I promised more new goodies to go along with the site redesign, and here’s one of them: a new series of Field of Schemes refrigerator magnets, since stock on the first edition was running perilously low. And also some of you already had the full set, and possibly still one or two blank spaces still on your refrigerator, and that could not stand.
I’m not going to share all of the designs, because I want to retain at least a little mystery in my relationship with readers, but here’s one of them:
Anyone becoming an FoS Supporter at any level will receive two different magnets from the new series, chosen at random by me with my own two randomized hands. You will also get my heartfelt gratitude for helping make this site possible at a time when nobody much else seems interested in paying for journalism work, but that’s harder to show off to your friends — or your cat, since your friends probably aren’t coming over much during this pandemic.
To become a Supporter (or renew your membership), make your selection below. If you don’t use Paypal, email me and let’s talk.
You’ve almost certainly noticed this by now, but: Field of Schemes has gotten a design overhaul, its first since 2012. While a lot will be familiar, there are a few new elements to the site’s look, especially on mobile devices, that hopefully will make for a better reader experience. And there is a shit-ton of new wiring under the hood, which should make it easier to upgrade the site more than every eight years in the future.
I still plan to roll out a few more additions later this week, a couple of which I’m actually even more excited about than the redesign. In the meantime, though, while this was all working beautifully on a test site, anything can happen once you go live, so if you notice anything wonky — or just that you’d like to see improved — please post in comments and I’ll see what I can do.
And, of course, if you want to show your appreciation for all the hard work I put into the redesign, or just my usual typing about stadium and arena news, the Support This Site page is ready and waiting. I ditched some ads in the redesign, because they were ugly and got in the way of making it easier to provide you with the news, so now more than ever I’m dependent on the kindnesses of strangers. Tip early, and tip often.
As part of my new plan to survive the ongoing slow death of journalism, I’m going to be reminding readers quarterly instead of semiannually that you can support Field of Schemes by becoming Field of Schemes Supporters! (This doesn’t mean I’m asking any of you individually for any more money — the donation levels remain the same, $25 per year at the basic level, $100 if you can spare it and want bonus stuff like banner ads — just that I’m posting these reminders more frequently for anyone who may have missed the last one.) And I actually have good reason to be posting about it today, because I have urgent news, which is that the supply of FoS refrigerator magnets is running perilously low:
Eyeballing what’s left in the stacks on my desk — it’s really tough to count magnets, they’re magnets, they stick together — I’d say I have maybe 20 sets left, after which there will be no more reprints. (I may design a second set with different Stadium Grubbers Do The Most Amazing Things facts, but that remains to be seen, and in any case those would be different, not these.) So if you want to commemorate on your fridge the Texas Rangers‘ demand for a half-billion-dollar stadium so they could have air-conditioning or the Milwaukee Bucks‘ magic basketball — or got a pair of magnets already but want to complete your collection — act now! Or, well, soon, anyway.
In fact, I’ll even add a bonus incentive: If I can get ten new or renewing FoS Supporters by the end of January, I’ll post here a full-length article that’s been sitting on my hard drive waiting for a home ever since the demise of Deadspin. (It’s not huge breaking news, but it is informative and entertaining.) Plus, you will receive my undying appreciation for supporting the work I do here! That won’t stick to your fridge, though.
Hey, FoS readers, it’s that time again — the one (or two per year, tops) where I ask you to become a Field of Schemes Supporter so that I can continue to devote time to this website every day. I’ve considered switching to a Patreon or setting up a members-only newsletter like all the kids are doing these days, but for now I’m sticking with the tried-and-true membership system for a couple of reasons: One, you all seem to like it well enough, and two, I want all the information here reaching the widest possible audience, not reserved for a special few.
As for you special few who help make this site possible for the others to freeload on, you do get some exclusive rewards. First off, refrigerator magnets!
If you’re thinking, “Big deal, I already got two of these the last time I donated,” understand that there are three more variations that your fridge is currently bereft of, and they will wing their way to you upon receipt of your donation, whether Mini-Supporter or regular Supporter size. Make your kitchen the envy of other kitchens!
Second, as always, full Supporters get to place an ad of their choice in the top-right banner space on every page of this site. If you don’t have an ad but have an idea for an ad, I’ll help design one; if you don’t have anything to advertise but want to promote a worthy cause, that’s fine too.
And finally, you will get my heartfelt thanks, and, I hope, the heartfelt thanks of all those who read this site and can’t or don’t choose to donate. I continue to be amazed at how many people value the news and analysis on offer here, more than two decades after this site started, and there is absolutely no way I would have been able to keep it going without your financial support. To all present, past, and future supporters: You are the best, and you can tell your friends that I said so.
