When I'm not playing the role of A's baseball fan and occasional comic author, I spend the better part of 10-12 hours a day promoting technology. At any time, from the office parking lot, I could probably hurl a rock (or better yet, a baseball), and nail a Cisco building. At lunch, its not uncommon to see a gaggle of Cisco engineers wearing their Cisco badges and discussing the latest changes to the code, or who's winning today's internal politics battle. I have the utmost respect for Cisco as a company and as a technology pioneer.
With all that said, when one dissects what the networking giant aims to offer the A's and their fans in the new park, it largely amounts to new ways for us fans to spend more money, not necessarily new ways for fans to see an improved product on the field. And when it really comes down to it, the game, no matter where you play it, is the same. The bases are 90 feet apart, the pitching mound is 60 feet, 6 inches away from home, and the batter still is called on to execute the near-impossible, take a round bat, a round ball, and try to hit it square. (Quote tip: Willie Stargell)
Back in November, when Cisco and the A's announced their partnership, they announced that:
- The A's would purchase Cisco technology for data, voice and wireless. (Benefit to fans: negligible)
- Cisco would create a customer solutions care center in the ballpark. (Basically a big Cisco ad)
- Digital signs could ensure "smart traffic" flow.
(Benefit to fans: Knowing which restroom or Saag's vendor has a shorter line?)
- Merchandise or concessions could be purchased from fans' seats.
(Benefit to fans: New ways to spend money and not get off your butt.)
- Luxury suites would include amenities for premium video content. (Note the word premium. That means extra cost.)
There's no doubt that in the years between now and when the park debuts, we will learn more about the facility, and just how the new stadium's amenities will truly impact the fan experience and the game experience. For now, aside from hoping that the new stadium's additional revenues will enable a higher payroll and more competitive squad on the field, we're full of questions around just how the giant networking company intends to help Lew Wolff, Billy Beane and the A's franchise continue in their quest for a championship.
Much like the generations before us expected flying cars or teleportation by the year 2000, we can't get too far ahead of ourselves and expect that by tying the A's one of the biggest names in technology, that hits off the bat of Chavez, Crosby and Dan Johnson will suddenly defy the laws of physics, or that advanced networking technology is going to reduce the time Rich Harden spends on the Disabled List. While a great number of us, including myself, love to obsess on statistics and work the Moneyball magic, when the umpire yells play ball, the advanced algorithms take a back seat, as we still need to rely on good old fashioned brawn and split-second muscle memory to win ballgames.
If you had all of Cisco's engineers at your disposal to help make this new ballpark, what would you ask them to do?