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Home » Baseball, The Vine

The Vine: July 29, 2015

Submitted by on July 29, 2015 – 9:44 AM27 Comments

donmattingly_061114_blogcut

This is a different letter than what you usually publish.

Why do you think baseball is losing its status as the National Pastime?

For a hundred years, it was an indelible part of the culture, head and shoulders above every other sport. So important that Jackie Robinson is considered to be an important reason the the Civil Rights movement happened. To strike out, to be thrown for a curve or to bat 1.000 are expressions everyone uses (although there used to be more baseball phrases in the lexicon). The Black Sox scandal was well-known for decades, after its participants retired and died. Now, baseball's fans skew older than any other sport (half are above age 55, according to the WSJ), and even PL soccer does better among kids. Last year, the Ice Bucket Challenge was called the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge because, according to the ALS Association, kids don't know who Lou Gehrig is.

The reasons usually given for the decline in kids watching baseball and playing Little League are

1) Horrible Kids These Days, with their texting and their snapchatting, don't have the attention span or patience for a slower, more intellectual game like baseball, without cheerleaders and big halftime shows. I don't think that's the case, because these same kids are reading thick novels and following fiction with complex mythologies, and have the patience to watch soccer, which is just as low-scoring and doesn't have flash either.

2) Immigration patterns. But baseball is popular in many Latino and East Asian countries, certainly more than (American) football and basketball, both of which are thriving. Besides, baseball thrived in an era where the U.S. had mass immigration from non-baseball countries.

3) Sabermetrics. Young people aren't becoming emotionally attached to a game that requires complex math to fully appreciate. (Relatedly, baseball is too focused on past glory.)

4) Games are too long, it's too expensive to go to the ballpark, it's a hard sport to watch on TV since there's a lot of waiting. There might be something to this, as televised games run over three hours now, compared to two a generation ago. (NFL games are longer, though.) You could take that further, and say baseball was never really suited to a time when we get all our entertainment from TV. So the age of Mays and Mantle was the last age of true baseball supremacy, but it took a generation to start to see the effects.

The other explanations (baseball is expensive, plays too late at night, is low-scoring) applies just as much to other sports. And I don't buy the argument that the steroid scandals have tarnished the game's image. Like baseball hasn't been full of cheaters and assholes since Ty Cobb was in short pants. And again, football, basketball, hockey, and soccer, have more than their share of unsportsmanlike behavior.

So why is it? Why is baseball as a cultural institution going the way of the Miss America pageant?

Don't Take Me Out To The Ball Game, Apparently

Dear Take,

I forget where I read this — I'm going to guess the Bill James Historical Abstract; usually when I have a solid theory or chewy anecdote about baseball, it's something I got from James first — but James (let's say) posited that the way we relate to the game has shifted from sport to entertainment, from something relatable in a firsthand-experience way to something more like a movie. Fifty years ago, a hundred years ago, pick-up games and stickball were dominant spare-time amusements for children, before TV was invented (or before everyone had one, or before there was shit-all to watch after school) and videogames and whatnot — and also before bike helmets and Etan Patz and unsupervised play as radicalized parenting capital-S Statement. My father says that his entire neighborhood played baseball games — everyone. Girls, babies, everyone under dating age.

"We strapped up Jeannie Hamilton with a glove on her noggin and parked her in short left behind your Uncle Chip."
"Ha, wow. I'm sure Mrs. Hamilton loved that."
"She's the one who suggested it."

Baseball is hard to play well and nobody was really great at it, but that wasn't the point (and not for nothing, but this is where bunting is a Viking; this is what it was invented for). It was how you passed the time. Not just baseball — my dad and uncles ran passes and shot hoops and built harrier courses at the college, and there was some game involving the overhand hurling of ice skates? Didn't end super-well for my dad's shin, I know that much ("best slider J ever threw, that jerk"). You played outside, not just unsupervised (and not really, anyway; there was always some adult and her yardarm vodka mart within wailing distance) but unregimented. You didn't get driven to your league game in your special kid carseat you had to sit in until you got armpit hair, where you wore two helmets and did drills. You just played. You pretended to be Del Ennis. Your friend who got mauled by the polio did the call from the "dugout" (a refrigerator box) and ate apples. Different time.

