The New York Times ran an editorial this week commenting on the decision by the Supreme Court earlier the week not to hear Major League Baseball Advanced Media's appeal of a Federal Court of Appeals ruling that Major League Baseball cannot charge Fantasy Baseball Leagues licensing fees for using statistics and likenesses of Major League Baseball players. The case was decided on First Amendment grounds. Curiously and remarkably, the major sports websites - SI.com, ESPN.com, FoxSports.com, Yahoo Sports, AOL Sports (for whom I am a columnist) -- either neglected to carry the story or gave it a quick on-screen-off-screen AP report. I guess if it's not dog fighting, paternity suits or a lesbian kiss it doesn't count as sports news.
If find the whole thing appalling.
Baseball is sport that has just gone through ( and is still going through) its most shameful period. It's still not clear whether the owners and management and players willfully colluded or negligently perpetrated a fraud known as "The Steroid Era" on its fans, but it's certainly one or the other. Yet it's not enough that they jacked ticket prices so high that it's no longer "affordable family entertainment." It's not enough they strong-armed local taxpayers to build their stadiums. It's not enough that total MLB revenues have skyrocketed. It's not enough that the new MLB Network is getting all kinds of government assistance to build it's empire in New York City. But that they want to make fans pay for the right to do something the fans themselves invented -- that MLB sued fans for right to impose these fees -- is beyond the pale.
Look, I think fantasy leagues dumb down the fandom, making them focus on highlights instead of the total game, team concepts or who actually won the game. But the fantasy movement is a boon to every professional sport. It not only intensifies the interest of already committed fans but, more importantly, it gets wat might otherwise be passive or causal fans to invest emotionally in their product. Fantasy fans consume more sports media, post on more sports websites, know more player's names, etc. Why would you want to discourage this?
The NBA and NFL publicly voiced support for MLB's legal action. Now, all three lose tens of thousands of dollars in licensing fees that many fantasy league operators were voluntarily paying. As one commenter on an AOL Fanhouse blog wrote: "Pigs get fat and hogs get eaten." That about sums it up.