Baseball's Decline Among Young People
Baseball is a traditional American sport that has been enjoyed for many years. This would make one wonder why it’s losing steam all of a sudden. Baseball is one of the most unique sports in the world as there is a stat for almost everything. And clearly, the world has picked up on the American pastime as it is prominently featured in other countries such as Japan and South Korea.
What about baseball makes it so fun to play? Why are young people not attracted to the sport? Is there anything that can be done to promote baseball to today's youth? Throughout the course of this article, the sport will be broken down to find the answers to these intriguing questions.
Personally, I think baseball is a great sport. Many of my friends and I enjoy talking about baseball together. However, I’m not oblivious to its decline in viewership, especially among young people.
What Makes Baseball So Fun to Play?
Baseball is extremely fun to partake in. For me, it's fun because of the intense athleticism needed in order to beat out the throw to first base. Likewise, there are moments that allow you to catch your breath and regroup. Regarding overall athleticism, baseball at a recreational level can be played by nearly anybody. Certain sports such as track or basketball require a little bit more athleticism, even at an amateur level.
The opportunity for one to play the sport regardless of athletic ability is paramount to the sport's survival. If sports were based on explosive athleticism, then many sports such as bowling, golf, and billiards would fade away. I’m not implying that baseball requires equal athletic ability as bowling or billiards, but it’s not as physically demanding as soccer or tennis. Baseball is great because it is in between highly explosive and intense sports and mild and calm sports.
A positive aspect of playing focuses on the equipment of the game. Baseball equipment such as bats, balls, and gloves are relatively cheap, and they last a long time. Unlike a tennis racquet that needs to be restringed, a baseball glove’s lifetime can span over the course of several years. I’ve had my go-to glove for eight years and my tennis racquet for only six months, and it seems about time to restring it. Similarly, I still possess numerous bats from over 10 years ago, but the soccer ball I bought a year ago is getting a little torn up.
For a group of friends that want to play baseball together, not much will stand in their way from doing so. All that is needed is an open, grassed area. The bases can be represented by an alternate marker and can also be moved closer together according to skill level. For a more serious group, baseball diamonds are often found at public parks. This is in complete contrast to a sport such as basketball, where a hoop is needed to play the sport. Sure, hoops are present at some parks, but they usually can’t be adjusted to a group's skill level. Basketball hoops can be somewhat costly as well, ranging from $200 upwards. Finding a place to play baseball to its full extent should not be a hassle for low-income individuals. Because baseball can be played and enjoyed by nearly anybody in regards to economic status and athleticism, it deserves to be recognized as a trademark sport and should not be abandoned in the coming years.
Why Is Baseball Rejected by Today's Youth?
Why are today's youth not interested in baseball as much as soccer or basketball? First, we have to look at what makes those other sports so popular among children. As a result of technology, children are programmed to receive their desires immediately as opposed to waiting. This explains basketball as scoring is done in greater quantities now than ever before. But why do children like soccer all of a sudden? Scoring doesn’t happen nearly as much as basketball.
As the saying goes, opposites attract. However, in this case, basketball and soccer aren’t attracting each other. They are attracting viewers and followers. It’s much like other opposites, which are presented as a false dichotomy; some that come to mind are guns or no guns and abortions or no abortions. In basketball, there is so much scoring that you can’t lose focus. In soccer, scoring is such a big deal that it gives you a huge adrenaline spike.
In baseball, scoring is neither common or uncommon. It’s like a middle ground between soccer and basketball regarding the scoring system. In today's times, we hardly ever see the middle ground given as an option for us as you are either for something or against something. You never see protests for allowing abortions in certain situations, it’s either allowed, or you ban it altogether. Basketball and soccer are similar to many contrasting ideas. There is a huge group of young children and adolescents that love the non-stop scoring system that basketball provides. Likewise, there is another group that prefers the soccer scoring system instead. Baseball is the middle ground that is not given as an option.
The other quality that contributes to the lack of interest in baseball for young people is the meaningfulness of each game. From what I’ve learned from this generation, children want things now, and they want it to be meaningful. When all is said and done, people want to know that they were a part of a game or a situation that contributed to the end result. With baseball, you’re just not going to get that. Imagine a sub-500 team hits a grand slam in the bottom of the 9th to win the game. Surely this is the most exciting moment of the entire season, but the value of that moment isn’t worth much. There are 162 games in a regular season, and children don’t want to invest four hours in watching a game that doesn’t mean anything at the end. This is why football has become so popular among today’s youth. Sure, it’s a four-hour time investment that is over-commercialized, but the game at least means something as there are only 16 games in the season.
Personally, this can be a negative drawback to basketball as well, because it seems like 82 games is a bit of a stretch. The more games there are, then the less valuable each game becomes. A soccer game is just less than two hours, containing two 45-minute, commercial-free periods of play with a 10-20 minute break at the half. For those of you who don’t know, one of the premier soccer leagues in the world takes place in Spain, where each team only plays 38 games in the regular season. This makes each game very valuable as a margin of only a few goals can be the difference between qualifying for a tournament.
Baseball, however, just has too many games for a young person to get engaged. I have no interest in horse racing, but I always watch the three main races because I like knowing that I witnessed something meaningful. Personally, I don’t mind that baseball is on nearly every day during the season, as it gets to become part of my daily routine. Of course, I don’t watch every game, but it’s something that I follow on a daily basis.
What Can Be Done to Make Baseball Interesting Again?
Is there anything that can be done to change the outlook of baseball among young people? Well, obviously the season won’t be shortened to 16 games or even 82 games, but there are some things that could help the majority of young people become interested. First, the player marketing needs to be reformed. You look at basketball or soccer, and there are players you associate with the sport. With basketball, the stars are Lebron James, Kevin Durant, and Steph Curry. In soccer, the stars are Ronaldo, Messi, and Neymar. Not only is it the marketing, but it’s the unique way the stars captivate the audience. Ronaldo scores in nearly every game. Lebron scores around 25-30 points a game and leads his team to the finals every year.
In baseball, the stars aren’t based on those qualities and need to search for their own identity that makes them unique to the everyday person. Ronaldo has the skills, goals, and individuality to captivate a first-time viewer to the point where they realize he is a star. Lebron James does the same thing with his explosive dunks and timely clutch shots.
In baseball, there isn’t much to help a first-time viewer identify who’s good or not other then the stats displayed when they’re at bat. The best hitter on the team may go three games with only one hit. Also, the worst player on the team might get four hits in a row. To me, it’s understandable why a first-time viewer wouldn't be able to identify the stars. And I don’t think this is necessarily a bad quality as baseball is still a top professional sport, but in the eyes of attracting viewers, it doesn’t do it as good as soccer, basketball, or football.
© 2018 Cody Piunno