Losing luster | SierraSun.com

Losing luster

Sylas Wright

It’s sad, flipping to the Sacramento Bee’s sports section first thing Thursday morning and setting half-open eyes on a lead article, accompanied by a column, entitled “Is baseball past its time?”A clever headline, no doubt, and with facts to back it above and below. But to the all the true fans of the formerly undisputed “national pastime,” the undeniable subject matter is tough to digest. The facts strongly suggest that baseball is losing, or has already lost, its steam; the numbers the scribe unveiled by way of research cannot be argued: Statewide, according to a recent California Intersholastic Federation Sports Participation Survey cited in the article, 40,676 played high school baseball in 2005. That is 716 fewer than in 2003 and 2,266 less than in 2001. The reality of the matter, which is exemplified in professional baseball, is that the sport had a lengthy run, but appears to have ran head-on into some sort of barrier. That’s sad.For such an influential game to lose its clout in its founding country – I wonder what “The king of Clout” would think – a multitude of factors must be responsible.One reason baseball at every level is increasingly snubbed by Americans is the sharp decline in attention spans. Blame it on television or video games, but whatever the reason, folks these days want action – fast-paced and immediate – before boredom sets in. The younger the generation, the shorter the attention span. That’s a discouraging note for baseball. Another major factor tied to baseball’s popularity crisis, a no-brainer really, is the usage of performance-enhancing drugs.The thought of today’s unnaturally brutish ballplayers shattering old-timers’ records tends to leave a sour taste in one’s mouth. Nobody wants to learn that his or her favorite ballplayer cheated to accomplish the feats that were such a joy to root on – feats that in timely fashion boosted attendance and interest in a game rebounding from the massive blow delivered by the 1994 strike.That leads right into another popularity-buster: the strike.Millionaires playing a game for a living who refuse to “work” due in part to money issues tends to disgust the average American busting his or her butt 40 hours a week to earn enough money to exist. The game undoubtedly lost fans, many of whom remain bitter to this day.Another reason participation in baseball is down is simply because of the society we live in. Early last century, when crime hadn’t yet run rampant, inner-city kids were allowed to roam freely, enabling them to gather in the streets or on fields to play ball.Now, safety issues force kids to play indoors with all the technologically advanced toys that further shorten attention spans. And when kids are allowed out, they have the attractive option of playing with toys far beyond the technology of a baseball glove or bat.Dissecting the rapid decline of what was once the staple of American sports could go on and on. But few have the attention span for that.Sylas Wright is the sports editor at the Sierra Sun. Contact him at swright@sierrasun.com.