Baseball Is Losing The Battle For Attention
What do you care more about: the NBA and NFL off seasons or the MLB regular season? Baseball is losing the fight, and you know it.
The All-Star Game and Home Run Derby are coming up. I used to love watching, operative term being "used to." I don't even record it on the DVR anymore. It all just seems desperate. "I know! Let's make the All-Star Game count." That would be nice if the voting process wasn't still a joke.
Baseball is in a race it can't possibly win against football and basketball. TV ratings drive everything, and watching an entire regular season baseball game is something only hardcore fans do. The casual sports fan would rather hear about who is getting in trouble in the NFL and college football off seasons, while pondering the effects of NBA free agency in their spare time. It's not baseball's fault, and it should stop trying so hard to adjust.
I could insert all types of jokes about how America's pass time has become its past time (somebody call the joke police, immediately), but kicking something that is already injured doesn't really suit me. On the contrary, I love baseball. I just wish it would stop trying to cater to people that don't care about it anyway.
Becoming a niche sport is something that is hard to accept. It means acknowledging that you are no longer mainstream. It means coming to terms with certain financial realities when it comes to television and advertising contracts. Most of all, it means stopping all attempts to keep up with the Jones'es. Instant replay was a necessity, but if rules start being created simply to make the product more consumable, then the question must be posed: is it the game that is suffering or the fans?
Allow me to draw a comparison. Baseball fans, I beg you to hear me out.
Hockey fans love hockey with an undying passion. No matter what you think or tell them, nothing can diminish the fervor that takes them over at the drop of the puck. Countless people in their lives ask them, "How can you watch this? It's so damn boring." It's not boring to them. Actually, it's the air they breath. Every power play, shift change, face off and fight brings the blood to a boil. The people around them will never understand, but it doesn't matter. Hockey fans are a member of a tribe, and they stick together. This is the future of baseball. Don't be mad at me, please. Keep listening.
People only pay attention to no-hitters or perfect games and check out when they get ruined in the top of the 9th inning. It happened twice recently. No appreciation for the 8.2 innings the pitcher went untouched. No appreciation for the defense that backed him up with shifts, diving catches, scoops on short hops and vocal encouragement. The minutia of bunting, hit-and-runs and simple bullpen changes would be lost on the majority of modern sports fans. Not even the Home Run Derby entices them, and it's filled with the sport's most exciting play.
Get the picture? It's not a nice message to relay, but one I deliver with a bittersweet satisfaction.
If I didn't care about baseball, I would never write this opinion piece. The problem is, I have a real problem with letting it go to the wayside. I would rather baseball survive as a niche sport then disappear by changing its identity to appease to masses that don't understand it in the first place. If my future grandchildren even know how the game works, I will die with a smile on my face.
That being said, the All-Star Break is coming. I encourage you to give it a chance, even if you end up changing the channel within five minutes. I will. Most won't. We have to stop caring about the others and enjoy the game we watch while it's still on regular cable.