My father, an underrated storyteller in the fam, has a way of making his childhood sound like a Roger Angell column, rosy good decomplicated by distance, but I do think that the transition of after-school "horsing around" into a more organized aspect generally of children's lives has something to do with it. Pretending you might play center for the Yanks one day has become more of a goal, with steps leading up to it, than a pleasant daydream you eventually age out of. So, yes, maybe it's partly Kids Today, except really it's Parents Today or Child-Rearing Today Is Not So Much About The Old Self-Reliance or what have you.

The immigration patterns, I can't speak to, except to say that I think baseball has historically let underappreciated groups — with the one overdue exception, of course — get a foothold with on-field heroics: Germans, Irish, Italians. We forget how tough Germans had it between the wars here, "No Irish Need Apply" signs, that DiMaggio's stardom was kind of a big new deal (and paired with a nickname, "the Daig," nobody blinked at; I'm told my great-grandfather, a Mazzoni, was tickled by it).

I don't think sabermetrics is a problem. The stats aren't that tough to understand; I don't imagine it's a factor either way. Plus they're fun to say. WHIP! VORP!

I suspect it's a combination of factors. We have many more entertainment options, and most of them don't cost as much as a night at the park, you're right. Just the trip to Citi Field physically takes it out of me and Dirk. The pace of the game is, to my mind, a non-issue — a slower game means more baseball; where's the problem, Keith Hernandez who's always complaining about long games he's paid to talk about — but you do see major- and minor-league teams trying to make the ballpark experience more intense and fast and Jumbotron exciting, which is kind of like when Spam was marketing itself as both a real thing people eat and an ironic thing people wear t-shirts about, like, this isn't really what the game is. Like, sometimes it's a bit slow, boring even. You don't have to sit staring unblinking at it the whole time. Go get a little soft-serve helmet and play Candy Crush if some pitching change is taking a minute. Flip over to Mr. Robot. There's 161 other games.

Baseball is a regional pastime now; you don't have the national-event feeling that you get with football, which has a shorter season and a more war-like blah blah we've all heard the George Carlin routine. But the sport is perfectly healthy. It isn't in decline. Whatever else Selig did or declined to do, he presided over record growth. The internet, for me, has enhanced my enjoyment of the game, not splintered it or paled it. McCarver cracks on Twitter always play; what a time to be alive. Yeah, it's not like the fifties when my various and sundry male relatives landed in the headmaster's office for getting hot-potatoed with the transistor radio they were listening to the Classic on — but I can put my feet up on a hot July night and listen to Vin Scully at Chavez Ravine on my phone. It's just different. Mantle was a walking (well, limping) anecdote sparkler; we get Aroldis, though, and that works for me.

So: let's let the NFL have this one. In five years that shit's going to look like a touring musical thanks to concussion-avoidance standards anyway, and then maybe we'll care about tennis, but whatever you want to call baseball, 'tain't going anywhere. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go turn the two Free Shirt Fridays deGrom tees we spent 3.5 goddamn hours in the car roundtrip to get into a drawstring miniskirt, because I am a boss.

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27 Comments »

  • Lisa says:

    I agree so much with all of this. I've definitely had to stand up for baseball against arguments that it's "soooo boring", and at this point I'm basically just like sure, if you need constant action for three hours straight this really isn't your thing. Leave me and my MLB At Bat alone while I read a book AND listen to the Brewers get beat.

    Unrelated, but I feel obligated to stand up for Ty Cobb because I just read a book about him and it seems like he totally got some bad press along the way. Not an asshole! Kind of cantankerous, sure, but his assholery has been highly embellished over the years I think.

  • Lisa says:

    Another issue is that it's hard to be a fan of a team that's not in your "area" (as defined by MLB, of course) because they're never on your damn TV to watch them.

