“Millennials aren’t always to blame.”
When I saw the headline, I couldn’t help but snicker. It’s precisely the type of overly-sensitive, whiny statement one might expect from Generation Y (aka millennials), the term for those who graced the world with their presence between 1977 and 1995.
I’m kidding. Although I do enjoy the occasional joke about their affinity for skinny jeans and insistence on using terms like ‘binge-watching,’ I don’t actually believe that an entire segment of the population can be reduced to a few stereotypes. (Bear in mind, this is coming from a Gen Xer who “skateboarded through high school with flannel shirts and angry music during a period of economic stability,” which is only partially true.)
In fact, I believe millennials have become something of a scapegoat, often accused of destroying industries when, in reality, they’re merely “shifting consumer preferences,” according to a report from CB Insights Research. The report looked at 12 sectors that have taken a beating due to the spending habits of this generation, including chain restaurants, beer, department stores, and American cheese.
But rather than slam youngsters for abandoning gyms and thumbing their noses at Budweiser, it argues that perhaps it isn’t the buyers who should be taking the blame, but sellers. “As consumer preferences have changed, some companies have navigated the shifts gracefully while others have failed,” the report stated. “But to interpret those failures as ‘deaths’ at the hands of millennials is too easy. In virtually every case, the real cause is a textbook failure to adapt to changing conditions.”
The latest so-called “victim” of millennial preferences? Harley-Davidson, which is grappling with declining sales and an aging demographic, according to a CNBC article. One reason for the nosedive? “Younger buyers appear to be more motivated to consider motorcycles for practical reasons, which means it is likely they will be more interested in less expensive bikes that bring in lower margins for manufacturers.”
What that means is that at some point, Harley-Davidson won’t be able to rely on its average customer — a married man in his early 50s with a household income at or above $90,000 — to pull all the weight. It also means the iconic brand has an opportunity to tap into a new segment of riders. That is, if they’re willing to make some changes based on market trends.
And really, shouldn’t companies be doing that anyway? Maybe we shouldn’t be criticizing millennials, but instead, thanking them for paving a new path way forward.
Sounds great, right? For a moment, I actually bought into it. But my warm and fuzzy feelings turned to ice when I found out the next victim was baseball. My game. America’s pastime. A few weeks ago, Major League Baseball and the Players Association announced several major rule changes in an effort to speed up the game and appeal to younger fans. And while some of them make sense — for example, implementing an All-Star election day and attaching an incentive to the Home Run Derby — others are messing with the game.
Beginning in 2020, the number of mound visits allowed by coaches will decrease from six to five, and pitchers will be required to face a minimum of three batters, according to USA Today. Apparently, the chess match in which managers become engaged, hand-picking specialty relievers either to get a big out or force the opposing team to use a pinch-hitter, is simply too boring for the snowflake generation.
One writer hailed the decision, arguing that it “should put an end to one of baseball’s most boring sequences: the late-inning parade of relievers who enter to take on a righty or lefty and depart immediately after retiring (or failing to retire) their target, subjecting the audience to another managerial mound visit.”
After cursing the writer, I did a search on him that confirmed my suspicions. He’s 30 years old. He was born in the late 80s. Some of us have flannel shirts older than him. Of course he doesn’t appreciate baseball and all of its nuances. He didn’t live through the horror of the year without a World Series. He didn’t watch Kirk Gibson limp around the bases in 1988, or witness the playoff domination of Jack Morris.
What does this kid know anyway?!
Thankfully, my curiosity forced me to dig a little deeper and check out some of his other work. What I quickly learned is that not only does Ben Lindberg know his stuff, he’s also a baseball fanatic. He believes “the announced alterations represent a real thaw in the change-averse mind-set of a sport that’s been slow to respond to the consequences for spectators of its teams’ tactical innovations.” By merely considering these changes, baseball is “laying the groundwork for ongoing discussions and more meaningful change.”
While I still oppose modifications that can stifle a manager’s strategy, I do understand the need for dialog among baseball’s decision makers, and the willingness to evolve for the good of the game.
Who knows – I might even read Lindberg’s book. But it’ll be the print version.