talk shows and to lifestyle sections of newspapers. This would be great! Go right for "The View." Meredith, Joy, Star, Lisa and (sometimes) Barbara discuss the merits of slugging percentage vs. batting average when choosing players for their fantasy league. But wait. The girls have a very different idea of what a "fantasy" league is.
And "lifestyle" sections? Hmm. I worked at one of those dinosaurs we call newspapers and know that they are constantly trying to redesign or "refocus" those sections. Why? Because women don't read them. Such sections may have worked in the June Cleaver days, or even in the Carol Brady days, but I'd be surprised if there were still tons of women interested in "women's interest" stories by the time Marsha (Maureen McCormack) gave up acting to talk to teens about birth control.
A word of caution, too, Mr. Selig, on sending players out into the world of talk shows. You might want to vet the players before they go on-air. Otherwise, you never know what they might say, what dirty little secrets baseball's delicate fans might find distasteful if they popped up in an interview. If your screening turns up something questionable, you can always do what Dick Cheney did and show up on "Rosie" yourself.
Finally, "It's OK to be corny," the report assures. "Women aren't looking for baseball to be like basketball or football."
Maybe MLB should take its cue from that. Instead of turning the stadium into a mall with more merchandise for women -- in more colors and with smaller logos -- it should concentrate on its best lure for women: the game itself.