    I am a Die-Hard Cub Fan, but I live smack-dab in Cardinal Country (home of the "best fans in baseball" if "best fans" means "racist white trash" BUT I DIGRESS). I only get to watch my Cubbies when they're 1) playing the Cards, or b) when Jon Lester pitches and MLB Network deigns to show them.

    Oh sure, I can fork over 200 large to buy Extra Innings, but naw. I grew up with WGN and Fox showing games FOR FREE. I wanna go back to there.

  • Sean says:

    This letter is nonsense. I say that as someone who grew up passionate about baseball and has been a member (and researcher) in SABR.

    "For a hundred years, it was an indelible part of the culture, head and shoulders above every other sport."

    By whom? This is patently false. Baseball rose into national prominence at the same time as boxing in the 1920s. It was surpassed in money and culture conversation (heard of the superbowl?) by the NFL well before the end of the 20th century. Regionally, college football became a juggernaut as well. There was a very specific window in which baseball was culturally supreme. This is without even going into segmentation of the market with other niche sports.

    "So important that Jackie Robinson is considered to be an important reason the Civil Rights movement happened."

    By whom? First, this is historically nonsense. Second, it's an ironic example because the move toward integration (which did not actually result in true integration or equal opportunity for black athletes) contributed to the destruction of the Negro leagues and other avenues for building interest and potential opportunity in baseball among athletes of color.

    "To strike out, to be thrown for a curve or to bat 1.000 are expressions everyone uses (although there used to be more baseball phrases in the lexicon)."

    And everyone knows what the expressions mean when you need to throw a hail mary, to be down for the count, to take a timeout or to go into overtime on something. So what. There are sports idioms throughout the lexicon. Baseball has no monopoly.

    "The Black Sox scandal was well-known for decades, after its participants retired and died."

    Only by a very specific part of the population. Even Field of Dreams, the last pop cultural effort to invoke the Black Sox, is 25 years old by now!

    "Last year, the Ice Bucket Challenge was called the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge because, according to the ALS Association, kids don't know who Lou Gehrig is."

    Lou Gehrig died in 1941. 1941! Also, not everyone is a Yankees fan.

    So, yes, it is true that baseball did used to dominate more than it does now in the cultural conversation. But this letter is built on the straw man of a false importance of what baseball ever was to see how far it has fallen. It was never quite so great or important culturally, and it is still quite relevant culturally.

    Sars nailed it. But I would add that besides the obvious (you can watch any sport at any time globally via the internet now), part of the problem is that there became a much wider disconnect between the cultural image baseball has been peddling and the reality that people could learn via modern media/journalism. In the past, the media cooperated with MLB to present a specific image of baseball as pure and American and apple pie and creating civil rights! That's now how modern media works. Once people could follow the money, learn about the athletes beyond the glossy puff pieces, etc., it hurt baseball more than other sports that were not selling themselves based on this same image.

    Baseball stood to lose more by the realization that it's all about the rich owners, the corporatization, and the athletes are not 'regular Joe's' like you and me, because there is a greater dissonance between the reality and the PR they banked on for so many years.

    Football's image, for example, is wrapped up in smashing and simulating war. That's part of why the general public is not nearly as troubled by the concussions or domestic violence as you might think. That's what they were trading on anyway, which is why some people get mad if you suggest you will remove the contact in football that makes it unsafe.

    That's just part of it, of course.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    With respect for your points, let's not derail the discussion by calling things "nonsense." The LW raises an interesting question even if the letter has a few incorrect conclusions.

  • c8h10n4o2 says:

    As a life-long Royals fan (who is loving our sudden relevance), I agree that part of the problem is the televising. Growing up, pretty much all the games were over the air. Now, since I don't have cable, I get to watch only when I go to my folks' house or a bar or the rare nights that Fox decides to grace us with a game. The disappearance of the cheap seats since they redesigned the K and the insane parking fees have also been a hindrance.

