NPR Sports Story Strike Out

NPR Sports Story Strikes Out

National Public Radio’s All Things Considered aired a story on Minor League Baseball yesterday. Reporter Jeff Brady (“spends time playing tennis, gardening and remodeling his century-old home”) attributed the phenomenal growth in popularity of the minors to the adoption of “quirky,” “innovative” team names, amusing costumed mascots, and good marketing of the same.

Baseball people would fault the piece for failing to distinguish between MiLB (Major League Baseball’s “farm teams”) and the many other minor and “semi-pro” leagues, and similar sins of omission (example: Albuquerque had the Dukes long before the Isotopes arrived). I’ve got a grass-fed beef with the NPR tale because it failed to explain the rationale for the menu of minor league team names, a rationale central to the lifestyle of the NPR audience demographic and intimately related to the reason NPR Will Eat Itself.

Minor league teams choose names that emphasize their local appeal. Games are live and local, not on national networks or global satellite TV. Team members are not millionaire mercenaries who jet into town for home games; they live nearby and ride the team bus. These teams choose names that reflect local traditions, foodways, local dialects, local history and local industries.

NPR’s audience demographic includes 99% of the Locavores in the United States of America. Subscribers to affiliated stations — whether bicycle-riding grad-students, Volvo-driving retirees or Scuppie Prius owners – tend to worship the 100-Mile Diet, stampeding farmer’s markets when local heritage varieties of veggies are in season.

Ironically, NPR has convinced affiliated stations to cut locally-produced radio shows from their broadcast diets and substitute NPR’s own high-cost satellite-delivered national fare, and other public radio syndicates now distribute similar content to local stations. This national programming displaced the stations’ “heritage” programming – local music like polka and bluegrass, local news, and other region-specific content. Many NPR programs are now delivered directly to listeners by satellite radio; if SatRad gets stronger, NPR could dispense with the entire messy NPR/local affiliate structure, undercutting the local terrestrial stations.

NPR’s programs are often highly-nutritious; so are Chilean grapes. What they are not: local. Is “local” important? Ask the Toledo Mud Hens or Delmarva Shorebirds.

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