In North American sports, one can associate the start of a season with the beginning of a particular sport. Fall has football and winter has hockey and basketball, depending on the type of person you ask. What about spring and summer? Is it golf or soccer? Wait I got it, I think it’s this sport called baseball?
Baseball’s opening day signifies the start of spring and the coming of summer. However, I find myself being part of a dwindling group of sports fans of my generation that actually like baseball. The reality is that America’s greatest pastime has become an afterthought, and is slowly becoming irrelevant by each passing year. How did it come to that? There are multiple reasons, but the most popular reason is simply that it is boring.
Boring is not the label a sport wants to be associated with, that is reserved for cricket or golf. Baseball has been given that stigma in recent years mainly because it has reverted back to what it was pre-1990’s.
It was a pitchers game before then, meaning it was methodical, defensive and low scoring. Baseball could get away with that type of play because it was the most popular sport at the time. Football was not as popular like today and basketball was at its lowest popularity in its history. Hockey was the only contending sport, but seasons were shorter back then and it only occurred in the winter.
Baseball basically had a six-month span where it was the only sport to watch. But as sports coverage has extended out of season and is year-round, baseball is lagging behind sports that are out of season. Also our society has changed as a whole.
We live in a generation of instant gratification. Meaning nobody has the time or patience to sit and watch a five-hour long baseball game that ends in a 3-2 score. The long play, the low scores and the large time commitment all could be forgiven if baseball had known stars, but in reality there are very few.
From the early 1990’s to the early 2000’s, baseball had marketable stars that made people watch baseball. Just look at the names: Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, Derek Jeter, Ken Griffey Jr, Roger Clemens, Pedro Martinez and Alex Rodriguez just to name a few.
All those guys I listed had two things in common: they had personality and they were exciting to watch. Clemens and Martinez were known for giving a fiery fist pump followed by a death stare after a strikeout. Griffey always was displaying the most amazing feats of athleticism ever seen on a baseball field. McGwire and Sosa single handily revived baseball in 1998 with their race to break the then 47-year-old single season homerun record.
Today, there are only two players that can be named by a casual fan: Bryce Harper and Mike Trout. Baseball needs to make itself relevant again by marketing its star players better. There are players out there like Matt Harvey and Giancarlo Stanton that have huge marketability but baseball has failed to capitalize on marketing its talent.
Baseball is always going to be a slow sport, but it can be highly enjoyable. Recently baseball has implemented rules and time restrictions as a way to speed up the game. At its best, baseball can be very tense, dramatic and exciting, but the sport needs stars for people to notice its greatness that made it America’s greatest past time. It needs more players like a Bryce Harper or a Ken Griffey Jr. so that it can draw people in. When baseball does that, maybe then it won’t seem as painful to watch a five hour game.