Last night the White Sox played on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball for the first time since Mother’s Day of 2013. In that game, Chris Sale dominated the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim of Orange County of California of the Pacific Time Zone with a masterful performance, striking out 12 over 7.2 IP. Needless to say, it’s been a long time since our White Sox had the national spotlight on them in a primetime game.
Over the last four years, the battle between the Sox fanbase and the four-letter network has rivaled what WCW/WWF was in 1997. The network is seemingly going out of their way to purposely not mention the White Sox. It’s clear that this has been brought to their attention in recent years and they are simply just working to keep the bit going. Nevertheless, this has been tremendously annoying to those of us that live and die with this team. The lack of national exposure is one of the darkest clouds that hangs over this franchise.
Tim Anderson took last night as an opportunity to even call out the network for “forgetting” about the Sox:
Simply put, the Sox franchise has nobody to blame for this but themselves. This is an American League charter franchise that has nine playoff appearances all-time and has never made the playoffs in consecutive seasons. It’s truly remarkable to think about this fact when you consider the franchise came to Chicago in 1900! So I can understand the lack of national exposure they’ve received. Granted, they have the misfortune of sharing a major market with a more trendy team, one that was even less successful up until this most recent five-season run despite what people want to believe.
So how can the Sox fix this issue, and is there precedent for a franchise to make a tremendous leap in terms of national visibility and popularity? To answer the first question, it is really quite simple. The Sox need to WIN and WIN OFTEN. The easiest way to grow your national exposure is to go on a run where you make the playoffs five times in six years. This will put you in primetime, marquee matchups consistently. Having the benefit of a large media market behind you is a big deal in the sports marketing landscape. If you couple that with success on the field, your brand will grow.
The Patriot Effect
So has there been a recent example of a franchise in a major media market that wasn’t highly thought of but has now become a national brand? Yes, and we just saw the end of their dynasty. That’s right, I’m talking about the Tom Brady-led New England Patriots. We all know how obnoxious Boston sports fans are, but up until 2002, the Patriots were at the bottom of the barrel in terms of importance. The franchise’s claim to fame was being curb-stomped in two separate Super Bowl’s that were played in New Orleans against NFC North teams.
The Patriots had no national brand in 2002. They were an afterthought. But you know what happened then? Tom Brady took the helm of the Patriots and they won five Super Bowls in 17 years, appearing in three others. Just like that, kids all over the country became New England Patriot fans. I call this the Patriot Effect (very imaginative, I know). Hell, my 12-year-old nephew became a Patriots fan because the team was so successful and Chicago’s pathetic football franchise has been about as useful as a pair of glasses on a blind man.
If our White Sox ever want to have a fanbase and appeal that goes beyond the Chicagoland area, the Patriots represent the blueprint to follow. Now, I don’t expect the Sox to win five World Series in the next two decades, but some modicum of consistent success would go a long way toward elevating this franchise.
The good news is, the Sox are in a great position to make this a reality. They have a young, exciting core of players including Yoan Moncada, Luis Robert, Tim Anderson, Eloy Jimenez, Lucas Giolito, and Michael Kopech (when he returns). Several of these players seem to relish the spotlight. Couple that with superstar potential, and they could be household names in the near future. The four-letter network, FOX, and MLB Network look for rosters with these types of players to showcase with regularity. If the Sox roster is able to realize its upside, there’s no reason why this team shouldn’t be featured prominently on a national level over the course of the next 5-6 years, at least.
Last night was the nation’s first exposure to the freakshow that is Luis Robert. Unfortunately, they didn’t get the chance to see Yoan Moncada, Lucas Giolito, or Michael Kopech, but their time will come. I truly think this is a turning point for the franchise. If they are able to have success on the field, the baseball world and media outlets will have no choice but to recognize them on a regular basis. They’re never going to be the tourist attraction in town, and that’s fine. They have the young, exciting pieces to do it; all they have to do now is start winning. Who knows, maybe we’ll look back on this moment twenty years from now and laugh because all the stupid attendance jokes are a thing of the past.