- Jeff MacGregor
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Consider this our petition for revolution.
It's time to take back the game.
In the weeks ahead, baseball will have the chance to save itself. It will not. In fact, it won't recognize that it needs saving.
That's why we have to do it.
You and I. Baseball fans.
At a moment in history when most sports coverage is reduced to nothing more than business news -- witness the deep nonsense of this possible NFL lockout; or LeBron's "Decision"; or the last million "sports" stories you read that were actually about contracts or holdouts or draft status or sponsorship deals -- we need to take and keep our national treasures out of the hands of idiots.
One of these treasures is baseball.
And history presents us right now with the happy chance to right a great wrong.
1. The ownership group of the New York Mets, through greed or stupidity or both, has lost its shirt. They've been borrowing money from Major League Baseball just to cover their payroll and operating costs. While of course presenting a brave public face and claiming to have everything under control, they're nearing forfeiture of their obligations to the league and to their creditors -- including the city and the state of New York. How you lose money on professional baseball in New York City is a question for another time. Instead, we move on to
step 2. in which we ask the governor and the mayor to seize the team as a public good, to prevent a valuable asset from being lost or squandered or sheltered offshore. This might be done in any number of ways, including as a matter of "eminent domain" through the office of the Attorney General, or as an act of "martial law," or as an emergency intervention on the part of Child Protective Services, in order that our children not be subjected to another season of graceless, hapless, joyless baseball. Having done so we then
3. sue Major League Baseball to revise its ownership rules, which would then allow us to
4. sell shares to the public in a nonprofit holding company that would operate the Mets in exactly the same way as the Green Bay Packers or FC Barcelona. The initial offering would be 10 million shares at $100 each. Nobody could buy more than 10 shares. This would raise sufficient money to
5. pay the current Mets' ownership a fair market price for the team, even though they don't deserve it, thereby ensuring their promise to
6. never bother any of us again. Having done so, we then
7. start reimagining big league baseball, say for instance
8. every seat between the bases $25 for every game. Every other seat for $10. Hot dogs $2 and beers for $3. Kids free every Wednesday and Saturday, and discount Metrocards for everyone who comes by subway. We
9. rename Citi Field -- as unhappy a corporate re-education camp as I've ever sat in -- something along the lines of "New York Stadium." Then we charge Wall Street through the nose for the skyboxes. (The whole shebang's already owned by the people of New York, after all. In one of those weird turns seen only in big league sports or in the biographies of Boss Tweed, neither the borough nor the city nor the state can actually use the thing. That's right, we paid to build it, we hold the paper on it, but somewhere in that stack of contracts we signed away the right to get any utility from it. We need to take that stadium back.)
10. We also need to reinvigorate the neighborhood around that stadium. We've got the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center there, and the World's Fair site at Flushing Meadows Corona Park. Why not build some affordable middle-class housing, too? Or a National Baseball Center? Or a global sports venue? Or rezone everything from the park to the bay for mixed-use retail and light manufacturing? Or all of those things, thereby creating some opportunities for smart, willing entrepreneurs? Get more than 81 days a year use from that stadium. Make baseball part of the life of the city again, rather than something separate from it.
This is baseball as I imagine it for the rest of us. A laboratory for happiness, for the public good, and a place to locate joy.
I've talked to a lot of smart people about this. Yes, it's a populist long shot.
But it's not impossible.
Use the comments to tell us what you think baseball could be if we all owned the Mets, and to join the revolution. Facebook this to everyone you know; retweet it. E-mail me your thoughts and objections, and we'll revisit this story as often and as long as it takes.
If nominated to serve on the first Board of Directors, I promise to deliver a break-even team that actually breaks even, "Free Egg Cream and a Slice Night" every Friday, and to hire Sully Sullenberger to fly the team plane.
When approached to serve as a possible co-president or underchairman, my E-friend and colleague Dave Zirin, sports writer and sports contrarian, e-mailed back within seconds.
"Four words: General Manager Darryl Strawberry."
What could possibly go wrong?
Jeff MacGregor is a senior writer for ESPN.com and ESPN The Magazine. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow his Twitter.com feed @MacGregorESPN.
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