Tuesday, September 12, 2006

It's September. Do You Care?

Tradition tells us that since it is September, we must be thinking about baseball. Surely someone out there is, but I suspect the majority of those people are somewhere else. America’s pastime has become little more than a distraction, sadly.
Long gone are the days when a kid would sneak a radio into school to listen to World Series games. Of course, that’s not really a factor, anyway. The games all are played at night.
The point is: unless you’re in or near a baseball market with a playoff team, chances are you just don’t care. Steroid scandals, over saturation and slow play have led to the dilution of passion among casual fans. You can find a few hardliners in Houston and some diamond devotees in Dallas-Ft. Worth, but to find real baseball fans you have to go to St. Louis. There, the community lives and dies with its Cardinals. There’s no denying the passion in Boston for the Red Sox and long-suffering Cubs fans can be found in the four corners of our country. The same can be said for a few Yankees fans scattered coast-to-coast. Outside of that, we can find a passing interest at best in baseball.
Go ahead; try to start a conversation at the office about the playoffs and the World Series. You won’t get very far. Bring up LSU football, the Cowboys or the Saints and your productivity numbers will take a nosedive. That’s what engages people. Can you make a case for any baseball fan base which approaches that of any number of Southeastern Conference football teams?
If a northeast bias exists in the national media, then maybe a southern bias exists here. On a Saturday or Sunday this time of year, if you watch a sports highlights show, don’t you get aggravated if they interrupt the football segment to show baseball? Do you really care what John Kruk has to say? Somewhere, someone must because the national broadcasters keep playing baseball high in their shows. The national magazines put guys in caps instead of helmets on their covers, which may generate newsstand sales in the northeast, but not in the south.
Baseball is not dead by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, it’s thriving in its own way. Even if the game in enshrouded in suspicion, people show up at the ballparks (at least some of them). The players are wealthy and of course the owners are much wealthier. Still, the game is out of touch, almost elitist. Many of the players just aren’t real and certainly they are not accessible. The average fan can’t afford to go to a game. Too rare are the visceral moments which allow the game to transcend those difficulties.
Conversely, the average football game will offer something once or twice during its course which will provide a real thrill. If you’re emotionally bound to a college program, you somehow can actually find enjoyment in being disappointed by your team’s season. At least you feel something.
Emotions will run high as Barry Bonds approaches Hank Aaron’s home run record, but that likely will come in the early to mid part of the season in 2007. For now, the question at hand is interest in crowning a world champion. Weren’t you left a little cold with the White Sox’ title a year ago? Did you even remember they are the reigning champions?
America’s relationship with baseball needs to be repaired. Just like any relationship, there must be give and take. Both sides need to care. Both sides need to work at it. At the rate things are going, the fans won’t even walk away from the game. That requires planning and a certain level of commitment. The worst thing that can happen to baseball seems to be taking place. A lot of people just don’t think about it anymore.

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Workman said...

While I agree with most of your post, I'd take issue with your assertion that fans can't afford to attend baseball games.

Compared with the other major sports baseball is downright affordable. Baseball still has cheap seats... in the outfield, anyway.

I don't know how it is on other cities, but the bleacher seats in Dodger Stadium cost about $9. That's cheaper than a movie.

Try getting into the crappiest seats at a Lakers game for under $50. It won't happen.

Anonymous said...

I'm with Matthew on this one. How much were those tickets to the Saints/Cowboys exhibition? I'd rather watch a baseball game any day. Yes, football reigns supreme in the South but baseball is what makes my heart beat just a bit faster this time of year.