If Baseball Were Invented Today

This afternoon, I was listening (as I do most days) to Tony Bruno and Harry Mayes on Philadelphia's 97.5 The Fanatic sports radio. As they often do, today Bruno and Mayes mixed comedic bits with poignant thoughts on sports. One of the topics they posited asked if baseball were invented today, would it be as popular as it currently remains among Americans? I share their opinions that most likely baseball would fail if invented today based on the idea that it's deemed boring by most people. So, how could it be that baseball is enjoying its most lucrative time in history, but if it were a new sport, it would fail? That's a fascinating juxtaposition.

Most casual fans agree that going to a live baseball game is 1000 times more exciting and fun than watching one on television. There's nothing quite like coming out of the concourse tunnel and seeing that field for the first time. One reason why the sport remains so popular could rest in the accessibility of fans to attend games. By and large, tickets are not that expensive (compared to other major sports) with most stadiums having decent seats in the $25-$40 range. Many new stadiums are now built such that very few bad seats exist. This is certainly the case at Citizen's Bank Park in Philadelphia. I've sat all over the stadium and cannot remember a time I thought my seats were bad. Comparatively, football tickets are inherently more difficult to come by and are certainly more expensive. Basketball and hockey also have more expensive seats as their arenas don't have the same capacity of the ballparks.

Perhaps the biggest reason the sport has maintained its popularity rests in its rich history. Fathers pass down the game to sons and they to their sons. Granted, free agency has diminished that somewhat as players don't stay with the same team that much anymore. Still, my perception is that fans resonate more intensely with their favorite baseball team than any other sport. We're deeply disappointed and let down when our baseball club doesn't fare well. My perception is that our disappointment wanes much faster when our favorite basketball or hockey team loses.

"The one constant through all the years has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It's been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past. It reminds us of all that once was good, and what could be again." - James Earl Jones, Field of Dreams (1989)

My love of baseball has never been as strong as now, except maybe when the Mets won the World Series in 1986. The advent of fantasy baseball has helped me take a more collective interest in the entire league rather than just my favorite team. Like most, the sport was passed down to me from my father and grandfather. Watching a game in the middle of summer with my father was (and is) a great experience.

For as much as he's vilified, Bud Selig, baseball's commissioner, has tried to make the game more appealing and interesting to different segments. During his tenure, we've seen the playoffs expand making for more dynamic and suspenseful post season games. The sport has integrated Interleague play so that NL teams and AL teams that would never play otherwise can bring added excitement for their fans. He's also made the game more accessible via MLB.com and the MLB network. As for the speed of the game, there isn't much that can be done about that. It's America's past time, it's supposed to allow for unwinding and relaxing for a couple of hours. When you factor in time outs, overtime, and other time wasted, a baseball game isn't much longer than an NBA game or an NFL game.

So baseball prevails in spite of the fact many find it boring. It appeals to all different age groups, both genders, diverse cultures, and people of different backgrounds.

1 comment:

  1. It's certainly the history. It is also the advent of new "fan friendly" ballparks. The ballpark is a wonderful place to bring a family OR to go hang out with friends (the fact that it appeals to a diverse crowd is sort of unique to baseball). Selig has done a lot to bring the game to new levels and deserves credit for that. I think that baseball and summer is the perfect combination... whether you're at the beach listening to a game on the radio (or driving home on a Sunday listening to the game stuck in traffic) or at the ballpark on a hot summer night or simply sitting at home watching the game, baseball is a sport that can be enjoyed while doing other things. You don't have to be there for every pitch or every out - you can step outside to throw a burger on the grill or take a quick dip in the ocean and not really feel like you've missed the action. The "slowness" and the fact that there are 162 games makes it perfect for those summer months when we're all enjoying life outdoors. It definitely wouldn't make it as a "new" sport today but I couldn't imagine a summer without it.


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