Silent Archimedes

Baseball as America’s Pastime continues to fall further into the past

Posted by silentarchimedes on November 19, 2008

Baseball is not a sport built for parity. It is not like the NFL where parity in a 16-game season promotes excitement and competition. It’s not like the NFL where each team has a strong base of hardcore fans and where most fans are fans of watching football as a sport. Football is more exciting to watch than baseball. The biggest complaint from casual sports fans about watching baseball is that it’s boring. This is apparent when we look at the popularity of college football versus that of college baseball or even the MLB minor leagues. Baseball’s lengthy 162-game season and similarly lengthy best-of five or seven game playoffs series are not conducive to small market teams like the Tampa Rays and Florida Marlins capturing the attention and excitement of casual fans around the country.

Penalty - horsecollar tackle

Penalty in football - horse-collar tackle

The drama of baseball takes too long to unfold in this day and age of “keep me interested right nowmentality. Baseball is about rivalries and story lines and history. It is about statistics and tradition. It can be agonizingly slow and frustrating. It’s not like football where all it takes is three hours to resolve the pent up competitive juices. Words you hear about in football are war, in the trenches, cold, frozen tundra, swirling winds, etc etc. Penalties include grabbing the facemask, unsportsmanlike conduct, taunting and horse-collar tackles. Imagine if any of those words are ever used near baseball. Baseball is too slow for this new era of extreme sports. This is why mixed martial arts is gaining popularity over its more traditional and more boring sport, boxing. Since when is boxing considered boring? This is why a sport like soccer continues to have difficulty gaining popularity in America. The sport takes too long to achieve satisfaction. Even a violent sport like hockey has had to transform itself after a period of low scoring games due to the NJ Devils’ inspired zone trap defense. The game now requires faster, younger athletes with more room to show their speed and skills. It was a matter of survival for the NHL, and baseball might be headed that way as well.

MLB Commish - Bud Selig

MLB Commish - Bud Selig

To make matters worse, two factors have had very negative effects on baseball. The steroid era has pushed baseball into a precipitice decline in popularity. The skepticism surrounding the genuity of sacred baseball records being broken during the steroid era has removed two of the main attractions I mentioned earlier, history and statistics. It has removed the excitement of slow journeys toward hallowed records and the respect given to such players. Remember the awe and respect of Cal Ripken when he broke Lou Gehrig’s consecutive games streak or when Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa battled to break Roger Maris’ single season home run record. Of course, the second record is now seen with skepticism and is considered one of the defining moments of the steroid era. The fact that players have seemed unwilling to address the problem of the past ten years is disturbing. The feeling that the players rather protect their cheating teammates than the integrity of the sport leaves many traditional baseball fans disgusted. The second factor is directly related to the steroid era. Bud Selig, the baseball commissioner, has been a  complete travesty to baseball. Although he is good for the owners, fans see him as boring, slow,  biased and ineffective. He continues to brush over the steroid era and had to be fully pushed by even Congress before taking action. His decision to leave the All-Star Game a tie was horrible. And although his decision to add interleague play initially seemed a huge success, it has proven to be a hassle and distraction to fans. He seems unwilling to confront the problems of baseball and his biased views are shown in a somewhat condescending tone when pushed by the media or fans.

So what is baseball to do? For one thing, it needs a new commissioner. One that is younger and understands that baseball requires changes that appeal to younger fans but keeps the traditionalists happy. One that realizes that the steroid era can potentially destroy baseball forever unless a level of happiness is reached among all groups involved, including but not limited to owners, players, former players, Congress, traditionalists and new generation of fans. However, there are things about baseball that are at the roots of its tradition and changing them would prove good and bad. The Rays-Phillies World Series was a disaster. Television ratings have never been lower. However, baseball cannot change the playoffs to one game takes all because the lengthy journey of 162 games culminating in one 9-inning game seems unfair. Although why not? I bet if the World Series was one game, more people would definitely tune in to see who wins. If I’m a Yankees fan, why would I tune in to a best of seven between the Rays and Phillies? Especially when football is on or I can watch DVDs or do something else. However, if it was a 3 hour event, like the Super Bowl, I’d be willing to watch it and even make a social event out of it. Baseball has to be willing to face the problem of why it is declining in popularity. It has to be open to innovation and the possibility of changing tradition for the better of the sport. It has to also lean on the teams that make it a popular sport, like the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers and Cardinals. Just like the NBA, which always does much better when popular teams like the Knicks and Celtics do well. With the Knicks in a multi-year doom and gloom, NBA has lost a lot of its luster.

Kids and video games

Kids and video games

However, I believe it will be difficult for baseball to regain its name as America’s pastime. It’s a sport that has lost its appeal, most likely for good. Children have more interest playing football, basketball and even soccer than baseball. Inner city kids almost exclusively play basketball now. Nowhere is stickball or other variants of baseball being played in city streets and playgrounds. Additionally, there are too many other things to keep kids occupied nowadays. Video games, internet and hi-def television are far more intriguing options than watching baseball or even rounding up atleast 10 of his or her friends to play a game.

