SCREAMIN’ FROM THE CHEAP SEATS – JULY 4
By Leo Haggerty
IS THE NATIONAL PASTTIME PAST TIME
Yes, I know you look forward to Sunday because it’s our Poll Question but I called an audible this week. Being that today is the 4th of July, I gave the staff and contributors Independence Day weekend off but they will return next weekend with their opinions on our next Poll Question.
What I have, in reality, done today is created my own Poll Question. Simply put, is baseball no longer the National Pasttime?
To answer that question, I’m going to go back 60 years and when I was 8. I chose that age because that’s my earliest recollection of the sports landscape.
So, we are circa 1961. Newly elected President John Kennedy was inaugurated in January. Gary Player won his first major at The Masters in April. Rod Laver won Wimbledon in July. Finally, the New York Yankees won the World Series in October.
Conspicuously absent from the major sports scene of that era were the National Football League and the National Basketball Association along with the National Hockey League. Why, you ask? Let me enlighten you.
Let’s start with the NHL. Still the “Original Six” and no national television contract because there were only three national networks at the time. NBA and ABC plus CBS were it so, when people would ask me who controlled the clicker, I would say you got up and turned the dial and that meant a very limited amount of space in prime time during the week.
The NBA had the same problem but had it a little better. Their championship series would be taped and played starting at 11:30 pm but at least the most loyal fanatics could stay up and watch.
The NFL had it the best because games were played on weekends so there were more time slots available. Still, only games within you viewing area, and generally only away games, were shown. To see what transpired in the previous week around the league, you had to wait until the following Saturday for the highlights.
Baseball had the benefit of playing the most games plus two other factors. One was the development of UHF stations with most of them concentrating on local sports especially baseball. Also, every Saturday, there was a Game of the Week so fans could keep in touch with other teams through the country. Clearly, baseball was king.
Now, fast forward to 2021 and the landscape has changed dramatically. The NFL is the King of the Hill and it’s followed by the NBA and, some would even argue, the third place pro league is the NHL.
MLB is, at best, third and could be in the cellar. To the younger fans, in their minds, the game is too slow compared to the other three professional leagues.
So, yes is the answer that Major League Baseball is no longer the National Pasttime and it has a long climb up the mountain to attain the top spot again. Personally, I don’t think that will occur but, let’s be honest, stranger things have happened.
Enjoy the 4th. Above all, be safe!