Rivalries in baseball are as old as the game itself, perhaps the most famous being the more than 100 years of vitriol between the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. Indeed, the historical significance of both clubs, combined with their ‘healthy’ rivalry and major media markets (First and Fifth, respectively) makes for appealing television coverage.

Shift to coverage of small-market baseball, such as the St. Louis Cardinals and the Cincinnati Reds. Both teams have history, having been founded in 1882 and sharing 15 World Series titles and 25 National League pennants between them. Yet, they sit in small markets (18th and 27th, respectively) and as result; their games apparently lack major television market appeal.

Could picking a fight, or focusing on “bad blood” be the best way to increase baseball viewership in smaller television markets? That is the question posed by researcher Nicholas Bowman, assistant professor of communication studies at West Virginia University. During the week of October 24-28, Bowman and colleagues from four other universities around the country chime in on America’s pastime, discussing the theme “Mediating Baseball,” for the online in Media res, a media_commons_ project.

Bowman will analyze a video segment of the August 2010 broadcast between the Cardinals and the Reds, a pairing that ESPN’s David Schoenfield declared “baseball’s best rivalry.” During the game, a player confrontation led to a bench-clearing brawl, player and manager ejections, and concussion that ended the career of Cardinals catcher Jason LaRue. Using the video as a stepping-off-point, Bowman’s central question is “might Major League Baseball be able to boost sagging ratings with bad blood?”

Panelist for the week’s roundtable include:

Monday, Oct. 24―Elizabeth Rawitsch (University of East Anglia) presents: “Melting Pot or Multiculturalism? Mediating Ethnicity in Baseball;”

Tuesday, Oct. 25―Pellom McDaniels III (University of Missouri-Kansas City) presents: ”’I is Unruffable’: Rereading African American Sports Performances as Unique Expressions of Dissent;”

Wednesday, Oct. 26―Annie Dell’Aria (City University of New York) presents: “Tagging Fans, Tweeting Beards: Major League Baseball, social media, and the body;”

Thursday, Oct. 27—Nicholas David Bowman (West Virginia University) presents: “Major League Brouhaha: Boosting ratings with bad blood?”

Friday, Oct. 28―Jeremy Groskopf (Georgia State University) presents: “I Found Kong: Naturalizing the National in Baseball Fiction.”

To view the full conversation on Mediating Baseball, visit in Media res.

For more information, contact Nicholas Bowman at Nicholas.Bowman@mail.wvu.edu.

-WVU-

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