This week The Week has administered last rites. After noting the usual differences in TV ratings, revenues and public opinion polls, we get this:
But this is about more than money or sports. It’s about a societal shift away from a certain kind of America where baseball made sense — where it was just so naturally and obviously illustrative of who we were as a people. Today, we are changing— and fast. Yet baseball is changing very little. It’s as if baseball can’t keep up, particularly for an increasingly distracted and impatient people.
Life is too fast now and baseball is quaint. Football is fast and violent and popular and that’s what we are too. The old thing about how baseball being what we once were as a nation and football being what we are as a nation is trotted out. And it’s not an altogether wrong observation.
But it’s an altogether irrelevant observation unless you are the sort who thinks that in this day and age — with as heterogeneous a populace we have in America and with all of the technological and entertainment options at our disposal — it makes any kind of sense to name any one pursuit a national pastime or to hold any one form of entertainment as emblematic of Who We Are as a people.
Baseball is a sport. It is an entertainment. It is one of many. On its own terms — the terms on which it judges itself and which its fans/customers judge it – it’s pretty darn healthy. It has some challenges, of course, but it’s doing just fine. It’s not going anyplace. Most of all, it doesn’t preoccupy itself with existential questions like the ones the Baseball is Dying crowd pose here. Why should it? What can it do about the nation being different now than it was 100 years ago other than say “well, duh?”
There are two reasons to worry about such existential things when it comes to baseball: (1) nostalgia; and (2) it provides good wank-fodder for especially writerly writers trying to make some Very Important Social Commentary Point.
Which, actually, presents its own existential question: if baseball actually does finally up and die, what will these people use as a symbol for their fears and anxieties about an ever-changing, ever-evolving world?
(Thanks to Jon Star for the heads up)