On Thursday, I got to participate in Varsity Letters’ regular reading series in New York for a very special tribute to the late Jim Bouton, along with my friends Jay Jaffe and Paul Lukas and my new friends Mitchell Nathanson and Nick Diunte. I got to expand on my thoughts I wrote on this site about the times I’d met Jim, and also read one of my favorite excerpts from his book Foul Ball, which was about his attempts to save century-old Wahconah Park in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, from attempts by the local power structure to raze it and replace it with a publicly subsidized new stadium. You can hear my segment below (and also Nick’s hilarious show closer, which was centered on a supercut of Ball Four quotes from Seattle Pilots manager Joe “Shitfuck” Schultz):
Or if you want to relive the evening in order, start with the opening set, featuring Jay, Mitchell, and Paul:
One thing that didn’t occur to me until I got to the event and started hearing all these writers talk about how influential Ball Four had been on their work: Jim Bouton was not just a great writer, he was in some respects a visionary one. As I said in my talk, none of the outlets that I’ve written for — the Village Voice sports section, Deadspin, Vice Sports, Baseball Prospectus — could have existed in the same way without Jim nearly singlehandedly inventing antiauthoritarian sportswriting, changing Americans’ view of sports from superheroic white-hats-vs.-black-hats escapism to a much more nuanced view that recognized that people are people and the personal is political and it’s important to question things, always. If it’s incredible that this was a message that still needed to be heard 23 years after Jackie Robinson, and that still needs hearing today almost another half-century later, it makes it all the more important when a Jim Bouton shows up to deliver it.
As a bonus reader challenge, anyone who can correctly identify all the Bouton-related gear we were wearing (Mitchell had to leave early and missed the post-event photo shoot) wins the people’s ovation and fame forever:
We’ve been through Giving Tuesday and holiday gift-giving and year-end donations, and now it’s time for me to ask: If you have any coin left over, please consider throwing a bit my way to become (or remain) a Field of Schemes supporter! This site takes a considerable amount of time and expense to keep up with, and paid ads don’t pay much of the bills, so I’ve been fortunate enough that you readers have been willing to toss your loose change in the tip jar to help keep this site going into its third decade.
This year, in addition to my undying appreciation (estimated retail value: incalculable), FoS supporters at every level will get a brand-new token of my esteem: a pair of newly designed Field of Schemes refrigerator magnets, featuring some of your favorite stadium scam facts in a design honoring the “Did You Know?”–style cartoons on 1970s sports cards:
In addition, donors at the $50 and $100 level will, as always, get a slot in the rotating ad space in the top right corner of this site (for six months and one year, respectively) to do with as you please. (I can help design ads if you have an idea but no artistic skills, and donating ad space to a favored charity is always welcomed.)
And, of course, you’ll get me continuing to produce this site, for free access to all, for another year. I still have plans for a couple more FoS 20 interviews before this 20th anniversary year is over in April, and some other ideas for special projects in the hopper as well, all of which are much easier to devote time to when I don’t have to scramble for other ways to pay the bills.
And whether you choose to become a Supporter or not, thank you all for helping make this site more than just one person shouting at clouds, but rather a community, with your insightful comments, your emailed news tips, and your Mark Davis quips. In the increasingly lowest-common-denominator world that is the internet, this site manages to continue to have daily conversations that are funny and free-wheeling but also mostly serious and respectful, and that is a rare and valuable thing.
And now, let’s all celebrate another year of observing stadium and arena scams by watching the Milwaukee Bucks‘ old arena get blown up, just 30 years and a few months after it was opened, solely because the team’s owners wanted a new one and pretended the NBA would force the team to move without one. (Form for signing up for or renewing your Supporter status is below the video.)
I’m going to be traveling the next week and a half, so posts here may be lighter than usual. (Or may not be; I’m told they do have the internet where I’m going.) Please use the comments for this post as your open thread for anything that comes up that I don’t immediately address, and normal programming will resume on the 21st.
I usually try to make my semi-annual call for FoS Supporters — that’s my special term for you folks who help keep this site running by kicking in a few bucks in exchange for some cheap trinkets, ad space, and a warm feeling of helping make the world a better or at least more informed place — in June when readers aren’t all off on vacation, but I missed that target this year, so instead I’m going to have to SHOUT EXTRA LOUD to get your attention!!! And, because I’m feeling in an extra-generous mood, show you a video of a cat climbing up the outfield wall at the Miami Marlins‘ stadium:
For those who are new to the world of FoS Supporters, there are three membership levels, each with different rewards:
For $50, Six-Month Supporters get everything above plus the ability to place an ad in the top-right banner space, which will be viewed on a rotating basis with other member ads. (I’ll help design the ad if you have an idea but no graphic design skills.)
