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 #10 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: An Issues Discussion With Paul Dolan – Dolan is the Cleveland Indians Owner and CEO. He discusses the use of Native American names and logos by sports teams and the decisions to drop the Chief Wahoo logo and the upcoming change to the team name. Other baseball topics include health and safety, possible MLB rule changes and youth participation in the sport.
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Episode #9 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking Sports Issues With Ralph Nader – Nader is a consumer advocate and was named one of the “100 Most Influential Americans of the 20th Century” by Time magazine. He is the founder of League of Fans.
Episode #8 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Save College Sports From Overcommercialization and Professionalization? – The guest is Dr. David Ridpath, a sports business professor and past president of the Drake Group
Episode #7 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Brain Trauma and CTE Risk in Sports With Dr. Ann McKee – Dr. McKee works in the field of neuropathology and has demonstrated that “mild” repetitive head trauma can provoke chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a devastating neurodegenerative disease.
Episode #6 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Need for Quality Physical Education in Our Schools is Greater Than Ever – The guest is Clayton Ellis, one of our nation’s leading advocates for getting our young people to be more physically active.
Episode #5 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Youth Sports with Positive Coaching Alliance Founder Jim Thompson – Thompson started Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) in 1998 to help create a movement to transform the culture of youth sports from “win-at-all-costs” to a positive, character-building experience.
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.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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.
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