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7 Responses to “Baseball as America’s Pastime continues to fall further into the past”

  1. Mike said

    Have to agree and disagree with your assessment. To a casual sports fan baseball maybe dull and boring, but how do explain baseballs growing attendence every year. Also an average takes just as long any football game, 3 to 3 1/2 hrs. The NFL maybe more exciting to watch, but the NHL gets less credit than any other major sport. Its the fastest paced game with tons of action. It just doesn’t watch very well on TV. For those sports fans who don’t like baseball, they were the kids who couldn’t hit, catch or throw a baseball growing up.
    Do agree the NFL is taking over the mantle of America’s more popular past time.

  2. silentarchimedes said

    Hi Mike, Thanks for you feedback. You bring up a good point about baseball’s growing attendance. I am a diehard Yankees fan and have been to at least 10 MLB games, but they are soo boring, esp after the 5th inning, and it seems like a lot of fans that I see also get bored after the 5th inning. But I guess many fans still want to go to games because even as prices go up, attendance keeps rising. However, coincidently the TV Nielsen ratings have continued to drop. I guess there is a disconnect between baseball the live experience and baseball the 2D TV experience.

    Another point you make about the NHL. I agree as well! I’m a big Rangers fan and I have enjoyed watching the game live and on TV. What is it about hockey that keeps people away? I don’t know.

    You bring up good points, but I’m still not sure why they are occurring. Baseball obviously is losing popularity but attendance climbs… Hockey is exciting but is not popular. What makes the NFL work? And to add another rooster into the fight, other football leagues like XFL, USFL, etc have not worked out…

  3. […] is dead. Leonard/Duran tho. That wasn't the reason I asked, but that was a terrible analogy. http://silentarchimedes.wordpress.co…into-the-past/ I'd go with Leonard/Duran, too. Reply With Quote + Reply to Thread […]

  4. indians fan said

    i’m one of those weird baseball first people. ha, yeah, imagine that.. football is like checkers- everyone understands it. it moves fast from start to finish.. jump, jump, jump, jump king me !
    baseball is like chess- not everyone understands it. it moves slow. it requires thinking (the thinking can’t be pre-planned by offensive & defensive coordinators). the defense has the ball. here is the ball, hit it. it looks so easy, but the batter got outsmarted again. it depends on ones perception of baseball. when i watch it, i like to try to guess what the next pitch will be. as if i were the batter. or, as if i were the pitcher, what would i fool this batter with from what i know about his weakness.
    i know, i know. too much thinking right ? too much getting into it ? thats what sports are for though right ? sure we all see way more media focused on football (media, HA !!) we have become a society that does what the media tells us to. we don’t want to kick back, relax, and do a little thinking for ourselves anymore. we want it and we want it now. football is an equivalent to the mind of america of today. we obviously aren’t what we used to be anymore. what do we have around us that say’s “made in the U.S.A.” ?? obviously too many things aren’t our pastime anymore.
    but i suppose it’s all about one’s perspective.. i agree with mike up there. the ones who couldn’t catch, throw, hit, or stand in a batters box when that hard ball was coming down the pipe at ’em with no pads to protect their body when it hit ’em.
    i actually find it to be more boring before the 5th inning, and more exciting after the 6th inning. baseball ain’t over ’till it’s over…
    and, it’s not a game of instant gratification.
    i’d also like to add that baseball players who are high draft picks out of college, still have to go prove themselves in the minor leagues.. that could take a few years.. thats earning your big league millions compared to the childish mentalities of gun toting, drug selling, women misunderstanding nfl/nba players..
    hell no the kids don’t get insired by patience, hard work, thinking for themselves, sticking with their passion, and respecting the next man.. they want it all right now.. or is that how adults are ? and we can see that through the mind of the sports media..
    thank the gods for the mlb network…. later man.

  5. Baseball is for Thinkers said

    @ Indians Fan Forever

    Man, you hit the nail on the head. I agree with every word of your comment. Baseball represents what this country used to be. I am 50 years old and everyday feel more disillusionment at what I see around me in the good ole USA. Baseball, equals patience, hard work, study, and perfecting your craft, not to mention thinking for yourself. Football though exciting on the surface lacks any real skill appeal for me. The bigger, faster, stronger guy wins. In baseball if you can’t hit the ball, you don’t play no matter how big and strong you are. More kids should be exposed to the greatness of Baseball,

  6. A.R. said

    I’m 35 and have come BACK to baseball as my #1 sport to follow over the last 3-4 years. I think it’s because while football or an NBA playoff game is an easier watch, I actually don’t have much time to watch live games on TV… and baseball is everyday so whenever I do have time, baseball is on. Football is easy to watch but the short season and one-game elimination playoff makes the results meaningless, too much luck involved to take the championship seriously. And echo what other folks said about figuring out the next pitch, when to steal etc.

  7. superb post you got here, thanks a ton for making it available!

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