Friday, April 24, 2015

Homey Don't Eat That

So I was watching Chris Rock's treatise on HBO as to how baseball has become a sport that's more or less ignored by African-Americans, which transfers to a sport that is more or less ignored by Young Americans. You can see it here, and it's pretty great. (Warning: it's a little blue.)

Rock's got an awful lot of good thoughts to think about here, but I can't help but wonder if he missed a few . The first is that this change in the makeup of the game is part of the reason why offense and home runs and general excitement is all down, down, down. (Not that there haven't been a bunch of great black pitchers, but, um, more great black hitters.)

Which sounds like I'm slagging the Asian, White and Latin talent that has taken their place, but that's a too-simple way of looking at things. It's more that the overall talent level isn't as high, because the pool of players that are feeding it isn't as vast. Consider, for a moment, just how many preternaturally young players have managed to come up and dominate recently. That's evocative of what happened a long time ago, when you had guys as young as 16 have use at the major league level. A similar point can be made about how truly bad teams now are much more likely to lose 100+ games than they were a few decades ago. Deeper talent pools make for smaller differences between good and bad teams.

Finally, I want to bring it back to the actual stadium experience itself. Rock ties this into a comically sinister desire to revisit a world before integration, where the crowds, like the players, are just overwhelmingly white. And while there's easy humor in this, I think there's actually a point to be made.

When I went to games 20 and 30 years ago, it was affordable... not just to get in the building, but also to eat there. You could bring your own food, for one thing. And baseball isn't like other sports; you are more or less expected to eat, and you are going to, because the game is three hours long and leisurely, and it's just so much in the culture of being there. No one is singing songs about concessions at hoop, hockey or football...

And all of that was fine when the concessions were cheap and democratic.  But when the stadiums got better, so did the food. Now, the park is better seen as an upscale food court where if you don't have bank, you probably feel bad as you watch people all around you tucking into oversized insanity and nouveau riche stuff.

That can't be a comfortable time out, especially if you've got kids, and the kid is wondering why they can't have the big monster hot dog. Along with the overpriced merch, and these seats are really far away, and suddenly this really doesn't seem like such a great time out, amirite?

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