  • Lamoshe says:

    As a person who has very specific, very-unhappy memories of "playing" baseball/softball in elementary gym classes (without any instruction on the rules or how to actually, you know, play the game), and is still not a fan (but actually finds your writing on baseball almost always great reading, Sarah) this is an interesting discussion. As I read Take's letter, I found myself nodding in agreement – it does seem to me that baseball was more a part of my youth, ambient-awareness-wise, than it is of my adulthood. Even though I understand @Sean's point that there was a PR effect that may have led to a more precipitous drop in the game's popularity over other sports without that semi-manufactured reputation, overall I agree with Take's assessment of the past. I still have in my head the old Chevrolet commercial theme song…I have a mental image of kids playing baseball in vacant lots and lightly-trafficked streets…I still think of baseball, more than any other sport, as "our" American sport, even though I don't love it myself. Even as a non-fan, I do feel it's not as ubiquitous as it was.

    That being said, in the right group of people, I know it's as big as it ever was…and I have friends who are die-hard, long-suffering Met fans (I know…the only kind of Met fans), who never cease to amaze me with their knowledge of the game and its history and players, and their understanding and analysis of the plays. And this discussion reminded me that one of those friends is taking 22 of her closest friends (I'm one of 'em) to Citi Field this August for a game to celebrate a big birthday! Would it be a thread hi-jack for this non-fan to ask for advice on what to expect, and what to look forward to/pay attention to/avoid at her first (and likely only) ever MLB event? If so, I'll slip back into the shadows, but if not, I'd love some hints from those who love the game.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    I don't mind threadjacking but I think this is a Vine letter of its own. Which, y'know, gets you free loot. bunting at tomatonation dot com, and your friend is a mensch [insert having to pay people to go to Mets games joke here]. It's a gorgeous park.

  • Lamoshe says:

    Right-o! (I was actually thinking that…off I go!)

  • scout1222 says:

    Lisa, it's funny you mention being a fan of a team not in your area, because nowadays it is also hard to watch a team IN your area!

    I am a Padres fan (I know) who doesn't have cable. Which means I can't watch Fox Sports San Diego, the channel that airs the Padres games locally. And because of MLB's crazy blackout rules, even paying them money for MLB.tv and such does not allow me to see those games.

    Having said that, my husband and I are fortunate enough that we can attend games in person, and do so regularly (I'd say probably ten games a season at least). But we spend way more than we should, by the time you factor in the parking, craft beer, and the fact that we've become seat snobs.

    I have to go back and re-read, but I wonder if the fact that players don't stay with a team as long as they may have in the past makes any difference. My team is one of those that's a revolving door. Any time we get anyone good, we send them off to someone else with deeper pockets. The fact that there isn't a Tony Gwynn type face of the franchise maybe makes it difficult to build a little more team loyalty.

  • Take says:

    @Sean. I should have said "100 years ago" and not "For 100 years." Besides that, I'm aware of boxing (popular, but regional and seen as working-class) and college football (Rockne was a household name and Americana symbol as well). But it wasn't the same as baseball. Where there were town leagues and industrial leagues. You didn't have steel mills with their own football or boxing teams. And whether you think he deserves it or not (I'm on the fence myself, that's why I said "
    considered to"), schoolkids do learn about Jackie Robinson along with MLK.

    I kept that paragraph short for brevity, but you're looking at a time where Arnold Rothstein is a character in "The Great Gatsby" and Philip Marlowe says "Tinker to Evers To Chance" and "To hell with Babe Ruth" and Greenberg playing on Yom Kippur sets of a national discussion of What It Means To Be American that makes the front pages. We don't have that any more. Not for any other sport either, sure, but baseball seems to have experienced the steepest drop. Football and basketball, and increasingly soccer, have taken its place.

    I think on the whole, we agree. My point was baseball was more dominant culturally, both as a sport kids played and cared about, and as something that mattered as a symbol. And you're probably right that it's a combination of media fragmentation and it no longer being possible to keep drinking and womanizing out of the papers.

