My Mets open-up tonight against the Nationals. I love opening day. Hope springs eternal!
Here is a taste of Jacob Lupfer’s piece at Religion News Service:
From any accounting of popularity, market share or American cultural dominance, baseball seems to be in decline. Whereas 25 million people used to tune in to watch a World Series game in 2003 on average, only 8 million watched in 2019. While all sports viewership has struggled of late, the NFL drew more than 100 million to its championship game this year. As with religion, immigrants and minorities will help: The growing number of Hispanic Americans, the most avid fans, will help, but the game’s popularity is not likely coming back.
Numerous rule changes have been proposed and implemented, ostensibly to make games quicker and more exciting: seven-inning doubleheaders, a pitch clock, starting extra innings with a runner on second base and, new for 2022, the use of the designated hitter in the National League. But older die-hard fans often find such innovations to be degradations of what makes baseball so special.
The reasons for baseball’s slide, however, go deeper than these innovations, aimed at increased media competition, can solve. More than most sports, baseball depends on fathers teaching it to their sons, but with more broken families and fatherless children than ever before, far fewer children are playing baseball. Even in families that are intact, the younger, digitally native generation trusts its own superior knowledge of technology above any lore of a game played outdoors with sticks and scraps of leather. But by and large the connections that have sustained baseball for more than 150 years are blinking out.
Baseball should rethink its evangelization strategy. The sport’s owners have for too long depended on keeping up attendance for its own sake, luring fans into their stadiums by resorting to fancy food courts to make them destinations for other than their stated business. They have appealed to a long-gone respect for institutions and their place in our personal and national history. (“The tradition is here. The memories are waiting,” went the old NBC Game of the Week promo.)
What people want today is not the glorification of an American past but indelible, life-enhancing experience. From the perfect, dissipated March afternoons of spring training in Florida and Arizona to the unparalleled drama of October baseball, the sport stretches across the year. Americans can follow highlights from 15 games most days through a six-month regular season, played from coast to coast. The grueling 162-day schedule full of cherished rivalries, lamentable injuries and the triumphs of superstars and unlikely heroes alike takes place in something like the eternal now.
In every game, you may see something that has never happened before. Every sport has magical moments; baseball is fundamentally enchanted.
Read the entire piece here.
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