For $100, One-Year Supporters get everything above, but the ad banner stays in place for one year.
Mostly, though, your support is what enables me to take the time to keep reporting on stadium and arena shenanigans on a daily basis, as well as pursuing extra projects like the FoS 20 interview series (I just recorded the fourth installment yesterday, and it’s a good one) and moving this site to a more robust server, something that’s been on my agenda for a while now but has been awaiting a free weekend or two to arrange all the logistics. I continue to be amazed and moved by the fact that you all are willing and seemingly eager to chip in to help with this project that shows no signs of winding down as it enters its third decade.
So whether or not you choose to become a member or renew your membership this time around, seriously, thank you from the bottom of my heart for reading, for commenting, and for sending me the latest jaw-dropping stadium news items. Money is great — it literally pays the bills! — but a community of people eager to debate the modern sports stadium game is priceless. Thanks for coming along for the ride.
Now that I’ve kicked off the Field of Schemes 20th anniversary celebration with my Roger Noll interview, it’s time to remind FoS readers that this site — or, at least, my ability to devote the time to updating this site each morning — exists thanks to your support, or more specifically the support of those of you who chip in as FoS Supporters. I’m really proud to have kept this site going for two decades without resorting to paywalls or what have you, and I’m equally proud of you all for allowing me to do so via your generosity, in exchange for a few trinkets and that warm fuzzy feeling of helping call attention to the ongoing stadium subsidy madness. Seriously: Thanks, everyone who has ever donated, or retweeted, or commented, because I literally could not do this without you — and not just in the millennial sense.
As a reminder, here’s the stuff you get when you become an FoS Supporter:
For $50, half-year supporters get everything except the mug, and the ad space only lasts for (wait for it) half a year.
For $25, minisupporters get the pin, cards, and ebook, but not the mug or ad space.
If you want the goodies to wing their way to your door, please remember to include your mailing address in the notes field; if you don’t want any goodies, just say “no goodies” and you’ll receive only a thank-you email.
This April will mark 20 years since the publication of the first edition of Field of Schemes, which was the same month (more or less) that saw the launch of the first embryonic form of this website. Which means that, depending on how you choose to look at it, either we should be celebrating two decades of examining the strange world of sports subsidies and educating the world about it, or bemoaning that this is taking a lot longer than we thought.
We’re going to have some special programming here this year to mark the anniversary, which I hope to announce more about in the next week or two. But for now, let me just speechify for a second about the view from 20 years in:
As I’ve noted many times in various radio appearances over the years, when Joanna Cagan and I first got the idea for our book, we thought that we were capturing a snapshot of a peculiar moment in time, where we’d one day look back and think, Man, remember those days when cities were throwing public money at private stadium and arena deals? Was that a trip or what? Needless to say, that’s not quite how it’s worked out: We actually were capturing the first glimpse of the new normal, a world where getting public cash for erecting building after building is seen as an integral part of the sports business model, not to be given up until it’s clawed from team owners’ cold dead fingers.
While some things have changed over the years — in particular, the age at which sports venues can be declared obsolete with a straight face continues to plummet towards zero — the basic rules of the game have remained remarkably consistent: It’s why, when we wrote the most recent update to the book, the chapter “The Art of the Steal” running down the standard stadium playbook only needed to be updated with “The Art of the Steal Revisited,” noting more recent examples of the same tactics. I’ve come up with some innovations in describing this mess — that first edition didn’t feature any references to vaportecture or the Casino Night Principle — but, despite occasional glimmers of hope, the mess itself has remained largely unchanged, except for the dollar figures reaching ever more skyward.
All of which is to say, we’re all probably stuck with each other for a while yet. I know I didn’t plan on this being my life’s work (well, part of my life’s work, anyway) way back in 1995 when Joanna and I first discussed writing a short article drawing parallels between stadium plans in New York and Cleveland, but here we are, and I’m not about to give up show business now. So strap in, ready your best Nelson Muntz laugh, toss a couple of shekels in the tip jar if you see fit, and I’ll work on getting that special programming ready — because if you can’t celebrate being trapped in the same national nightmare for 20 years, what can you celebrate?