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How 2.7 Million Households Will Gain ADA Knowledge Through MLB “Fan Cam!”

11329836_380533208808281_4667110692483504637_nYour chance to hit a home run for people with disabilities: www.Facebook.com/ADAFanCam

By Greg Smith

If you are a baseball fan, surely you have experienced watching the “Fan Cam” during the Major League Baseball television broadcasts. Between innings, the television camera focuses on regular people enjoying their time at the ballpark.

It opens showing a young couple on a date, unaware of their five seconds of fame. Then it cuts to two little girls playing patty cake. Then a woman leaning back on her elbows in the bleachers. Then a baby sleeping. Then  a hairy chested old man wearing a baseball cap and a tank top. And finally, we are left with a family featuring mommy, daddy, son and daughter. And that’s it. A slice of Americana. On to the bottom of the inning.

But here’s something you may never have considered.  I think it is a correctable problem: I’ve been watching baseball games on television for 50 years and I have NEVER seen a shot of fans in the wheelchair section! Have you? Go ahead. Think about it. Can’t remember one, can you? Even one.

We are fans too!

I’m planning to put a stop to the unintentional black balling of the disabled Major League Baseball fan on the most appropriate day to do so: July 26, 2015. On that date, every Major League television broadcast will acknowledge the 25 year anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. And every broadcast will focus the “Fan Cam” on us!  That’s the goal.  It is a real possibility that is gaining momentum and you can help.

On June 3, I created a Facebook page called “ADAFanCam” and I invited people with disabilities to post pictures of themselves at the ballparks. Within three hours, I had dozens of pictures of very happy disabled folks experiencing the magical enchantment of baseball. Within 1 day, the page had over 100 likes. Those aren’t monster numbers but those are a result of my skinny fingers alone in one day clicking “Share” “like,” “tag,” and “retweet.”

I called my old sportscasting colleagues which led to a Facebook chat with the Arizona Diamondbacks’ VP of Broadcasting, Scott Geyer.

“Dear Scott:
In a lifetime of watching baseball, I have never seen one “Fan Cam” shot of the wheelchair section. Not one. July 26 is the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. My objective is to get each of the 26 MLB television broadcasts to show fans with disabilities on that date during the 7th inning stretch (or anytime during the game), and say something about it being ADA Day.  If you could help steer me in the right direction to see this become a reality, it would be most appreciated. It is free, simple and delivers a ton of good-will that will be appreciated by millions of people.

His immediate, instantaneous response:

“Hi Greg
Your passion for this project is contagious. I will get this in the dialogue as soon as I can. I’ll be back in touch. In the meantime please email me so I can perhaps move the message around my circle easier. Thanks for your strength!”

Swing. Pop. Stare. Flip Bat. Slowly trot.  Home Run!

This can be a historic home run for disability culture. If we pull this off, here is the potential fallout:

1. Viewers in over 2.7 million households will see happy disabled people and learn from announcers about ADA day. Here’s a chart from Forbes Magazine showing MLB regional network audience sizes!

mlbtvratingsprimetimeexpand1

2. We can leverage “spin-off” media opportunities to change attitudes. Success in this campaign will result in other opportunities to shed light on the marginalization of America’s largest minority. We can discuss WHY we’ve never been on the “Fan Cam” or most every other positive stage in our society. Those media opportunities will exist in global, national and local media as a mass appeal hook for ADA25 coverage. Baseball is not the only element that excludes us. But it can give us the forum to educate all.

Last night, while thinking about the impact this project can have and looking at the pictures, I got emotional when I started to internalize the burden of irrelevance we carry as people with disabilities.  Despite our incredible inner strength, there is pain in society’s message to us that there’s something “wrong” with us.  Or that we’re not worthy of being hired, or promoted or capable of love and intimacy.  We have no reflection in the mirror of our society.  It is an incredibly lonely feeling that we force ourselves to ignore but we know it is there.  But when you look at the pictures of all these people enjoying the magical enchantment of baseball, see if your eyes tear up like mine did.

This can’t happen without your support.  There is no money changing hands.  My only motivation is to see the message get out.  We need your help.  “Like” and keep checking www.Facebook.com/ADAFanCam to learn how you can help.  Share this article and share the page.  And most importantly, find some pictures of yourself at the ballpark and post them to the page.

And always remember this: “If you build it, they will come.”

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