Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet.
Besides being quite catchy, this commercial implies that all the above are staples of American life. What isn't implied though, is much has changed over the past century.
Over the decades the NFL has passed both Major League Baseball and the NBA in popularity, but baseball has been able to stay ahead of the controversial NBA during that time.
The new Millennium brought rise to one of the most exciting times in baseball history. Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa were powering their way through the record books, setting the stage for Barry Bonds to blow their records away.
The era that has followed for Major League Baseball though, has been it's darkest in years. The truth came out about how those records were achieved, a federal investigation followed suit, all culminating with not one player from the "Steroid Era" being elected to the Hall of Fame.
All this negativity surrounding baseball, combined with the NBA's resurgence, has caused the NBA to pass Major League Baseball in terms of popularity.
The steroid era has been cruel to baseball.
No longer does the average fan trust any player in Major League Baseball after we've been duped time and time again.
When Mark McGwire broke Roger Maris' home run record, we were both too enamored with the long ball and in too much denial to admit McGwire had cheated.
Once we came to our senses though and shunned McGwire, we had a new knight in shining armor who was going to take the record back from a cheater. Barry Bonds broke McGwire's record just three years later, saving us from having a liar hold the all-time home home run record.
Oh how we were naive.
When everyone realized that Bonds' head looked like a small watermelon, we were again angry that someone who used PED's not only had the single season home run record, but the all-time home run record as well.
Luckily for us, Alex Rodriguez was on record pace in the early part of the decade, setting himself up to break Bonds' all-time home run record. It would eventually be a victory for clean players everywhere.
So after a decade and a half of trusting our most beloved figures and being burned every single time, baseball fans can no longer trust anyone in the sport.
How can you when in the past year an MVP has been caught using (and somehow got off by exploiting a loophole in the system), arguably the best player in baseball history received half the necessary vote to get elected to the hall of fame and a BALCO-like scandal has hit MLB again.
It's a crime that it's so hard to believe anyone in baseball today. You never know when you're going to wake up to the next big scandal. Yes the basketball drug testing policy is a joke, and until it is strengthened we will continue to naively believe that everyone in the NBA is clean (which I can guarantee is a bold faced lie). Going with the information we today though, Major League Baseball is the one being hurt, not the NBA.
Trust me, the NBA still has a long way to go in order to completely clean up its' act. Relatively speaking though, it has gotten A LOT better.
Remember the days when all NBA players could sit on the sideline dressed like this (Allen Iverson was on the 76ers at the time, who knows why he was wearing a Milwaukee jersey and all)? Or how about the all out brawl known as the "Malace at the Palace?" You can't forget about my personal favorite though, the Portland "Jail" Blazers.
Nothing beats Zach Randolph sucker punching Rueben Patterson in practice then hiding at a teammates house because he thought Patterson was going to shoot him, as told here by John Canzano via Jason McIntyre. You literally cannot make this stuff up.
David Stern realized what his league was becoming, and enacted the NBA Dress Code prior to the 2005 season to help clean it up.
It actually worked fairly well. While some player's attitudes off the court may not have changed much, at least on the court they present themselves well now. Because of this, the long standing stigma of the NBA being filled with a bunch of "thugs" has lightened up in the past few years.
The NBA is now a respectable league when you combine its dress code with its community efforts. NBA Cares is a great program helping people out in all walks of life. Additionally, the recent efforts of the NBA to amp up All Star Weekend by donating $500,000 to the various charities of Dwayne Wade's and Chris Paul's choices was a really good idea.
The continuing good work of the NBA has contributed to rehabbing its image from the days of old, helping build its brand in the eyes of sports fans everywhere.
People just aren't as interested in baseball as they used to be. Last year's World Series was the least watched World Series in history, and despite the positive spin executives try to put on it, it's not a good sign for the sport.
For past three years the NBA Finals have had higher ratings than the World Series, cementing the fact that more people are watching the NBA than MLB.
So why are less people watching MLB than the NBA?
Glad you asked...
Why would people want to sit through a three to four hour baseball game when they could be watching two to three hours of an up and down basketball game?
Major League Baseball has to do something to speed up it's pace of play or else it will continue to lose fans. Some games drag on with pitchers taking forever to get set, frequent mound visits, pitching changes and a batters constantly stepping out of the box.
These elements really drag down the excitement of baseball games. In the NBA you know you're going to get a shot every 24 seconds, in baseball you may get one pitch in that time. There's a big difference.
