My dad doesn’t like baseball. To him, it’s too slow, too boring. As an ex football player, there’s not enough contact to satisfy him. Growing up in the South, it was a sport that was played by “people who couldn’t play football.”
I’m sure that many people share his mindset. How else could you explain the drop off in popularity of what was once America’s pastime? According to the Wall Street Journal, baseball is now America’s fourth most played sport at the youth level, trailing basketball, soccer and softball.
If one were to travel back in time to the 1920s and ask people off the streets what their favorite sport was, there’d be an overwhelming majority that would say baseball. Back then, kids dreamed of being the next Babe Ruth or Lou Gehrig, they dreamed about playing in the vast expanses of the Polo Grounds, or the cozy bandbox that was Ebbets Field. They stayed up at night next to their handheld radios, listening to their local teams under the covers. But I think nowadays kids dream of playing video games all their lives instead.
What changed? Why has what was once considered to be America’s pastime now become an afterthought to basketball and football?
Well, look around you. Everything and everyone moves a million miles a second. Kids zoom through the halls. People speed through the streets, enraged if someone drives the speed limit. We live in a fast paced world and perhaps that’s why baseball has fallen. We are so used to always moving and to always doing something that we can no longer enjoy a game where there is minimal contact; there is no fast break action and the play that most excites people is a home run.
The casual fan, like my father, is oblivious to the intricate details of the game, to what makes it beautiful. They don’t appreciate the full body coordination of a pitcher before he unleashes a 95 mile an hour fastball toward home plate and the hand-eye synchronization it takes for the batter to put the curved-ash club onto the round, leather-covered ball.
Perhaps, we are just too distracted. No longer can we pass the time by listening to a game or playing catch outside. Those days are gone, and you have the Xbox and PS3 to thank for that. With kids no longer interested in the sport, what used to be a game that was enjoyed by entire families is now regulated to relative obscurity.
I still love baseball. I love the thwap of a ball in a glove, the crack of bat on ball, the smell of pine tar. I love the hot summer days spent on the dusty diamond and the late October nights when all eyes are focused on baseball’s biggest stage. Sure it’s slow, sure it’s complex, but that’s part of the charm, that’s what makes it great. The game may be aging, it may be declining, but to me, it’s immortal. Soccer be damned, it is the beautiful game and it will always be America’s pastime.