    Although do kids now really care if their heroes are womanizing drunks? It seems we don't assume innocent purity about any public figure any more. Maybe you're right, that other sports never had that presumption of innocence built in (with touches on my point of why the Black Sox, and the idea that baseball could be sullied with gambling, was such a giant deal). Which would mean that when baseball lost iots value as a symbol, it lots its value as a sport and as entertainment as well. So Bonds and Clemens never became famous outside their sport like Tom Brady or Eli Manning. And why the closest baseball still has to that is the clean Jeter? Thinking out loud here.

    It seems right now the closest sport we have to a national pastime is basketball. (I agree with Sars that football is on its way out). Does any current athlete have the public stature of LeBron? It's not like fragmentation has completely killed the idea of cultural icons. We still have dominant pop stars and books. Why not dominant sports or athletes? With there ever be a Ruth or Mantle in any sport ever again?

    @Sars, I take your point about no one playing just to play baseball any more. And in general kids don't play with people out of their age group, which is sad. But maybe that's part of it. You can play pickup basketball and soccer in your driveway or a neighborhood park. There's almost no equipment necessary. You don't need a full outfield. And maybe that's why basketball and soccer are on the way up. The death of rural America and the rise of the suburbs probably has something to do with it.

    What about the nostalgia focus? Baseball is obsessed with its own past in a way other sports aren't. Maybe that killed it, when you have to know and care about players who've been dead since your parents were born, you can't enjoy the game for its own sake. Is it possible to enjoy a player hitting homers without comparing him to McGwire/Sosa/Aaron/Ruth?

    Sorry for the novel, guys.

  • JC says:

    I think there's a regional/temporal factor as well: I grew up near Pittsburgh in the late 70s or early 80s, so baseball? Yeah, nobody cared–you talked about the Steelers. I have no sociological data to back this up, but I suspect that kind of thing can impact a whole generation of sport watching, and in the Rust Belt when I grew up? Football became king and stayed that way. I'm sure there was a time when Pirates fandom was up there, but it was not in evidence when I was growing up.

  • Jo says:

    @c8h10n4o2: My husband is a Royals fan and we have the same problem. We live in the Pacific Northwest and don't have cable, so the only way we get to watch the Royals is if they play the Mariners or are in the playoffs. Random aside: Our daughter was due on the first day of the World Series and because we didn't know her gender, if she had been a boy, we would have named her after Alex Gordon. (My husband's best friend calls her Moose.) I really, really hope she wants to play softball, because I LOVE Little League.

    I agree that access to games is a big problem in terms of the sport not having as many fans. You can't always watch on TV and it's so much more expensive to go to the game. Baseball did well before TV because it works well on the radio. I can't follow sports like basketball or soccer on the radio, but baseball is slow enough to work. I also agree with the point that kids don't just go play baseball-like games. You don't go outside and find all the random neighborhood kids just hanging out looking for something to do so you can't get a game together.

  • Jen S. 2.0 says:

    Disclaimer: I can only speak for myself, and not America at large.

    I am not a pro baseball fan because, as mentioned upthread, I find it boring, and the season goes on too long. It's honestly that simple.

    I'm the person you're talking about, whose attention span does not last for 3 hours in which there are 6 good minutes.

    Please note, I'm a sports fan. I'm the daughter of a jock who didn't have any sons. I puffy-heart college football and wait all year for the season. I watch pro football (although I've been having issues with supporting the NFL, and my hometown team specifically (the Washington I-Don't-Even-Like-to-Type-Their-Names) over the past couple of years and am rethinking my fandom). I like college basketball if I'm invested in the teams playing or if it's the tournament. I'll even watch pro basketball or hockey if nothing else is on. I watch the Olympics and "girl sports" (skating, etc) religiously, even attending figure skating sectionals and nationals a few times. But I won't even watch pro baseball on the treadmill. You just spend so much time waiting for something to happen. It's kind of cool when something happens, but the time investment is just not worth the payoff. I played softball growing up (reasonably well, even), so I understand more than the basics of the game. But I learned to pitch because otherwise you might go most of an inning with nothing to do! At least the pitcher and catcher see action on every play! The fan? Not so much.

