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Major League Baseball’s Wobbly Future

Has America’s past-time gone past its time?  Major League Baseball playoffs are upon us, but the future of baseball is looking kinda wobbly.

Pittsburgh Pirates' Marlon Byrd, right, is greeted by teammate Pedro Alvarez after hitting a home run in the second inning of the NL wild-card playoff baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, in Pittsburgh. (AP)

Pittsburgh Pirates’ Marlon Byrd, right, is greeted by teammate Pedro Alvarez after hitting a home run in the second inning of the NL wild-card playoff baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, in Pittsburgh. (AP)

If soccer is the “beautiful game” and football is the game for hitting and basketball is jazz, what is baseball these days?  Once it was without a doubt the “national pastime.”  The quintessential American game.  But America has changed.  Our lives are faster, less patient, more amped.  Major League Baseball still does just fine, thank you.  But soccer and lacrosse and video games are giving baseball a run for its money among kids.  The World Series isn’t drawing like it used to.  This hour On Point:  maybe we love it for its difference, but are baseball and America’s mainstream culture drifting apart?

— Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Jonathan Mahler, contributing writer for the New York Times, sports columnist for Bloomberg View and Deadspin and author of “Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bronx is Burning: 1977, Baseball, Politics, and the Battle for the Soul of a City.” (@JonathanMahler)

Matthew Futterman, senior special writer for the Wall Street Journal. (@MattFutterman)

David Steele, columnist for SportingNews.com. (@David_C_Steele)

Rob Neyer, national baseball editor for SB Nation. (@RobNeyer)

From Tom’s Reading List

New York Times: Is the Game Over? — “Baseball seems simply to have fallen out of the national conversation (unless the conversation happens to be about steroids, that is). The last time baseball felt front and center, culturally speaking, was the 1998 home-run race between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. And we all know how that turned out. What happened — is happening — to our national pastime? For all the moral hysteria, the answer, I think, has little or nothing to do with performance-enhancing drugs. It does have a lot to do with the broader cultural trends that have helped shape modern America.”

SB Nation: Being Another Irrelevant Essay On Baseball’s Irrelevance — “Is it October? It must be October. Or February. Or March. Because those are typically the months when people are paid good money to write about baseball’s irrelevance. It’s been happening for a hundred years, at least, but it’s been happening a lot since the early 1960s, when television networks discovered that people really, really love to spend their Sunday afternoons on a couch, drinking beer and watching huge men bruise and break each other.”

Wall Street Journal: Has Baseball’s Moment Passed? “From 2000 to 2009, the latest year for which figures are available, the number of kids aged 7 to 17 playing baseball fell 24%, according to the National Sporting Goods Association, an industry trade group. Despite growing concerns about the long-term effects of concussions, participation in youth tackle football has soared 21% over the same time span, while ice hockey jumped 38%. The Sporting Goods Manufacturing Association, another industry trade group, said baseball participation fell 12.7% for the overall population.”

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