There’s the October “baseball is dying” rush when football ratings dwarf baseball’s and then there’s the Opening Day rush when, “heck, let’s just throw shade at baseball” seems like a great idea. Anyway, here’s the latest.
Key angle: youth participation is the key to a vital sport and youth participation in baseball is down. That’s what it leads with, noting that youth participation is absolutely essential to loving it later in life. Then it gives stats on that which serve to undercut the premise:
Participation in all sports has dropped by more than 9 percent nationwide over the past five years, according to an annual study by the Sports and Fitness Industry Association. Only lacrosse has shown double-digit growth over that period. Baseball participation dropped 3 percent, basketball fell by 2 percent, and football lost 5 percent of its tackle players and 7 percent of touch players. About half of American children do not participate in any team sport.
But cut the author some slack. This is one of those “throw every available statistic at the reader and hope a few blows are landed” kind of article, so he’s allowed some misses once in a while. And did you note the picture of the old base on the muddy, disused baseball field? That’s some Serious Symbolic Stuff right there, you guys.
Overall, this is the same story we’ve seen over and over and over again: there are more things for kids to do now and they’re doing different things. There are more entertainment and sports options for people now and they’re watching different things. Baseball was once the only thing anyone cared about but that is not the case anymore. It’s spiced up with some pithy quotes about how baseball is going to go the way of Tower Records and Blockbuster video, but it says nothing new of substance.
As we’ve noted many, many, many times here, baseball has some challenges. As all products and all entertainments do. It is only a Big Important Issue worthy of a Big Important Article like this, however, if you approach baseball differently than you approach any of those other businesses and entertainments. If you have it in your head that baseball had some God-given place of primacy in the sports universe that it should maintain despite the entire world changing around it. If you buy in to the idea that it is The National Pastime and that it’s important and essential for it to be The National Pastime for it to be healthy.
Judge baseball on what it is, not on what it was. Only then are your conclusions and your rhetoric going to be reasonable.