Baseball's potential for public diplomacy in the Americas
Years ago, I used to pay more attention to the concept of public diplomacy.
Tourism is a big element of it. If "foreigners" come to the US and have a good time and good interactions with people, that helps improve attitudes towards the US.
That's why managing the tourist experience is important, as is promotion of "Brand America" overseas (see the past blog entry "Re-branding America"), and the significant improvement of airport throughput for international visitors, which can be atrocious.
Tyler Brule of Monocle Magazine wrote in his weekly Financial Times column about his bad experience being "processed" at Dulles. :
While this is mostly about the experience of going through customs and immigration, it does not speak well of the experience. From "Let’s play ‘Guess where I am?’":
I've just come off an airliner and it’s absolute pandemonium. There are gate agents screaming for transfer passengers, there are sniffer dogs, there are loads of immigration officers and there’s a general sense of disorganisation. My fellow passengers look bewildered and flustered after their eight-hour, 45-minute flight from Frankfurt, and there’s a lot of huffing and puffing as we’re divided up into groups of arriving passengers and “connectors”. ...
[description of 1,000 people waiting to go through ICE at shift change, when many people leave their posts, with the result that even fewer agents are there to work with the passengers.]
As I approach the desk, I feel like giving the young gentleman a lecture about how bad this whole performance is for Brand USA – particularly on top of a whole week of television reports about the new fee that visitors will have to pay to get a visa and how these funds will be used to create a campaign to encourage more tourism to the US. I want to ask him if he (and his bosses not far away in the District of Columbia) think a 90-minute wait in a dumpy airport is any way to welcome the world and if his department is really that interested in having people visit the US.Combine this experience, plus the then less than sterling experience of getting to the city from the airport, by transit or other forms of ground transportation, and then think about what this says not only for BrandAmerica, but BrandDC, and is it any reason that the number of international visitors to the US has been falling?
The Toronto Star has an article, "Montreal mayor will meet with baseball commissioner," about how Montreal wants to get back in the baseball game, and have a new professional baseball team to replace the Expos, which moved to Washington in 2004.
It seems a bit nonsensical to me if the previous team did not succeed financially, but perhaps that was because the old Olympic stadium was ill-suited for baseball.
A Major League Team In Havana? Sure, It Could Happen," San Jose Mercury News), why not bring back the Havana Sugar Kings professional baseball team as well, but this time as a Big League team, rather than a minor league affiliate.
Similarly, there has been talk off and on, about adding a baseball team in Monterrey, Mexico, which until the past 10 years or so, had been a reasonably safe place in the country ("Time for MLB to expand? And beyond U.S. borders?," Pittsburgh Tribune-Review).
And what about Vancouver, British Columbia? It's Canada's third largest metropolitan area and close enough to many of the West's professional baseball cities (Seattle, San Francisco, Oakland, Denver, etc.) and is the only city in Canada with an MLB-affiliated minor league team, the Vancouver Canadians.