Week of January 11, 2019


Don’t Tag It, Bro

Growing up in Tahoe, one of my family’s favorite spots to go was a series of small alpine lakes not far from Lake Tahoe. It was kind of a locals spot. Off the beaten path, a little hard to find, with a small parking lot before a 15-minute hike to the third and final lake. That lake had a small beach, where you could rent boats, buy some ice cream from a little shack, and most famously, jump off a series of increasingly high cliffs into the water below.

Last year, our entire family was back in Tahoe for the first time in over 20 years, as far as I can remember. My brothers and I decided we’d go back to that spot to show our spouses and/or kids. The drive was more harrowing and more breathtaking than I remembered. Longer, too. And then…we couldn’t find a parking spot. The place was jam packed, and a bunch of cars were circling the small lot, hoping to get lucky. We sadly made the decision to abort the mission.

As a kid, that had never happened. I had never seen the lot full, or close to it. I could only imagine how crowded that small beach was that day. But I started to wonder what happened. The population in Tahoe has only declined since we left. Why was this spot suddenly so crowded? The internet, of course.

The internet is great and has provided access and information for many. There are downsides to that, too, of course. But one downside I never considered before that day is how “secret” spots like that are no longer “secret” because they are so easy to find with a few minutes on google.

You may have noticed I had not named the lakes in question. That was of course not an accident, and brings us to the featured story. My experience last summer was not unique. It is something state and national parks are dealing with, especially, as it turns out, since the rise of Instagram. People post pictures of themselves in breathtaking locations. At its best, these pictures inspire people to explore the world around them. But at its worst, it can actually ruin the place that is pictured:

What’s being lost are the places that are “loved to death,” a now overused phrase that aptly describes what’s happening to the outdoors. Parks, reserves, and wilderness areas were ill-prepared for a newfound fascination with the natural world, in part spurred by Instagram. The photo-sharing app quickly became a place to collect and broadcast locations as if they were medals; social currency can be won by proving you climbed a mountain or bathed in a hot spring. This pursuit has negative byproducts: crowding, trail damage, littering, and vandalism, among others.

Jackson Hole, Wyoming’s tourism board has instituted a campaign to combat this phenomenon: They are asking visitors to avoid location-specific tags on Instagram, and instead use the generic location, “Tag Responsibly, Keep Jackson Hole Wild.” Posters line the airport when visitors arrive, asking them to do this. They even created this short commercial:

How else can this damage from overcrowding be prevented? Increased staffing, for one – which we’ve seen first hand this week, during the federal government shutdown, as beloved national parks like Joshua Tree have seen some truly disturbing damage at the hands over visitors trying to take advantage of the lack of ranger oversight, like this tree that was cut down so off-roaders could get around barriers:

The Jackson Hole campaign, and other places like Oregon and Utah, are not looking to discourage people from coming; after all, many of these places rely on tourism for their economy. But they do want to ensure visitors treat these areas with respect. As Cailin O’Brien-Feeney, Oregon’s director of outdoor recreation, puts it, “That’s sort of a last resort. What we should be focusing on really is a physical presence and public outreach education—trying to instill in visitors who own these places a sense of personal responsibility to some extent.” Utah, however, is considering a reservation system for Arches and Zion National Parks.

As for me, I’m still hoping to get back to that little lake near Tahoe. I’ll try to get there earlier. Perhaps on a weekday. I’ll definitely instagram it, but I won’t tag the exact location. Maybe it’s not too late to #KeepTahoeLocal. -TOB

Source: Stay Wild: How Parks Departments Are Keeping Up With Instagram Chasers“, Molly McHugh, The Ringer (01/04/2019)

PAL: Asking folks to avoid the geo tag is a more than fair request from the parks. What a strange world we live in, eh? Of course we want as many people as possible to experience the power of nature and contribute the local economies, but we are now at a point where conservation has a social media plan. What the hell?

To be honest, I’ve never understood the geo tag. Of course share an awesome pic, but what is gained by essentially giving the coordinates of your location?

The Coldest Hot Stove

Baseball free agency this season has been an unbelievable bore, for the second year in a row. Two of the best, young players to ever hit free agency, Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, are on the market. And yet, very few teams are reportedly interested in signing them to longterm deals, and in the third month of the offseason, nothing seems imminent. Even after those two, most of the top available guys have not been signed, and the news is quiet on all fronts.

So much has been written about this, and I’ve read most of it. Generally, the consensus is that MLB teams are being dumb. The Brewers were really good last year because in the middle of a very similar offseason, where so many teams are trying to do the Astros model of getting bad so you can be good years down the road, Milwaukee decided they’d actually try to win, and then did.

But one point in particular stuck out to me as being especially insightful:

MLB reportedly generated a record $10.3 billion in gross revenue in 2018, and while that figure barely budged from the previous year, it also omits the proceeds of the $2.6 billion sale of streaming spinoff BAMTech to Disney, which paid out approximately $50 million per team in 2018. Put aside the rapid appreciation of franchise values: Between BAMTech, the continuing boon of big broadcast deals (both local and national), and the revenue-sharing system, most teams are financially secure before the games begin. That leaves them with less motivation to pony up for free agents than they had when profits were more tightly tied to team success and ticket sales.

That should be chilling to any baseball fan: teams have started to generate so much money just by having a product to put on the field that it doesn’t even matter if they win. They don’t care as much if you come out to the park as they used to, because they’re getting paid, anyways.

As with most things, I figure this is cyclical. But many observers see this strategy resulting in a long and bitter work stoppage in a couple years when the current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires. If so, I hope they consider a true overhaul of the player compensation system, because the current one (e.g., non-living wages for minor leaguers; relatively low wages for 7 years after a player makes the majors; big dollars paid to past their prime free agents) is broken. -TOB

Source: “Long, Cold Winter: MLB Free Agency Is Still Disturbingly Slow“, Ben Lindbergh, The Ringer (01/08/2019)

PAL: Yikes. A lot of scary sense made here. And when you’re frustrated with the players, remember this Lindbergh nugget:

Although the difficulty of accessing teams’ financial information makes it hard to be conclusive—and, in turn, focuses fans’ envy and ire on the millionaires whose salaries they know rather than the billionaires whose books are closed—it seems much more likely that the reason teams are in no hurry to make moves is that they’re rolling in revenue, not that they’re struggling to make ends meet.

Old Timey Baseball Player Name of the Week

Pretzels Getzien

Video of the Week

The Spanish radio call is always so much better.

Tweet of the Week

PAL Song of the Week – Sharon Van Etten – “Seventeen”

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Normally people tell you to talk about your problems. I’m gonna recommend you bottle that noise up.

-Donna Meagle

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