A video goes viral with 320,000+ views in one week?

This silent newsreel of the 1919 Black Sox World Series is a great find. A news story about the video suggests it went viral with over 320,000 views in its first week online. Is this enough views to go viral?

This is an ongoing issue for stories and reports regarding online behavior. When does something go from being an online object of interest to some people to being a trend? Reporters often find Facebook groups or a few blog posts and turn that into a trend. Perhaps this is better than interviewing a few people on the street – also still done – but there are plenty of online groups, tweets, and posts.

We need some sort of metric or guidelines for making such proclamations. Unfortunately, there is little agreement about this for websites: should we count page views, unique visitors, click-throughs or something else? Should we just count the number of Twitter followers even though they can be purchased? Other mediums have agreed-upon metrics like Nielsen ratings or book sales or digital downloads.

In the meantime, I would suggest 342,000 viewers is not quite going viral.

The sociological pitch for the Oakland A’s: green-collar baseball

We have blue-collar, white-collar, and pink-collar. In time for Opening Day of the 2011 baseball season, how about “green-collar baseball“:

There’s a sociological genius at work in the Oakland Athletics marketing department. The current slogan for the franchise, “green collar baseball,” speaks volumes about the culture of the bay area, and why I have become such a devoted fan of the Oakland A’s…

Across the Bay Bridge, you’ll find a better stadium (AT&T Park), a team with a higher payroll, fancier concessions, and fancier fans. You’ll find doctors, lawyers, and San Francisco techie types taking in an afternoon game, reveling in the see and be seen crowd. On the San Francisco side, baseball is very much en vogue. If you search hard enough, you might even find a fan in the crowd who can tell you what a change-up is or explain the infield fly rule.

Trot back over to the Oakland side, and you’ll see where that marketing slogan is coming from. The Oakland Coliseum is clearly a Soviet spin on the baseball stadium, a concrete gulag if there ever was one. The concession options are minimal, the team operates on a shoestring payroll, and the fans are decidedly less cosmopolitan.

All these shortcomings are what bring me to love the authentic experience of Oakland Athletics baseball, and loathe the corporate, plasticized feel of the Giants. There’s an old Taoist saying that it’s “better to be alive in the mud than dead in the palace.” Count me as one who’s happiest to feel alive in the mud of the Oakland A’s.

Having spent time watching both the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park and the Oakland Athletics at Oakland-Alameda County Stadium, I have a few thoughts on this subject:

1. There is no comparison in stadiums: AT&T Park is nice and has great views while the A’s play in a concrete circle. One website goes so far as to say that the A’s stadium “represents everything that’s wrong with baseball stadiums.

2. The two teams do seem to have differences in the number of fans: AT&T Park is regularly full while the A’s struggle to even fill the bottom portion of the stadium, even when the team was good in the early 2000s.

3. Both teams have potential: the Giants, of course, won the World Series last year while the A’s seem to have put together a dark horse candidate to win the AL West based around young pitching (just like the Giants). The baseball in each place should be relatively similar.

4. San Francisco and Oakland are very different kinds of cities. Both have a grittiness to them but Oakland is known for crime and gangs while San Francisco has more glittering pieces. Ultimately, I think this is really what is behind this idea of “green-collar baseball”: Giants’ fans are painted as plastic because this is how Oakland residents view their neighbor across the bay. Oakland, both the city and its baseball team, are the underdogs, the team with a limited number of fans, limited funds, and a limited stadium. What is sociological about the use of this marketing slogan is that it invokes issues of social class and status.

I wonder if these sorts of descriptions only pop only in cities that have multiple franchises in the same sport. Almost the same argument occurs in Chicago: the Cubs fans are only at Wrigley Field because it is the cool thing to do while the White Sox fans are the working class people who really care about baseball.

