Jonathan Mahler believes baseball has fallen from the forefront of America’s cultural landscape. As a 23-year-old Nats fan, I cannot remember a time when it was the contrary. He writes:
More to the point, baseball seems simply to have fallen out of the national conversation (unless the conversation happens to be about steroids, that is). The last time baseball felt front and center, culturally speaking, was the 1998 home-run race between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. And we all know how that turned out.
I don’t agree. For me, the 2004 World Series was just as exciting, if not more. The Nationals’ playoff series last October was awesome. For its fans, baseball not being as popular as the NFL or NBA is not a problem.
Mahler pointed out all the reasons why baseball is great right now: young stars, new stadiums, etc., so what is the issue here? Perhaps a fear that baseball will have a harder time attracting new fans as it caters to lovers of a bygone era.
Maybe a new generation of fans won’t grow up thinking the game represents something more than it is. Maybe baseball will stop auditioning for another chapter in the Ken Burns saga. Maybe baseball can just be baseball.
I am all for that. Without a focus on the present, there will soon be no past to mythologize. The issue is not whether people will care about baseball, but why people will care about baseball.