Baseball is making a comeback as America’s National Pastime.
Credit a thrilling World Series between the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers, featuring both a breathtaking display of power hitting and high quality pitching.
Television ratings are at a five-year high and rising with each game.
Perhaps some of the increase in interest can be attributed to what’s going on this season in the National Football League, where on field athletic performances have been overshadowed by the national-anthem controversy.
Baseball has been relatively free of such drama.
It’s also been spared the highly choreographed hot-doggery now rampant in the NFL. Showboating has become theater during football games, with players staging mini-skits after touchdowns and turnovers. Even routine tackles merit excessive preening and taunting. That turns off some fans.
For the most part, professionalism still reigns on the baseball field (aside from Astro Yuli Gurriel’s juvenile display of xenophobia). Players keep their celebrations within the realm of sportsmanship, and usually carry them out in the dugouts, not on the field.
Each week the NFL allows the spotlight to stay on player protests, it costs the league in ticket sales and television rates. Houston Texans owner Bob McNair was wrong to make his offensive inmates in charge of the prison comment, but he’s right in the sentiment that the league has to take control of its image.
If it doesn’t, the price will be paid in ticket sales and less TV revenue.
Fans are tired of the distractions. If the NFL can’t deliver a product free of divisive politics, its base will migrate to Major League Baseball, where so far the players are keeping their views on social issues away from the games.
And they’re delivering their fans an exciting experience.
If the NFL wants to find a path to stop its slide, it should follow its fans as they march out of stadiums and into ballparks.
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