It’s no real secret these days that baseball is, in fact, a sport in decline. You’ll find some arguments that distort the reality of a sport that used to be America’s most loved but the hard facts don’t lie. Sadly, baseball is in desperate need of an injection of character in order to breathe life into the sport.
Stats don’t lie
That obviously isn’t everyone’s take on the matter and even the New York Times with their article ‘How popular is baseball?’ did their damndest to paper over the cracks in the sport’s popularity by arguing that it sells more tickets than both the NBA and NFL. That’s all good and well but only the case because MLB teams play a whopping 2,430 regular season games compared to that of the NFL’s 256 and NBA’s 1230.
What you should be looking at is the drop off in attendance since 2007, around 80 million fans attended league games 12 years ago compared to 68.5 million in 2019. There’s a definite ongoing decline as the sport battles to reach a younger audience.
A new broom sweeps clean
Most sports eventually get to this point where they are forced to take action as they confront the horrible and ultimately unsettling truth that something needs to be done. To give the MLB powers that be their due, they are trying to shake things up.
The recent agreement of a 10-year deal with Nike to sponsor the uniforms is another sign that MLB are rolling up their sleeves and looking to bring the game into the 21st century. But perhaps most significant, and telling, is the dismantling of the old school etiquette as one of the areas they have sought to address and that is reiterated in Betway’s article on the evolution of baseball’s unwritten rules. Basically, the more the game welcomes a bit of character on the field, the bigger the audience they will attract. As things stand, baseball is still governed by these unwritten rules that are playing a major part in the sport’s inability to grow given the lack of personality on display in the park.
Out with the old and in with the new
For instance, turning your nose up at a player celebrating a home run is no fun for anyone and sucks the oxygen out of a game that is already severely deprived of it. For goodness sake, a player has just hit the ball out of the park, let them enjoy it. It’s almost as if people are more interested in how a player behaves after they hit one rather than how they were able to do so.
Adding to that, the players should be encouraged to steal a base late on, regardless of the score, and get the opposition fired up in the process. Soccer teams don’t deliberately miss the goal when they are a few goals up. On the contrary, they stick the boot in as much as possible to their fans’ delight. If anything, it makes for a better spectacle the next time around now that there is a bit of needle between the two teams.
The Washington Post called these unwritten rules ‘stupid and strange’ and one can’t help but nod silently in agreement at the case they make, even if they do so in a slightly brash fashion. There will be an old guard reading this who maintain that the most valuable rules are still unwritten and that isn’t totally unfounded and applies to more than just baseball, but also everyday life. And to emphasize, no one is condoning making baseball a lawless arena where anything goes. For instance, if you throw a glove at the umpire as Keon Broxton did, you should be sent off.
That is not the player expression that people are calling for. Rather, as the MLB slogan goes ‘Let the Kids Play’, let’s throw some caution to the wind on the field of play by giving the characters who play this game the freedom to express themselves without fear of being admonished, so that people can begin talking about the sport positively again.