Take Me Out to the Ballgame

So, the St. Louis Cardinals won the World Series Friday night. The win was the capstone to one of the most improbable championships in baseball history. The Cardinals were 10.5 games out of the wild card race on August 24. The Atlanta Braves’ implosion, which permitted the Cardinals to catch them on the last day of the regular season, was part of a pair of collapses that included, if possible, an even more historic, as in the most historic ever, collapse by the Red Sox, who held a 9.5 game lead in the American League wild card race, as of September 1. The Red Sox bumbled through September until they were also overtaken by the Tampa Bay Rays on the final day of the season.

In the consensus estimation of anyone who knows anything about the game of baseball, these two impossible tragedies culminated, on the final night of the season, in the greatest day in regular season baseball history, with the fate of four teams decided in the tumult of three of the most unlikely games to ever be played, much less on the same day and much less with so much hanging in the balance.

So the Cardinals emerged from this malay and went on to also improbably win the World Series. Along the way, they participated, with the Texas Rangers, in what many of those same people identified above, believe to be either the first or second best World Series game ever played. So, in the span of a couple of months, the St. Louis Cardinals became associated with the sure fire greatest day in regular season baseball history and, at worst, the second best day in World Series history. Oh, and they also actually won the World Series, a real accomplishment, not just one of these history-of-the-universe superlatives sports nuts like to throw around.

What do they have to show for it? Television ratings that can barely compete with the worst performing NFL regular season games. It’s stunning. Now this has a great deal to do with our gross obsession with football and the relative supply and demand of the two sports. But, it’s not any novel observation that baseball is suffering a tedious demise.

Baseball is my sport. Caps. Cards. Cleats. My whole life, even through college. (Humble brag. Wait, that was just a brag brag.) I wear batting gloves to shovel snow. I sleep in sliding pants with an integrated cup for pajamas. That’s not true. The cup isn’t integrated. I use rosin instead of confectionary sugar on my waffles. I pine tar my work stapler.

I don’t want it to change. It’s the only sport that can even remotely claim to maintain some statistical continuity and connection over a longitudinal history of thousands and thousands of players, generation after generation. To shorten seasons or lose teams or manipulate play is unsettling.

But, baseball seems primed to go the way of other once wildly popular, but now marginalized sports, like boxing and horse racing. There are too many games, the games are too slow, and nobody cool plays it. Baseball will be gutted and reborn eventually. Taken to its economically essential extreme. Sure, there is enough nostalgia to keep her afloat for a while. And, there are places in the world, like Latin America and the Far East, where it remains king. But, my son’s son’s generation will hardly have any time for it. It will become a piece of sentiment.

Baseball was once America’s pastime. But, she may simply be past her time.

So, I thought it was appropriate to do a tribute to a throwback sport over a throwback beat. Good Times. My childhood hero, Dale Murphy (I was born 10 years before the invention of color):

Performed by ipoet. Music produced by djclutch from his Beat Tape ’11, which drops tomorrow!

Today’s song blog here:

(Not) Good Times

6 thoughts on “Take Me Out to the Ballgame

  1. Love it. So dope. While I love playing baseball/ softball I really can’t tolerate watching it. Never have been a baseball watcher, but it still holds a place in my heart. Such a simple game that can be played with almost no gear. Our version of soccer in that way. I think soccer is coming and will be here to stay. Baseball had a good run and will always be a part of American culture.

  2. Strong post ipoet. My son loves baseball right now and I dread the thought of him trading in his Atlanta Braves cap for the Falcons variety. I agree with you that in many respects Americans just don’t have the patience for baseball (“you mean the game doesn’t end when the time runs out?”) nor is the game capable of holding their interest any longer (“I don’t get it, why don’t they have dancing women on the sidelines?”). But I have to admit that I am pretty frustrated with MLB as a corporation. Small example: I don’t have cable at my crib–between Hulu, Netflix, Apple TV, XBOX Live, and my HD antennae, I feel like we’re good and I save a pretty penny in the process. However, AppleTV includes a program that lets you watch MLBTV if you subscribe. Well I did, and lo and behold all of the Braves games were blacked because I was a Braves fan who happened to be in (go-figure) the Atlanta Braves region. I don’t get it–I want to give you my money, but you won’t take it! So yeah, the analogy to boxing is great–the demand is there, but the way they supply it (cable contracts and dwindling broadcast support) is a disincentive to exercising the demand. Its a shame, baseball is truly a great game.

  3. Oh and yeah–that series was ridiculous dude! Makes me feel better about the Braves collapsing at the end of the season ;) I was listening over the computer when David Freese had those two strikes in Game 6 and I couldn’t believe he pulled it out. I doubt I’ll forget my boy looking at the highlights the next day on the couch in his pajamas with a silly awestruck smile on his face and the only thing he could say was “wow…wow…” My thoughts exactly!

  4. @Tommy, the comparison to soccer is interesting and apt. Unfortunately for all their similarities, their relative popularity seems to be headed in opposite directions. And, oh, I’ve heard you can stab a mean line drive at third. Probably, just urban myth.

    @Sam, so much of this does relate to parenting, which is strange. To have this passion and experience that you’d like to pass along but which appears to concern a dying endeavor. Sort of like Boy Scouts. Or parachute pants. Anyway, it hasn’t slowed my plans for building a batting cage in the back yard.

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