Heaven for me is relaxing on a comfortable leather couch and watching all fourteen of the week’s games via DirecTv’s NFL Sunday Ticket. I love football, in fact I live and die with my team, the New York Giants. I feel every hit, rejoice after every successful play and of course feel that I personally would be the best coach the team ever had. Football is the most popular sport in America, and fans across the country feel the same way I do. So, the question stands- what happened to baseball?
Baseball, the legendary past time of our country is left dwindling in the shadow of football’s glorious spotlight. Surely, all of our fathers recall the golden days. Everything from the anxiousness of spring training to enthralling Pennant Races at the end of the season. The domination of the Yankees, the miracles of the Mets, the struggles of the Cubs and Red Sox. The ground shaking conspiracies of the Black Sox and Pete Rose. I know in my childhood I never even played football, mostly everyone played in Little League. My team won the town World Series, after I hit a walk off two run triple. It was an exciting and great time in my life, and kids everywhere shared equally glorious and fun experiences. So where is baseball now?
Less than 40 years ago, there was not even a Super Bowl. After a highly questioned and disagreed with merge, the new league called the National Football League was struggling to stay afloat. Many people simply assumed that all football players were idiotic thugs. However, excitement began to build as charismatic players and classic games were shown to national audiences. The Packers beat the Cowboys for the championship in a game called The Ice Bowl, played in -50 degree weather and won on the last play. Joe Namath was the toast of New York City, and Jim Brown was running through brick walls on every play. While baseball was still the most popular sport in the country, all the sudden there was serious competition for the hard won affection of fans.
Baseball has been run out of town by the bigger, stronger bully of a sport called football. Well, maybe it’s because people are sick of ever increasing and excessive $250 million contracts, drunken fans storming the field and rampant steroid use throughout the league. However, in the last few years there has been far worse stories coming from the turf. Players arrested for murder the night of the Superbowl, players carrying Sharpies in their uniform to sign autographs during a play and still- rampant drug use. The problem can’t lie in the caliber of people that play and represent baseball.
America watches sports that keep us entertained and more importantly mirror our society. Baseball is of a different era; a relic from the past. It’s glory days ranged from when Shirley Temple movies were all the rage and people attended games in suits, to when Leave It To Beaver and Happy Days scorched the airwaves. Nothing was better than watching a friendly rivalry between hometown favorites with good ole’ American boys playing the good ole’ American game. Baseball represents a very strong tradition and nine times out of ten has an extremely slow and casual pace.
In today’s society we spend our time watching Temptation Island and going to movies like The Real Cancun. We need cheerleaders in between plays and fans that appear to be dressed for a Halloween party. Even more importantly than that Americans crave a violent, hard hitting, intense on every single play, sport. In an age where people attend NASCAR races with hopes of seeing a crash and every month there is a new version of When Animals Attack baseball simply doesn’t fit the bill. There is nothing better than seeing a leaping receiver sandwiched between two opposing 250 pound linebackers; and still catching the pass. Or an unprotected quarterback being rushed from his blind side and pummeled to the turf, fumbling the ball and turning the game around.
American’s have hundreds of television channels at their fingertips and have attention spans rivaling those of a common fruit fly- whose life span is 24 hours. We can’t be expected to watch four foul tips, three balls, two throws checking the runner at first base all for the dramatic buildup to a ground ball to the shortstop. Change the channel and watch an interception run back for a touchdown- with the next play guaranteed to be less than 40 seconds away.
The game play, action and overall entertainment value of football clearly is a good fit for American society, but are not the only reasons football is alone on top of the American sports mountain. For one, football is the easiest and most fun sport to bet on. Nothing keeps peoples attention more than when they have money riding on a close game, or even ten close games every single week. The football schedule gives us something to look forward to, something to analyze and anxiously await. Only one game a week and only 16 games a season ensures that every single game is not only important to the overall season but played to the full capabilities of all the players.
All week long prior to game day, every single match up is looked at, strategies are developed and anticipation builds. Baseball’s schedule is simply overkill. With nearly two hundred games a season, with sometimes more than five games a week, it becomes watered down, hard to keep up with and simply not as important. Star players may take scattered games off, managers may be willing to throw away a game by trying out a new lineup or new players and players may not be giving 100% every day. This year, one player on the Mets was scolded for getting his haircut in the dugout while a game was going on. That kind of blatant malcontent and lack of enthusiasm is an unfortunate sign of a team struggling through a treacherously long season. The overly extended schedule adds to the continuing demise of baseball.
Another important factor is the racial makeup of today’s players, along with what today’s youth becomes involved in playing. After Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball, baseball had a year by year increase in African American players. However, according to Sports Illustrated, since the mid 1970s that ratio has been decreasing by an overwhelming amount.
Clearly this is not due to discrimination of any nature, as many of baseball’s top stars are African American. However as the years pass and there are less African American superstars for their youth to look up to, the youth will play less and less of that sport. As that generation grows up, and none of the bright new stars in baseball are African American, even less kids from the next generation show interest. It’s a continuous cycle that results in less and less participation and fan interest of African American’s in baseball. While in the middle, rural part of the country baseball still is most likely the biggest youth sport, in the largest cities around the country the youth do not grow up idolizing baseball stars, but rather football and basketball players. The racial make up of a group of players in a league has a clear effect on youth choosing which sports to watch as well as which sports they want to play.
Baseball had it’s time in America’s beloved spotlight as the single most popular sport. However, times have changed and now Americans love and need football. During the off season and otherwise slow sports months of the summer there is a void in millions of peoples hearts throughout the country. The first glimmer of the distant season, whether it be a mere contract extension in February or the first mini camps opening in March catches the attention of fans everywhere. We love the pace of the game, the intensity of the game, the chance of injury and hard hitting nature of the sport. The schedule keeps us attentively awaiting the next division rivalry showdown, week after week. Football has a firm grasp over my heart and my mind, and Americans across the nation feel the same- and for no larger reason than it’s representation of our society.