Even being at a baseball game is a tedious task. Don't get me wrong, I love going to the ballpark on a warm summer night, but following the game there is a hard at times.
Unless you have seats directly behind the plate you can't really tell if it's a ball or strike, and every fly ball that's hit takes a few seconds to judge how far it's going to go because of the odd angles (I'll admit I've gotten out of my seat and the ball didn't make it out of the infield).
Have you ever noticed too, that there isn't much noise at a baseball game either? When the batter is introduced you get their walk up song followed by their name being announced, but after that the at-bats are silent. I don't know if that's just Yankee Stadium, but some ball and strike calls to spice up the action would be nice.
NBA games are quite different with songs being played during stretches of the game and the "pump-up crews" coming out during every time out. Nothing gets me going like a t-shirt gun.
At least baseball games have the YMCA during the seventh inning stretch (or again, maybe that's just Yankee games. If so sorry to the other 29 teams).
Is there any player in baseball you would feel obligated go to the ballpark to see?
I debated scooping up some cheap Mets' tickets last year and trying to catch the Nationals on a day when Stephen Strasburg was pitching so I could see him and Bryce Harper in action. That right there is the problem though.
If you want to see a great pitcher (only ones I would be compelled to see would be Verlander or Strasburg, by the way) there is only a one in five chance that he is pitching on any day. When there are only three or four games in a series at a time, there isn't much room for error.
The only players in baseball I would feel compelled to go the ballpark to see would be Strasburg, Verlander, Harper or Mike Trout. Anyone else is not getting me that excited. Maybe if I wasn't a Yankee fan then Derek Jeter would be added to the list, but that's still only five (two of which you will only see once every five days, so essentially three everyday players).
Now this is who in the NBA would I want to see if they were in town: LeBron, Kobe, Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose, Dwayne Wade, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, Dwight Howard, Blake Griffin and I'd even throw in Kyrie Irving, Steph Curry and James Harden because I find them intriguing.
Plus, unless you're a Spurs fan, there's a good shot you'll see your favorite players play every night.
While Harper and Trout have set up baseball for a great future, there are so many more young superstars in the NBA than in baseball. Only two of the guys on the above NBA list are older than 30-years-old and six (Durant, Rose, Griffin, Irving, Curry and Harden) are younger than 25-years old.
Skeptics who say baseball has the same amount of young talent will look at this list and pick out names like Giancarlo Stanton, Jason Heyward and Clayton Kershaw. Go to the NBA though, and you can pick out players like Paul George, Anthony Davis and Damien Lillard (all of whom are younger than the baseball names mentioned).
These NBA guys are both young AND superstars, the players in baseball are just young with potential to become superstars.
This is the best sports show on television.
If you've never watched it then I encourage you to, because no other show is as informative or funny when it comes to talking about sports.
Baseball, in comparison, has no competition for it. I used to be a fan of Baseball Tonight on ESPN, but over the years they've gone to the more cookie-cutter analyst role that has turned me off so many other shows.
The problem with most pre, post, in-game, or just analytical shows is they try to be politically correct and say what people want to hear not what they truly believe. Bill Simmons recently wrote a fantastic column detailing this trend, saying:
I made a deal with myself a long time ago: My column needed to capture the things I discuss with my friends. Last week, I realized that wasn't totally happening anymore. Something of a disconnect had emerged between my private conversations and the things I wrote for Grantland/ESPN. In essence, I had turned into two people. There's Sports Fan Me, and there's ESPN Me.
Here's how he describes his "ESPN Me":
ESPN Me sticks his head in the sand and doesn't say anything.
ESPN Me occasionally pushes narratives that he doesn't totally believe in.
ESPN Me didn't have the balls to run two e-mails that you're about to read. They nearly landed in each of my last four mailbags. Each time, I pulled both e-mails (and my responses) from those columns at the last minute.
That's what makes shows like Baseball Tonight so boring and predictable. The worst is when you get a "we'll talk about that off set" during one of those show; just say it on set!
The thing about Inside the NBA is nothing is off limits, as shown by this clip. Their conversations are real and candid rather than forced and scripted. It is one of the biggest reason's why I have become a basketball fan, and I'm sure I'm not alone.
Yes, this doesn't have anything to do with the on field play, but having your information fed to you in an entertaining way makes sports so much more enjoyable. The NBA has Major League Baseball beat in this category as well.