A couple of nights ago, I had dinner with my girlfriend and an old buddy from high school, Jake. We reminisced about the old days for a little, and even ran into someone neither of us had seen in over five years. Her name was Dana, and Dana’s dad was in the band playing at the restaurant that night. As we sipped on some beer and enjoyed the live music, Jake and I got into a conversation about sports. There were four TV’s in the place, and all of them had on some kind of sporting event. The TV closest to us showed Game 6 of the ALCS between the Tigers and Rangers.
As Texas poured it on and clinched their second consecutive American League pennant, Jake said something very interesting to me.
“I can’t get into baseball, it’s so boring.”
As a twenty-three year old who’s grown up loving baseball his entire life, I thought about what he said for a second and tried to make sense of it.
When I was eight years old, I moved with my parents to a new house in Mendham, New Jersey, and the first thing I noticed was how much bigger our backyard was. My immediate thought was to make my own baseball field, like Kevin Costner did in Field of Dreams. “If you build it, they will come.” I had my parents drive me to Home Depot, and we picked up bases for my new field. Because my ‘dream field’ was in the middle of the woods, I got up every morning for weeks and raked leaves and picked up sticks to clear the way for my brand new state of the art stadium. I even asked my parents if we could buy baseball dirt to cover the ‘infield’, but they told me that they thought the regular backyard ground would be just fine. (I thought about walking to my local baseball field to shovel out infield dirt to bring home with me, but I was too chicken.)
Anyways, after three months of hard work, my field was finished. I shared a lot of great memories on that field with friends and family; especially weekend afternoon catches with my dad.
Kids aren’t outside building baseball fields in their backyards as much these days. They’re inside playing videogames and watching football on their 60 inch HD TV screens.
“I can’t get into baseball, it’s so boring.”
I’ve noticed over the years that older generations feel a stronger connection to baseball than my generation does.
The game hasn’t changed. It’s still a ball and a bat. Why the difference?
They had heroes. DiMaggio, Williams, Mantle, Mays, Robinson, Koufax, Gibson, Aaron, the list goes on for miles.
We had heroes too.
Unfortunately, our heroes took steroids and let us all down.
Oh, and canceling the 1994 World Series didn’t help win over kids my age either.
For the last five years, Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera have been the game’s best two hitters.
Cabrera doesn’t speak English very well, and he’s been in the news at least four different times during his professional career because of excessive drinking and breaking the law.
That’s someone that’s easy to get behind!
Then, there’s Albert Pujols. Albert seems like a good guy, and he is one of the best baseball players of all-time. But, whether people like to admit it or not, no one really knows if Albert has been clean of steroids his entire career. He’s got 445 career home runs in ten years. From 2001 to 2005, he smacked 201 home runs, placing him second all-time on the list for the most home runs hit in a player’s first five seasons. In 2001, Barry Bonds hit 73 home runs. The next three seasons, Bonds hit 46,45, and 45. Pujols’ career began during the peak of steroid use in the MLB.
Of course, there is really nothing Pujols can do to dismiss fans’ doubts, but it’s not easy for people to get behind a guy they can’t completely trust.
Cabrera and Pujols are two perfect examples of why the average 23-year old English-speaking male finds baseball boring. They can’t relate to the players (language barrier) AND they don’t trust the players (steroids).
Television ratings for last year’s World Series were at an all-time low. The final game between the San Francisco Giants and Texas Rangers drew just 15 million people. (106 million people watched the Super Bowl in 2010.)
You can blame the lower World Series ratings on the smaller markets the games were played in, but I think it’s something more than that.
A regular season Monday Night football game between the Indianapolis Colts and Houston Texans on the same night as Game 5 of the World Series drew 11.9 million viewers.
It’s not necessarily the markets; it’s the sport.
Everyday, I see more and more people my age choosing to watch the NFL over baseball.
Jake’s not alone. He’s actually in the majority.
Baseball has a ‘boring’ problem on its hands.
The sport needs to spruce things up with stars fans can really be proud to cheer for. Baseball needs to give fans a reason to watch.
How ’bout some decent rivalries? Yankees vs. Red Sox isn’t what it was back in 2003/2004. Dodgers vs. Giants could be special if the two teams could somehow manage to field a contender during the same season. The best rivalry fans witnessed in this year’s playoffs was the Milwaukee Brewers and the St. Louis Cardinals.
How about some excitement in the World Series? Better commercials. More drama. There hasn’t been a Game 7 played in the World Series since 2002.
The game needs a kick in the ass. The question is: Who is going to deliver it?