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Exploring the Phillies' Authoritarian Approach to Media

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Last night, the Colorado Rockies showed that baseball teams can creatively approach and interact with media. By contrast, the Phillies' all-consuming desire for control was captured photographically.

Pressbox or Panopticon?
Pressbox or Panopticon?
Allan Henry-USA TODAY Sports

Last night, I was struck by how two seemingly unconnected tweets spoke to each other. I'll present those two tweets without any framing so you might approach them without the influence of my opinion and will offer my reading after.

What these tweets provide, primarily, is insight into how two teams, both of whom will likely be terrible at baseball in 2015, conceptualize the media and their relationship to it. On first glance, this juxtaposition lends itself to an easy critique of the Phillies social media presence. Our fearless leader, Liz Roscher, already provided that in the offseason and I have nothing productive or unique to add to that, so, if you're looking to hate on some Phillies social media, go read that. Nothing has changed in that regard; we continue to get cookie-cutter social media content that lags worse than XBox Live over a dial-up connection.

I think these two shallow views into the media situations of the Rockies and the Phillies yield deeper insights that reflect a disappointingly limited and, ultimately, authoritarian relationship the latter cultivates. These tweets reflect two fundamentally different regimes of thought. But, before I get into preachy rant mode deriding what the Phillies are doing wrong, I want to take some time exploring what it is that the Rockies are doing right.

By, presumably, inviting an independent blog to become the social media voice of the Colorado Rockies for the night, the Rockies demonstrate a progressive approach to media that views any content that engages fans to be legitimate media. Some of it might defend the organization while other outlets might be critical, funny, or some combination of the three, but its manifestation or tone is not ultimately what matters. What matters is that media engages fans, whether it be a beat writer, a blogger, or some random dude tweeting funny shit. It's all about calling forth a people--a collective group of fans--to become emotionally invested in the team and, ultimately, spend money on the product. The Rockies get this.

The Phillies, by contrast, seem to adopt a hierarchical view of their relationship to the media. They view the media as a means of disseminating information from the team to fans. Any media that doesn't echo the team's message is illegitimate. So, despite the presence of a mere 4 breathing human beings in their press box, the Phillies cannot even conceive of the thought of opening one of all those empty seats up to blogs. Blogs are risky: they might not be on message. They might even make unfunny jokes.

In contrast to the Phillies, the Rockies image of media is almost revolutionary. Both the Phillies and Rockies are terrible teams. One attempting to engage fans through creative use of social media; the other is content to stick with bland and untimely in-game updates. Across the street, the Sixers have set up a must-follow Twitter account that interacts with fans, tweets jokes, and fits seamlessly into the funny, informal, and irreverent vernacular of the internet. They, like the Rockies, have embraced the idea of experimenting with their public image while their terribleness keeps the consequences of failure mild.

The Phillies find themselves with an opportunity to explore new ways to engage fans and reach a demographic that might not necessarily read newspapers or listen to sports talk radio. They have chosen not to because the methods to do that inherently subvert their authoritarian approach to the team-media relationship. While my personal objection is that their stance makes the team less fun to follow, the real concern for the Phillies is that their resistance to innovation might ultimately impact their bottom line.

Blogs will continue to exist, proving French philosopher Gilles Deleuze's assertion that "language is open to an intensive utilization that makes it take flight along creative lines of escape which, no matter how slowly, no matter how cautiously, can now form an absolute deterritorialization" (Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature, 26). That creative and revolutionary redefinition of media has already happened and continues to happen. While many teams have acknowledged this fact, the Phillies continue to pretend it's 1970 and newspapers are the only way information spreads. They're under no obligation to follow their peers into the present, but it's usually unwise to fly the flag of the losing side of an already-concluded revolution.