We’ve gone 15 rounds on this topic on this website over the years, so there’s no need to throw out a shoulder patting ourselves on the back: Baseball, while making billions and billions of dollars, is losing relevancy in the cultural landscape of sports, so sayeth The New York Times. When we say it, ‘you hate baseball‘ but when the Times says it … oh, forget it. Take it away, Bob Costas!
The downside is that only a handful of franchises can claim any sort of national profile. When the postseason rolls around and it’s time for baseball to take the national stage — well, it doesn’t, unless the Yankees or the Red Sox are involved. “If Tampa Bay plays Cincinnati in the World Series, I don’t care if the series goes seven games and every game goes into extra innings, baseball is screwed,” says Mr. Costas. “That’s not fair to the Rays or the Reds, but it’s true.”
No new ground is broken in the story, but it’s still a good read if you haven’t been following the trends for the last decade. World Series ratings have been plummeting. Only a handful of teams have a national following, as the game has become more of a regional sport. Expansion has hurt, not helped (this is a bit of a clumsy point). Why are baseball fans and the media obsessed with records and stats that are 50-60-90 years old, yet that is rarely a topic of discussion for the NFL, NBA and college football? From the Times:
“Baseball’s never-ending nostalgia trip has made it an inherently conservative sport, one that’s forever straining to live up to its own mythology.”
High-definition TV is best suited for the NFL and NBA – fast, loud, action-packed sports. The MLB season goes on forever. College baseball is completely irrelevant. Baseball lacks pop-culture ambassadors like Jay-Z and Lil’ Wayne, who have cache with the young demographic. And on. And on.
There are some bright spots, though, not mentioned in the article: MLB Network’s impact has been significant, especially during pennant races in September. There are a cadre of young stars in baseball, who, if marketed correctly, can be national figures for the next decade (Trout, Machado, Harvey, Strasburg, Harper … unfortunately, none of them are in the 2013 postseason). And perhaps most significant – MLB has finally relaxed its draconian You Tube restrictions, and is regularly uploading videos – past and present – to one of the most popular sites on the internet.
Just the other day, my two and a half year old son – I bought him a glove and new baseball Saturday after his best soccer practice of the season – wanted to watch baseball, but there were no games on, so I fired up YouTube and pulled up some MLB memories of mine: Yankees lose in the 1995 playoffs, Sid Bream’s slide to beat the Pirates and Kirk Gibson’s home run in the 1988 World Series.
The one I can’t find: old Yankee Stadium goes bananas in the postseason – 2000 or 2001 – when David Justice hit a late-inning homer to straightaway centerfield. I remember leaping up and down pumping my fists in my studio apartment. Can someone get on that, please? [via NYT]