This month two of the strongest, if not the strongest, Halls of Fame will reveal their 2010 selections, the Baseball and Football Halls. The annual selection issue always operates under stealth and the very tight control over the voters, and usually has more than enough intrigue, suspicion, and debate. However with an ever shrinking number of potential voters on the baseball side, and the need for more overall recognition on the football side, could changes in selection be in the offin. The baseball side, which includes only votes by those in the Baseball Writers Association of America, is suffering from the loss of so many fulltime newspape. jobs recently and may have to add other segments, especially broadcasters, in order to keep the legitimacy of those who actually cover the sport on a fulltime basis intact. That of course does not also reflect the ever-growing and more influential bloggers choices, or for that matter, the input on some level of the fan. One interesting move this year was a vote by the Baseball Bloggers Alliance, a group of the top bloggers in the space. to announce their Hall of Fame choices and the reasoning, in advance of the actual Hall vote. It wasn’t in any way disrespectful, and it showed professionalism and great forethought, and could be a foreshadowing of a group that could be influential in coming years. The opening up of fan debate and blogger interraction also gives rise to the notion that the voting system could be tied to a partner, with a full digital integration platform. With the right safeguards put into place, and by providing all the right information, such a system could bring added revenue, more interest, more innovation and even greater visibility to the Hall, at a time when all institutions are looking to grow fan base and visitors year-round.
The football side has gone one step further, albeit informally this year, working with a brand partner, VanHeusen, to identify the Fan's Choices for selection. Now the fan's choice will not be part of the vote this year, but when it is revealed at the end of the month, around the same time when the Hall announces its class, it will probably show that the input of those who follow, along with the bloggers who were asked to participate, actually added a new level of interest to the selection, while not compromsing the integrity of the system at all.
Now in no way are we suggesting that the existing voters do a poor job, or that the Halls fail in delivering integrity to the voting process. What every institution in these challenging times has to do is find ways to adapt, grow marketshare, incorporate new media processes and welcome a new level of casual fan interest. By looking to find new, passionate, voters, with new and professional ideas and thinking, both football and baseball could grow their fan base, the interest in their programs and even the coverage in the Hall of Fame system as a whole, at a time when casual spending and discretionary interest are at a real crossroads. Adding a new level of voting with new voices and partners is not radical, it is smart and progressive, and in the long run may help to protect the very system which some think may be threatened, by being just a bit more open and progressive to the new media society in which we live and grow in today.
Some other good reads…the New York Times’ Harvey Araton had a good piece Sunday on how sports may be covered in the year 2020…the Washington Post's Michael Wilbon offers his solutions for the ever-growing issues with the Wizards and Gilbert Arenas… and the Philadelphia Business Journal had a look at the new interest and excitement around Philly's soccer expansion will have this spring.