I grew up playing my favorite game, baseball. I remember playing and dreaming of being one of my favorite players. I would go up to the plate, my mouth filled with a wad of bubblegum so large I could barely breath, emulating my heroes. (Back when tobacco use wasn't politically incorrect and before sunflower seeds were popular).
I knew every player on my team. They were like family. What got me through the long cold winter in Pittsburgh was knowing that Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell, Al Oliver, and Mannie Sanguillen were only a couple months away.
I probably knew their stats better than they did. My best friend and I would sit and listen to the radio keeping scores and statistics as if we were actually at the games.
The days that they didn't play, we were at the ball field playing with all the neighborhood kids. We would argue who was Roberto, who was Willie and so on. We all wanted to be our favorite.
I feel sorry for today's children. They don't know what that is like, they've never had it. I have tried to explain to my son who is now 21, but he just cannot comprehend what I am saying. It is like trying to explain to an Eskimo what a Christmas tree is. They've never seen one, so what point of reference can you go from to explain? You can't.
What happened to America's favorite pastime? Going to the park and enjoying a hot dog and our favorite sport.
My greatest fear is that baseball is no longer America's game. It died. When, and how, it died is hard to tell.
Could it be due to the four strikes in 22 years?
If it were a quick death, it would be very easy to pinpoint the time of death for the death certificate, but it wasn't quick. It has been a slow death that has lingered only to be taken by a much better past time.
What caused the death of America's favorite sport?
Let's face it. How may World Series can compare to the excitement of the last couple Super Bowls? They don't have the viewership that the Super Bowl gets around the world. The NFL has been able to make the Super Bowl not only exciting with the parity of the league, but they make it the most entertaining of all championship venues.
Unlike baseball, football has made it so that even smaller cities can compete with the mega cities such as New York, San Francisco, Dallas.
You can't buy a championship!
But is it more than what I just mentioned? Our football heroes are much larger than life than our baseball heroes. From Johnny Unitas, Bart Starr, Roger Staubach, Mean Joe Green to our modern heroes such as Tom Brady, Peyton Manning.
We don't have anyone like Babe Ruth, Willi Mays, or Roberto Clemente anymore.
Could it be that due to only 16 games per season, football games have a much higher profile. The Sunday tradition of watching the game after church with the family happens with regularity during the season, whereas, with baseball, you can miss the game and it isn't as vital.
I believe it is many different factors but I do know that football is now America's favorite game.
2. Video games.
I put football as No. 1, but I think this may have been the culprit of killing off baseball.
I remember hours and hours in the hot summer sun playing my favorite sport. I don't see that anymore. Other than the structured leagues for our children, I don't see the passion to get out and play.
My son is a good example. He would rather sit and play a video baseball game than go out and actually play the game.
Kids aren't nearly as active today. They have their thumb muscles more developed than any other muscle due to video games.
Baseball was so easy to play, a bat, ball, glove and your golden. Also, you only needed a couple to play. We would play strike out, keep away, stolen base and so on.
3. No salary cap.
You have such a huge disparity between New York, Boston, and the rest of America due to having such a large income, that the smaller venues cannot keep pace. In other words, in baseball, you can buy a championship by buying huge talent.
Lets face it, A-Rod's salary is as large as some smaller teams entire payroll.
This has caused many to loose the excitement baseball once had.
Pittsburgh can never keep up with New York and they aren't even the lowest salary. Even if they did open their pocket book, they can't pay what New York can.
To me, that makes baseball lose much of it's appeal. Lets stack the deck in our favor by throwing huge amount of money to buy ourselves a World Series.
Something in that just doesn't sit well.
In football, even smaller venues can make it to the championship. Superbowl XLIII is proof. Pittsburgh and Arizona are both smaller, but due to the salary cap and the parity in the league, they went to the championship.
There is something about a level playing field that makes things more exciting.
I love baseball. I don't love what it has become. In the 90's, we had some great players. They talked about fan loyalty. When it came down to it, they weren't loyal to us. They went to the highest bidder.
In football, we see talent staying for the same or less money because they know either the team they play on is loyal to them, or they know they have a better chance to make it to the playoffs.
I am getting off my soap box now. I love baseball, but I am disappointed in what it has become. Only the future knows if it will ever get back to what it was.
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