“Make baseball fun again.” These words were embroidered on last year’s Major League Baseball MVP Bryce Harper’s hat after the first game of the season. By directly referencing Donald Trump’s popular political campaign, one of the league’s biggest names brought to the forefront an important issue in baseball today: Not enough is being done to evolve the game.
Long considered “America’s pastime,” baseball has experienced falling interest in the game as less people are invested in what the sport has to offer as in generations past. Younger people are now turning to sports like football and basketball that are faster-paced and more exciting to watch.
But those sports had to make changes, too, in order to stay afloat. The NBA added a 3- point line in 1979 and got rid of hand-checking (an aggressive hands-on tactic that made it much harder for a player to score) in 1980. Since then, the sport’s popularity has increased, with the 2000s sporting some of the highest Nielsen ratings in NBA playoff history. The NFL has also implemented rules that make it easier for pass-catchers to roam freely, such as the overwhelming tendency to call defensive pass interference penalties and the propensity for personal fouls on defensive players.
These leagues have faced some backlash, however. Former players argue that the games used to be tougher back before these new rules were implemented and, therefore, better. The conundrum that the MLB faces is that they are unsure of whether or not to conform to what the rest of the sports world is doing, or hold precious the fact that this sport can withstand the test of time—that newer does not always mean better. A lot of evidence points to the fact that the MLB should try the former, with young stars such as Harper and Carlos Correa publicly stating the need for more excitement in baseball.
Old timey classic baseball moments, such as trading cards, have grown old. While there are still many supporters and those who love going to the ballpark, many people are content watching a game on T.V. in this age of media. Still, the fans sitting on their couch watching football aren’t doing the same with baseball, because being present at a baseball game really centers on the ballpark experience. While some point to this as a characteristic that makes baseball special, many would argue that it diminishes the reach and excitement that baseball could potentially have. If baseball were to implement more rules or try to appeal to youth more, they could really expand their audience and market. While it may not necessarily work, and baseball may continue to be an “old person’s sport,” there’s an effort that needs to be made for fear that baseball may eventually strike out in the live entertainment market.