Friday, October 24, 2014

Marry us, baseball

Chris and I watched Game 2 the other night at the usual bar. Half price drafts made for a guilt-free beer event. The bar was full but not crowded, and we had seats in the front row.

I'm noticing something.

Several years ago, it was a struggle just to get the playoffs or World Series on. You often had to ask to get a screen turned from some talking head moving his mouth on mute. Forget it if it were Sunday - the football behemoth swallowed everything. That's how I came to dislike football. (That, and the fact that so many of the players are wife beaters and criminals.) I hated Sundays - hid from Sundays - and rooted for the cancellation of the NFL season when that was a possibility, because football usurped attention from baseball.

But the postseason is on now, no asking necessary. Even a screen or two is tuned in when a game falls on a Sunday. What's more, people are watching. Not just the KC or SF expats gathering to watch their teams from half a world away, but others, too, people enjoying baseball. And they're talking about it when the games aren't on. Water cooler stuff. The bar was full of people who wanted to be there to watch baseball, who were rooting for teams that were not their own, who groaned when players erred or umps couldn't keep a consistent strikezone.

DC is hardly a controlled lab for baseball fandom experiments, given that baseball was absent for so long. The increased general interest in the city where I've lived for a dozen years could be a result of a decade of growing interest in the local team. But I look at the numbers from around the country, the increasing attendance, the dominance of television ratings in most markets, the online jabber from fans of every team everywhere, and I have to think the physical observations I've made are not simply the result of Washingtonians learning to love baseball because they have a good team now, but are part of a growing phenomenon of Americans falling in love with America's pastime again.

I only hope it's true.

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