By Ken Reed
I was handed free tickets to an NBA preseason game last night so I decided to go. The game was less than enthralling so I took a spin around the concourse as the second half dragged on. I wandered into a sports lounge on the club level and noticed a dozen or so HD monitors turned to various sporting events. A couple had the NBA preseason game that was being played in the arena. The rest were fairly evenly divided between the Los Angeles Dodgers vs. St. Louis Cardinals National League championship series and the Indianapolis Colts vs. San Diego Chargers Monday Night Football game. It wasn’t surprising that a sports lounge would have these games on. What was surprising was that there were 15-20 fans gathered around the NFL game and only two or three watching the playoff baseball game (even with two of the most storied MLB franchises playing).
I realize that nobody can say baseball is America’s national pastime these days without having a smirk on their face, but I didn’t realize that one of baseball’s league championship playoff games would take such a back seat to an early season football game between two of the smaller markets in the NFL.
As Jonathan Mahler recently wrote in The New York Times, “What happened — is happening — to our national pastime?” Is baseball still relevant?
Actually, I think Mahler is on to something when he suggests baseball is a game you follow and football is a game you watch. There always seems to be a baseball game on TV but NFL games are relatively rare occurrences. The NFL is much more appointment TV.
Moreover, our culture has evolved while baseball hasn’t. The phrase “national pastime” even sounds archaic. When asked to describe what images come to mind when he hears the phrase “national pastime,” broadcaster Bob Costas said,” It sounds like a guy sitting on a rocking chair on his porch listening to a game on the radio and maybe he’s whittling.”
We want more action today and in our multitasking society baseball just seems too slow. And unfortunately, it’s getting slower with the increasing time it takes to get a pitch called by the catcher and accepted by the pitcher, pitching changes ad nauseam, and batters constantly stepping out of the box to readjust the straps on their batting gloves. Football is loud, fast and violent while “baseball is quiet and slow,” says Daniel Okrent, the founding father of fantasy baseball.
I love baseball but I tend to follow it more through radio broadcasts while mowing the lawn and scanning box scores while eating my breakfast cereal than I do actually watching games. With football and basketball on the other hand, I’ll take more time to sit down and watch the action.
Apparently, I’m not alone. According to the Nielsen’s, the seven least-watched World Series have taken place the last eight years.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #32 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Prolific Author Joe Posnanski Joins the Show – Posnanski is one of America’s best sportswriters and has twice been named the best sports columnist in America by the Associated Press Sports Editors. We chat about his new book, “Why We Love Baseball,” his new Substack newsletter called Joe Blogs, and we cover topics including how baseball treats its fans, MLB’s numerous rule changes this past season, how the sport can become more fan-friendly, the greatness of Negro Leagues champion Buck O’Neil, and much more.
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Episode #31 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Foul Ball Safety Is Still an Important Issue at Ballparks – Our guests are Jordan Skopp, founder of FoulBallSafety.com and Greg Wilkowski, a Chicago based attorney. We discuss the historical problem of foul balls injuring fans and why some teams are still hesitant to put up protective netting in some minor league and college baseball parks.
Episode #30 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The State of College Athletics with Dr. David Ridpath: Problems and Potential Solutions – Ridpath is a sports administration professor at Ohio University and a member of The Drake Group, a college sports reform think tank.
Episode #29 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Honorable Tom McMillen Visits League of Fans’ Sports Forum – McMillen is a former All-American basketball player, Olympian, Rhodes Scholar and U.S. Congressman. We discuss the state of college athletics today.
Episode #28 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Chat With Mano Watsa, a Leading Basketball and Life Educator – Watsa is President of PGC Basketball, the largest education basketball camp in the world. We discuss problems in youth sports today.
Episode #27 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Kids’ Sports: How We Can Take Back the Game and Restore Quality Family Time In the Process – Linda Flanagan is author of “Take Back the Game: How Money and Mania Are Ruining Kids’ Sports and Why It Matters.” We discuss how commercialized and professionalized youth sports are hurting kids and their families.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- Reed Appears on Ralph Nader Radio Hour League of Fans’ sports policy director, Ken Reed, Ralph Nader and the New York Times’ Tyler Kepner discussed a variety of sports issues on Nader’s radio show as well as Reed’s updated book, How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan. Reed's book was released in paperback in February, and has a new introduction and several updated sections.
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Vanderbilt Sport & Society - On The Ball with Andrew Maraniss with guest Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director for League of Fans and author of How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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