  • Jo says:

    In a way, the slowness is what I like about it. You can doze off while watching a game and it's easy for someone to explain what you missed a few innings later. If you go to a game, you're outside, hanging out with friends, having delicious overpriced food/beer, listening to drunks heckle the umpires … it's fun. If you don't care about every nuance, you don't really have to pay attention to the game to know what's going on. The leisure of it all is nice. And some of the stadiums are great. Kauffman Stadium (where the Royals play) has really cool fountains in the outfield bleachers. It's a gorgeous stadium. It's so nice to sit out on the other side of the stadium and watch the fountains.

    I LOVE basketball and the NCAA tournament is very important in our house, but during a baseball game, you can get up to pee and not miss much. Pee during basketball and suddenly your team is down by 6.

  • c8h10n4o2 says:

    @Jo

    Alex could go either way! What a missed opportunity. If I'd known, a friend of mine made Moose-tacos shirts for a few of us (with a picture of tacos with antlers) that would have been great on a onesie.

    And I agree that the slowness can be nice, and I think that it actually goes well with summer. Maybe the death of radio is also contributing to its lack of popularity. You can listen to a baseball game on the radio while you're outside or driving somewhere and keep good track of what's going on, which is much harder to do in other sports, and I do have great memories of listening to the game out in the garage with my dad, etc. We, as a culture, don't seem to do that anymore.

  • pomme de terre says:

    I am a generalized sports fan but baseball is not one of my favorites. I did get into watching the LLWS last summer because of the fab Mone Davis, and I enjoyed those games more than most MLB games I've watched because there was less dawdling on the mound and at the plate. So maybe there's something to the faster pace argument.

  • H., says:

    I think Little League is what kills it for a lot of kids. I come from a soccer family, but I let my son play baseball and basketball, too. Even bowling! But when he was 10, rec soccer cost $55. (I'm sure that's changed in the past decade+). Little League cost $180. That's before you get into uniforms and equipment. PLUS, at 10 Little League forces kids to try out for teams. At 10, they can still make a team, even if they suck, but by 12? if you're not good enough, you don't make a team. Period. What do you think this does to the 12 year old who's coordination doesn't catch up with him or her until 14? Do you think they'll go back, after a couple of years off? Nope. They find something else to do. Soccer (my only real point of contrast) has select and premier teams, too, but they still offer the rec teams up to age 18 for ANYONE. No tryouts. Everyone gets to play. Little League is just so big and annoying and corporate and they set the rules for everywhere, that I feel like they sucked the fun out of baseball for at least a generation of kids. And they made the mistake of doing that when more alternatives became available to these kids. In my area, more kids play soccer than football and baseball combined, and it's probably not coincidence that our MLS attendance average is something like 44,000.

  • Jessica says:

    I don't quite know how universal Sars's point about the decline of free play -> decline of baseball fandom is, because I grew up in a suburban, regimented-play environment, where Braves fandom was A THING. The whole family was swept up in the 1991 season. I had a big ol' Braves poster over my bed when I was 14. Etc. etc. And I never played sports well at all.

    W/r/t immigration: I think baseball is having a temporary drop in being able to sell itself overseas, maybe? It seems like basketball stars have better name recognition than baseball stars, so if you share a sports passion with your family and that family is stretched between two countries, it's easier to make it LeBron (or some team with "Manchester" in its name). But I do think that's temporary and could change rapidly and significantly with just a little bit of shifts towards the Latin American market — I don't follow baseball anymore but I'm dying to know what MLB is collectively thinking about the normalization of relations with Cuba.

    This is a personal complaint: I don't know what my entry point would be back into baseball interest. I actually once wrote a whole Vine letter about falling out of love with the Braves, and Frenchy finally left but the disillusionment stayed (grew worse, even: don't even talk to me about the move to Cobb County). The closest I've gotten is a friend who once in a while puts pictures of Buster Posey on her Tumblr. Somebody give me something to grab onto. (Not in a slash sense, necessarily. Hi, I'm awkward.)

