Hesitation is the word that nails down my initial feeling about a Major League Baseball franchise coming to Salt Lake City, and about howling at the moon over it, too. It’s not because I don’t believe Utah would be a fantastic place for that to happen, rather on account of the fact that, after living here for going on four decades now, SLC is my adopted hometown.
And I’ve never wanted to be a homer. Call me anything else — an idiot, a dope, a goofball, a fool — and many of you have — but … no, not a homer.
Although it’s become both a bane and normalized in modern media in so many forms and forums to root for the favored home team, that’s what amateurs do. I’d rather be an idiot. It’d be objectionable and unthinkable, like a political columnist or commentator rooting for a particular politician or party. Oops, so that’s a bad example these days.
Anyway, it comes to credibility. If a reporter or editorialist is truly biased in his or her evaluation of what’s going on, before the first keystroke is hit, then how can anything that comes thereafter be taken as serious reporting or commentary? Populists, or people who want to be popular, will often go with what they figure their audience wants to hear, not what it should hear. I’d rather be a dope.
Here’s the thing, though: Salt Lake City is ready to be called up to the majors.
It is now the 29th-ranked media market in America, which is bigger than a number of cities that already have MLB franchises, and it’s growing fast. It’s a place, apparently, where a whole lot of people actually want to live, want to make a living, want to hang out in, want to recreate, want to raise a family, want to go to sporting events.
It has an increasing corporate base. It has potential owners who have not only money, but also experience in running a professional team. Anybody who thinks Gail Miller and the people around her aren’t willing and capable of owning and running a top-level pro baseball team hasn’t been paying attention. When that woman furrows her brow and determines something should be done, needs to be done, can be done … well, she’s worth listening to.
What potential baseball city wouldn’t want Dale Murphy pushing for the cause? That’s exactly what 2-time NL MVP Murph is doing for Salt Lake. Not only was he a great player, he was a better dude, one fans of all kinds and all teams respected.
Baseball itself respected the man.
More significantly, other owners, many of them, in both the American and National leagues want to expand and for good reason. The same reason most things are done in pro sports: cha-ching, cha-ching. New clubs would — will — bring in at least a couple billion dollars per, all to the benefit of the others.
There’s also another opportunity for our hometown — to lure in an unhappy team from another city. Not a fan of stealing teams from other communities, but unhappiness does exist — in Oakland (where the A’s could be headed to Vegas), in Tampa, in who knows where else.
The final component to this equation is what has already been hinted at — the fans here. Not only are there a lot of them, a growing number of them, but there’s the passion they’ve exhibited in other realms.
The Jazz are a prime example. The team has never won a championship and yet it is a huge draw, never having lost its appeal to Utahns, even this past season when it was obvious to anyone with eyes to see, with a brain to think, that the front office wanted to lose. It tried to lose, trading away nearly every player, other than the young ones showing promise for the future, but the folks actually controlling what was happening on the floor would not relent. The coaches and players busted their humps to keep forging on.
Utah fans love that stuff and they buy into it.
There’s a strong chance that any expansion team located here would suck at least for a while. And if it did, if the people on the field worked hard to make it better, fans here, unlike fans in many other locations, would embrace that, even as they would loathe the losing.
College football is huge in Utah, on any given Saturday during the fall drawing well in excess of 100,000 paying spectators. If an MLB team was anywhere near as successful as Utah and BYU football, the fans would run to games. April is a little iffy when it comes to weather, but that’s the case in many baseball towns. And few of them offer the beauty and pleasantry of summer and early fall days and nights here.
If that sounds like it was written by a homer, shush my mouth. If it sounds like someone who’s telling the truth about the state of sports and fandom up and down the Wasatch Front, then believe it and buy into it.
I’ve already done both.
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