Thanks, MLB, your absence was inspiring (but I want you back)

Sort of sad that we take three days off from baseball and I fiend for it on the eve of its return.  I’ve spent the past three days reloading my fantasy baseball page over and over, hoping someway, somehow, I’ll get credit for that 3-run homer that Prince Fielder smashed at the All-Star game.

Too bad: All-Star game stats don't count in fantasy baseball

Of course, I love following the Phillies and can’t wait for them to get back in action, but I’ve also felt empty without fantasy baseball stats to check everyday.  The thing about fantasy baseball is that, like Twitter or Facebook (or Google+), there are constantly new updates coming in–pieces of information that not only connect me to the players and the league, but that I also have an invested interest in.  Meaning, each hit and each strikeout help my team, which helps me in the standings and may lead eventually to some sort of cash payout/general sense of pride and happiness.

Could this indicate the future of online news media?

Imagine if people were rewarded and/or had a stake in the the frequency with which BBC reported on U.S. health care.  Or if you got points every time Obama tweeted about anything related to renewable energy.  Or if you predicted the next politician to resign in the wake of the discovery of incriminating, sexually-explicit photographs. Perhaps you’ve already heard about fantasy Congress…it might have forecast something much more important than we originally thought.

These are some of the issues I’ve been talking about and thinking about for over two years now, since writing my senior thesis on sports and popular culture and their intersection with politics and community and serious civic discussion.  Eventually, I foresee these aspects of our lives converging, whereas that which we enjoy and that which we (should) care about in regards to our society, community, and politics become one.  The internet, of course, will play a pivotal role in this amalgamation.

Looking for something else that might corroborate my prediction?  Check out the stats for the 2011 MLB All-Star Game voting:

32.5 million:  number of total ballots submitted

7.5 million:  number of ballots submitted for Jose Bautista — the most votes ever cast for one player

2008 Presidential Election stats:

69.5 million:  number of total votes for Barack Obama

59.9 million:  number of total votes for John McCain

1.7 million: number of votes cast for Ralph Nader, Bob Barr, Chuck Baldwin, and Cynthia McKinney combined (the other four candidates)


Now just to clarify, the MLB allows fans to vote up to 25 times, so it’s not clear how many people actually voted but 32.5 million ballots were indeed cast.  And that’s a hell of a lot of ballots.  It’s almost half as many of the votes that Obama received in ’08.

MLB boasts that it utilizes “professional sports’ most extensive All-Star Game balloting system“.  Not sure exactly what that means, but I think more people vote for the MLB All-Star game than any other pro sports league.  Either way, the record number of people who cast online votes this year certainly caught my attention.

If that many people can be motivated to vote for something fun and relatively meaningless, what are the limits of this system?  Online voting for something as important as the U.S. Presidential election may present some serious security risks, however, we have the technology to make it work…eventually.  Voter participation is a huge factor in politics…Obama is a little less than a year away from spending $1 billion on his campaign.  Online voting could help us take a gigantic step in the direction of a more thorough democracy.

I’m not saying this idea is new or that there aren’t inherent problems, I’m just saying if you were to give McCain an additional Jose Bautista-sized group of votes, you’d have a pretty damn close 2008 Presidential election, and that’s sort of scary…just like this picture:


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