It’s that time of year again. April is upon us, and with it the earnest warmth of mid-spring. And in the minds of many Americans, it signifies the beginning of a great annual tradition: baseball season.
Yes, baseball. That slow moving giant of a sport that looms in the collective background all spring, summer and all the way into October. You hear it on the radio, you see it muted on the TV at the bar, and, if you’re lucky, you start to finally care when October rolls around.
Baseball is colloquially referred to as America’s Pastime. Everyone knows the rules, everyone knows the teams. Even if you attempt to remain as far away from baseball as you possibly can, American culture has a way of keeping us all in the know one way or another. Or so I thought.
But the reality of baseball in America is changing. Gone are the days when the selection of sports for visual consumption was. Gone are the days of the radio as a primary mode of information. Baseball was designed for another age; another time. And as the speed of information remains ever increasing, people become more distracted, and a game of baseball remains three hours long, we continue to leave our supposed national pastime right there, in the past.
It’s not that baseball is outright failing. I don’t think it ever will. It seems established enough that it would take a lot more than a general shift in attention spans to crush such an institution. But, I think baseball does now occupy a different place in the American psyche. We live in the age of twitter, instagram, and Facebook. Everything is a moment, instantly sharable, and patience for anything that isn’t is visibly dwindling among the youngest generations. But there in lies a hidden irony. Watching baseball, certainly a game in full, has become almost laughable among young people. But attending a baseball game remains relatively popular. To get that photo at the Green Monster. To show your friends what you and your boyfriend did on Sunday. To connect with a parent. Baseball games are the proof that baseball’s culture power hasn’t faded away. It’s just morphed significantly.
Now as a young boy, I played baseball. As soon as I realized I didn’t so much want to be a cop so much as I just wanted a gun, I wanted to play baseball instead. And many of my friends joined me as well. But as time went on, we all dropped the sport. We have reached a point it seems where a lack of interest has spread from TV audiences onto the playing field. According to ESPN, baseball participation among young people has been steadily declining. Proportionally, fewer young people are playing the sport than in a long time. If this trend persists, it could prove really problematic for the future of baseball. Baseball will always stay relevant thanks to the folks who attend ball games. But those attendees will start to dwindle if the talent pool in baseball weakens. Baseball has a problem with interest, for players and viewers alike. It has mostly been brought into the mainstream by my generation, as we all become more vocal in our disbelief in the “truth” that baseball is the true American sport. It may indeed be America’s pastime. But that seems to be where it’s heyday shall remain. The past.