To say the least, the reaction was varied to our site-wide protest of the Astros yesterday that was joined by several other prominent blog sites. Among those readers who questioned us, the most common argument was that we over-reacted. I certainly can understand why it may seem that way, and this post is my attempt to explain my own reaction and the reactions of some other writers, based on our 200+ email-long discussion yesterday.
In the comments section of the article, reader "j l c" asked a good question. Instead of criticizing, he simply asked us why we were so mad:
Are the writers of TCB Blog more upset over the loss of money this particular organization has experienced, or the bad PR the Astros are getting because they cancelled the fundraiser[?]
The answer is really "neither". I think I can speak for most of the writers by saying that what made us angriest was the way it was handled. Bad PR is just bad PR…it’s annoying, but not anger-worthy. The money, as others have pointed out, can be spent how the Astros see fit.
The beef is: charities are like other organizations – they usually make their annual budgets at the end of Q3 and beginning of Q4 in the prior year. By notifying the charity of their change of direction at the beginning of 2013, the Astros probably caused a huge problem within an organization whose goal is to provide help for horribly abused people. God willing, no essential services will need to be cut from the organization because they won’t be receiving the $200k+ that they probably estimated to receive from the Gala. And after many many years of partnering with the Astros' Wives Foundation, they probably figured it was a safe bet to plan on that revenue again. That’s a lot of money for a non-profit to swallow, regardless of its overall budget.
In my opinion, the Astros could have lessened this blow with a one-year pledge that would barely scratch their own operating budget, or else they could have made the change effective 2014 to spare HAWC’s 2013 budget. The very best situation would be the Astros making this decision and notifying the charity in the fall of last year.
Regardless of the different ways it could have been handled, the other thing that angered us was that the Astros apparently had months to get ahead of this story, and they chose not to. Instead of being proactive and stating their $18 million pledge to other charities months ago and looked positively philanthropic in the eyes of the fans (and meanwhile casting the Gala’s end in a light that served them best), they had to scramble to get a half-assed explanation in place, after consulting their lawyer 24 hours after the news story broke, and ticked everybody off.
The Astros can hide behind their argument that the Astros' Wives Foundation was unaffiliated with the club, but that is to ignore the reality of a major-league sports franchise. Fan perception matters. The foundation is comprised of wives and former wives of the Houston Astros' players. In the eyes of fans, they are affiliated with the Astros, whether the club bankrolls their operation or not. To be ignorant of this and of their implied responsibility in the eyes of the community just shows their persistent ignorance about the difference between a sports franchise and, say, a logistics company.
The whole situation yesterday was a mess, but what angered me (us?) was that no matter how you look at it, for 2013, the charity got screwed because the Astros were careless (at best) or callous.
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I don’t know if anybody really understands how much time and effort the writers put into this site. Research, discussion, writing, proofreading, recording, editing. David and Tim in particular seem to have more time invested just in The Crawfish Boxes (in addition to their other jobs and families) than I personally have for everything in my life. I don’t know how they do it.
We collectively spend probably a thousand man-hours a week providing a labor of love (for free) basically to give free exposure to the Astros. We do it for you, the readers, and also for ourselves. Because we like to. For us, writing for this site is an escape from the humdrum of boring jobs, bills, and a lot of other crap we’d rather not deal with.
So when the Astros do something like this that seems downright reprehensible, it’s like a betrayal, particularly after all the other crap we've put up with lately.
We are the guys (and gal) who most want to talk about how wonderful the club is. We can handle losing baseball games – that’s just part of the gig, and we can spin it in the light of a rebuilding effort that is fun to talk about. But when the team we love to discuss does something this thoughtless (heartless? idiotic?), we begin to question: What the hell are we spending so much time pumping this team up for? Why do they deserve the hours stolen from our lunch breaks and from our family? What have they given us except embarrassment and a very clear message of disregard for anything but the bottom line? Those are the thoughts that can’t help passing through our minds.
I’m still a fan of those Astros who take the field. I’m still gonna write for TCB, and enjoy it. But I realized this week that I do it for myself, for my love of baseball, for conversation with the readers, and especially for the enjoyment of writing. It was kind of sad to realize that I feel no loyalty to this club beyond the fact that it’s in my city of residence. I realize now that if I moved to Arizona, I would change my loyalties to the D-backs, because the Astros have shown me they don’t give jack about the fans or community, and so I feel no connection with them. I sincerely want that to change, but I don’t expect it to anymore.
Sorry for the additional article on this subject, but I felt like the question deserved an explanation about why this upset us so much, and especially why it upset us more than it did a lot of you.