How Baseball Found Its Mojo: Once Again America's Pastime
Aside from the typical doldrums of winter (which include back-aching shoveling and varied illnesses ranging from bowl-hugging stomach bugs to fever-gripped comas), the failing economy has worn down the spirit of just about everyone.
But as the daylight hours begin to grow longer and the grass turns a little greener, there is hope. And for many like me, that hope is nestled in the fact Opening Day is just around the corner.
For many years, baseball reigned supreme; our nation's pastime. The storied history of baseball and the talented players that played the game made it a favorite for old and young alike.
Whether you were a young boy saving your allowance for a $2.50 ticket to see Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks, smash homers at Wrigley Field or a home grown Phillies faithful sitting on the porch stoop listening to By Saam on your transistor, baseball was an integral part of life.
That continued for quite some time until the men that controlled the game lost touch with the lifeblood of baseball; the many faces of our nation that comprise the fan base of baseball.
When that transition actually happened is debatable but it didn't happen over night.
Major League Baseball, overtaken by corporate America, failed to identify with the fans. Player salaries became the focus and the product began to carry a subconscious price tag. Some felt that the players were no longer as passionate because they were treated like an investment…a commodity.
Loyalty became a thing of the past and, to baseball purists, the addition of teams in small and mid-sized markets meant that the talent was diluted.
All of those glaring deficiencies allowed the NFL to grow into the multibillion dollar empire that it has become. The fast pace and brutality of the NFL seemed to capture the attention of the American people better than the slow and thoughtful game of baseball.
But as I write this, it's evident to me that something has changed.
In hardship, we gravitate towards what we know best. That is why Campbell’s is selling more soup in the US than ever in this impossible sales environment. Things like comfort food, family game nights, and baseball help us get through the struggles of every day life in a recession.
Despite a feeble commissioner, baseball has yet again begun its ascent.
The state of the art ballparks which were once a turnoff have become social hotbeds for younger fans like me. For older generations, the ticket prices seem outrageous, but for those of us looking for something to do, the price of a general admission ticket is reasonably priced in comparison to other sporting events even a set of movie tickets.
Successful campaigns from teams like the Tampa Bay Rays should continue to help generate interest in smaller markets and remind everyone that there is more than one formula for success—money doesn't always buy championships.
Of course, there will always be success in places like New York and Boston, harvesting bitter rivalry year after year, but success in major markets is healthy for the game and makes it even more intriguing.
The World Baseball Classic, a huge success in 2009, also revealed a distinct global advantage that baseball has over football and I wouldn't doubt if we continue to see more from the global stage (the International Olympic Committee will be voting to add baseball to the Summer Olympics very soon).
Major League Baseball still has a lot of work to do to restore confidence in the ability of its front office, which has fumbled the ball with regards to steroids. But even with emperor Selig at the helm, it’s pretty clear that baseball is the best comfort food we’ve got.
Besides, maybe, Campbell’s soup and that fact might be enough to carry baseball to greater heights in the very near future.
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