  • attica says:

    Watching a recording of Don Larsen's perfect WS game, the thing that most stands out is how little dawdling there is. Batter is in the box basically until he gets a hit or makes an out. No stepping out to Nomar around. Neither did either pitcher pace around the mound like a pooch looking to poop.

    I suspect the elaborate Jumbotron displays are ways to fill in those blanks, among other.

  • scout1222 says:

    Hey Jessica,

    I grew up a Dodger fan because that's the sport my dad watched, and we lived in LA. When I went off to college, I simply didn't have time or interest (or money) to worry about baseball, so I lost touch with the sport.

    What really got me back into it (after a brief foray back in when a guy I dated roped me back in for the Padres/Yankees world series) was discovering my team's blog on SB Nation. I started commenting on articles, reading more about the team, even hanging out in the occasional game thread. I'd say half the people I follow on twitter are baseball related, and probably half those are people I found on that blog. It helped me learn about the team as well as find a community.

    Also, I have what's called Ass Chat with my friends. For a prime example, scroll back to the entry ranking all MLB managers on their looks. It doesn't hurt that I'm attracted to the physique of the typical ball player. (hey, you take whatever entry point you can find)

  • scout1222 says:

    "Nomar around." Way to get my hackles up instinctively, attica!

  • MizShrew says:

    I'm not a sports fan in general, but I like baseball more than others. That said, a couple of thoughts in Take's follow-up response make me wonder if some things are more regional.

    "You didn't have steel mills with their own football or boxing teams." The Green Bay Packers started out as a meat-packing company team, as I understand it. And of course people here in WI will still talk about the "Ice Bowl" and Lombardi. Ray Nitschke used to do autograph-signings for a regional department store I worked for, and some of the people showing up were probably not even born when he played. Of course, that's all Wisconsin-related and peeps here LOVE their football, but I think there are some folks who obsess over football history in similar ways to baseball.

    And outside of Wisconsin, I've made a few cross-country drives to Wendover, Utah from Milwaukee and I can tell you that Friday night high-school football is the ONLY thing you can get on the radio driving down I-80 through a lot of the Midwest on a Friday night. Not sure what that says.
    Maybe it just jumps out at me because I don't like football at all.

    Regarding the lack of sports icons, I don't know, but I wonder if some of the high-profile sports-personality scandals (Lance Armstrong, Michael Vick, etc.) is part of it. Pair that with the sky-high salaries and you can see where people might resent rather than revere some athletes. Or at least be cautious with their adoration, for fear of what might be discovered about them later. Of course that's just speculation.

  • MizShrew says:

    Oh, and I understand my sports personality examples are not baseball related.

    And Take, I love your Gatsby and Philip Marlowe references!

  • Jo says:

    @c8h10n4o2: I liked our girl name too much to be talked out of it. :) But she'll still wear onesies by this October. I might have to get some moose gear.

  • Jessica says:

    scout, thank you, and that's wonderful that you found a community!

    (I check SB Nation. Headline: "Braves hope to have hit rock bottom after 12-2 loss to Phillies." ENJOY THE LEAVINGS, COBB COUNTY.)

  • Max says:

    @Take, I actually always thought that basketball scaled down better to small and/or urban spaces than baseball. You can play Horse in the driveway one-on-one or shoot hoops by yourself, get together a three-on-three game on a half court. Similar options for soccer.

  • Rebecca U says:

    This.

    "Pretending you might play center for the Yanks one day has become more of a goal, with steps leading up to it, than a pleasant daydream you eventually age out of."

    We will keep my son in rec league ball as long as we can, but he'll age out after next season and then I think we're done. He still wants to pitch for the Giants someday but lately has talked more about what type of job he might be good at (he's 11).

    There are no pick-up games after school. The school is gated and locked up. There certainly aren't any empty lots they can get into. My son and friend do throw hoops as the neighbor has one of those street hoops but the houses are too close and streets too busy for any type of baseball in the street.

    Life can be busy without being full so it seems the free time is broken into smaller chunks, often spent near the home so one is ready for the next busy thing coming.

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