Reality television is crippling baseball. What used to be summer’s great pastime – where young boys spent their evenings next to their fathers praying their favorite team could finish the ninth inning before bedtime – is slowly being replaced.
You see, sports were the original reality television. Long before networks decided to tape people living together, or create made-for-TV races around the world, or give some rich playboy 15 stunning women to choose from, sports were the original ‘did you see that’ television.
Previous generations grew up idolizing star-athletes whom they spent countless hours bonding with through their radios and televisions. Young boys everywhere took their allowances to the nearest memorabilia store to buy a pack of trading cards, hoping to pull their favorite player out of the unknown. But to the younger generation, it has all changed.
When television producers realized the ‘unknown outcome’ of sports is what drew the audience and their loyalties, they asked, “How do we emulate this ‘unknown’ to a non-sports audience?” Or, “How do we imitate this appeal to those who enjoy dancing, singing, traveling, cooking?” Answer: Competition. Competition is what America loves. The successes, the failures, the trials and tribulations – America loves it all. Instead of doing a show about how to dance, producers decided to have them compete. Instead of doing a show about how to cook, producers decided to have them compete. At that point, sports were no longer the only competition in town. They had company, and lots of it.
Baseball has seemed to take the majority of the beating when compared with the other two major sports. Football benefits from its’ limited number of games and the consistency of its’ programming. Basketball is benefiting from a new wave of budding superstars. Baseball is slow. Baseball is plentiful. Baseball is no longer the only show in town.
In the past, when a young boy watched baseball in the summers, much of the reason was because there was little else on television. Now, that same young boy is just as likely to tune into Duets or Dancing with the Stars as he is a Tuesday night baseball game. Just one generation later, the young boy who grew up rattling off the stats of the entire Yankees lineup, would likely have a greater chance of rattling off the past 5 winners of American Idol. It’s not matter of right or wrong, it’s simply different.
Baseball seems to be losing the younger generation of America. A generation that thrives on multi-tasking and constant chaos has trouble sitting on their hands for 3 1/2 hours straight for 162 games a year. Instead, baseball has attempted to do everything in its’ power to make stadiums more ‘fan-friendly’. Last season, I went to a minor-league baseball game and it was if I walked into a carnival, and a baseball game just happened to be playing in the middle of it. People, it is just a freaking t-shirt! It is not like they are throwing gold nuggets into the crowd. Please relax.
Should baseball continue down this path, the television audience will soon be gone. If younger generations only identify with baseball because of its’ ‘carnival-like atmosphere’, why would they ever watch a game from home? There is no carnival at home… just a slow, drawn-out game they didn’t even pay attention to when they were at the stadium.
Now a days, no one wants to make time for 162 games that each take 3 ½ hours to watch. In that same time span, one could watch at least three television shows – all while getting instant updates about the game on their Twitter feed. Technology has changed. Competition has changed. Consumption has changed. It’s about time baseball finally got caught up to speed. That’s that.