Disputes chip away at baseball’s appeal

If the Major League Baseball playoffs start, and no one is around to watch because everyone’s attention is focused on football, do the playoff games count?

In case you hadn’t noticed, baseball’s playoffs are less than a week away. I know. It caught me by surprise, too. For the past month, I have been glued to the television, trying to absorb as much football as humanly possible to make up for the six months of gridiron deprivation I have had to suffer through. Now that football season has returned, baseball is becoming less than an afterthought.

It is not difficult to find the reasons for the lack of interest in baseball. Some might be subtle, but most are glaring and grotesque.

The sport’s off-the-field disagreements are numbing the fans’ enthusiasm toward the performance on the field. Terms such as strike, luxury tax, contraction and revenue sharing are making the fans cringe. This is not what the fans want to hear about. Baseball is not doing a great job winning over fans, except in those select few cities that always draw a crowd. This is the sport’s’ Achilles heel, and why baseball is not putting up the attendance numbers it feels it should. Many people say that a strike would have been detrimental to the game, but the talk of a strike has been almost as detrimental.

It’s a shame that baseball is being drowned out, because there are so many great stories in this year’s pennant race. At the top of the list has to be the St. Louis Cardinals, the feel-good story of the year in all of sports. This is a team that has suffered through injury and tragedy and still managed to win the National League Central pennant. Then there’s playoff-bound Minnesota and Anaheim: two teams that have very few, if any, star players. In fact, Minnesota came close to being contracted before the season started.

Despite these, and other noteworthy stories (such as the great season the Expos have had in likely its last season in Montreal), baseball seems to be losing its appeal to the nation as a whole. It is going off its ancient premise that people will watch simply because it’s baseball, and it’s an American tradition. This may have been the case 50 years ago, but that was then. Now, the three other major sports (basketball, football and hockey) have all been making strides – be it through rule changes that make the game more interesting, advertising and public relations or other means – to make its sport more fan and viewer-friendly, and it’s working. Because baseball is not keeping up with the times, it is getting left behind.

Not too long ago, baseball was the king sport in this country. Today, America’s pastime is used to just pass the time between football seasons.

-Kevin Fair, 19, is a sophomore newspaper journalism student from Pompano Beach. He can be reached at kfair1@mail.com.