Update on “baseball McMansions” in Arizona: White Sox also facing issues

Yesterday, I wrote about a new spring training facility in Arizona that one writer dubbed a “baseball McMansion.” While this particular park may have issues, it is not the only one. The Chicago White Sox also recently moved to the same area. Because of the economic recession, the White Sox are having attendance issues and the mixed-use development that was supposed to surround their facility has not been built:

Small crowds on the west side of the Valley are an alarming trend as the White Sox and other neighboring teams try to rebound in the wake of a depressed area.

“The opening of the Rockies-Diamondbacks stadium (Talking Stick at Salt River Fields) is definitely pulling people away,” Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said before 10,074 fans attended Wednesday’s game between the Sox and world champion Giants. “Now you have six teams in the east valley…”

But the Glendale area hasn’t developed into what the Sox thought when they decided to move from Tucson after the 2008 season.”One of the attractions to putting this ballpark here was the plan for what was going to be built around it,” Reinsdorf said. “By now, in our third year, we were supposed to be looking at restaurants and retail and a hotel and condominiums. And the guys who were going to do that went broke. So we’re sort of sitting out here by ourselves.

“All of the projections for the Phoenix area growth had Glendale in 10 years being the population center of the valley, a ton of people west of here. And that stopped. But at some point the economy will come back. This is too vibrant an area. And when it does come back, those projections will come true. So it’s just a delay.”

It may be some time before the White Sox and other teams see an uptick in attendance and building as Arizona has been hit hard by the economic recession, evidenced by foreclosures and a slowdown in development. Reinsdorf sounds quite optimistic about the future – perhaps he has to be if he has put a decent amount of money into this project.

it seems like now would be the time to look into why exactly the White Sox and other teams moved to this area. In their projections about Glendale, was their any allowance for a growth slowdown? Was the main draw the growing population in this area or were there certain financial incentives that made this move attractive? And what will happen to these spring training complexes if population growth in this area is limited for a significant amount of time?

Scorecasting looks at data: Cubs not unlucky, just bad

The recently published book Scorecasting (read a quick summary here) has a chapter that tackles the question of whether the Chicago Cubs are cursed or not. Their conclusion after looking at the data: the team has simply been bad.

But how can anyone disprove the existence of a curse? According to the authors, teams that frequently field good teams but finish in second place, or make the playoffs but fail to win a title, justifiably can claim to be unlucky. So, too, can teams that have impressive batting, hitting and defensive statistics, but whose strong numbers don’t translate into victories.

On both scores, the Cubs proved to be “less unlucky” than the average team. That is, not unlucky, just bad.

“Relative to other teams, we could easily explain the Cubs lack of success from the data — both their on the field statistics and where they finished in the standings,” Moscowitz said.

Since their last Series appearance in 1945, the Cubs have finished second fewer times than they have finished first. They also have finished last or next to last close to 40 percent of the time. According to the book, the odds of this happening by chance are 527 to 1.

The authors of “Scorecasting” believe that what has been stopping the Cubs the last three decades is the extreme loyalty of their fans, which has served to reduce the incentive for Cubs management to win.

According to their analysis, which is primarily based on attendance records and the team’s won-loss percentage from 1982-2009, Cubs fans are the least sensitive to the team’s winning percentage, while White Sox fans are among the most sensitive.

There are two interesting arguments going on here, both of which commonly come up in conversation in Chicago:

1. The data suggests that the Cubs have just been a bad team. It is not as if they have reached the playoffs or World Series multiple times and lost. It is not that they have impressive statistics and this hasn’t translated into wins. They just haven’t been very good. It would be interesting to read the rest of this chapter to see if the authors talk about the MLB teams that have been truly unlucky. I don’t know if a chapter like this will put the talk of a Cubs curse to rest but it is good to hear that there is data that could quiet the curse talk. (But perhaps the curse is what Cubs fans want to believe – it means that the team or the fans aren’t at fault.)

2. Cubs fans like to think that they are loyal while White Sox fans argue that Cubs fans will go to Wrigley Field no matter what. So is the answer for more Cubs fans to stay away from the ballpark until the team and the Ricketts show that they are serious about winning?