Sunday, February 08, 2009

If you build it, they might not come

Part of the reason I left Saipan is that I wanted my boys to have better access to sports both as players and fans. For me, major league baseball and professional football rank very high on the interest scale -- with the NBA a very distant third. This wasn't always the case. I remember very distinctly my father taking me to see Julius Erving play in the Spectrum circa 1980 and that ignited a strong interest in the NBA. I went to the 1982 NBA All Star Game in New Jersey, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was horrible that day, and many other games with my dad or my Uncle Freddy. I watched the famous 1980 Lakers Sixers tape delayed NBA finals on a Friday night late at my grandmother's house with my uncle and was not happy with the result.

That interest in the NBA faded drastically while my interest in major league baseball increased dramatically. I've probably been to at least 100 major league games and have seen many different stadiums. My boys are very much into basketball, which is an interest they developed on their own. With some encouragement they really got into the NFL and football in general this year. Despite some mild prodding by me, they don't seem to give a hoot about baseball.

I was talking to one of my colleagues, who is also the athletic director at my school and a baseball coach, and he was relating that he barely has enough players to get a baseball team together. This is out in sunny, nearly rainless Arizona where a kid could play baseball year round. The ones who do come out for baseball, he said, tend to be the chubbiest, least athletic sort -- who are mostly afraid of the ball. Many teens find baseball "boring" -- they find most everything boring, but that's another rant for another day. My colleague thinks baseball is about twenty years from being dead in this country, and I think he might be right. Major league baseball, for the moment, continues to post record revenues, but I've been to enough games to know that it is a very gray haired and white demographic at those games. I've spent enough time in Asia to know that basketball is rising there, and baseball barely exists, though it certainly holds sway in Japan and to a small extent in Korea, but I'm a bit worried that our "National Pastime" is falling victim to today's prolific ADHD culture.

I'm not going to fight the trend too much. Right now I'm coaching my son Carl, who is on the sixth grade boys basketball team at school. He is by far the smallest kid in his class, but he is really an amazing ball handler. We did get smoked in our first game, and while this didn't came as a surprise to me, I found out real quick I'm not exactly John Wooden. I'm hoping to get him in a basketball camp this summer so he can develop his skills. We have three games coming up this week, and I think our team will improve. I'm going to make him at least try little league this spring. I think he might change his mind about the game.


bigsoxfan said...

Been to the Padre's new park? It's pretty sweet. Of course, it has to be as they generally sort of suck. Very kid friendly and they have a grassy knoll where for a cheap price you can eat a dog on the grass with the kids rather than pay full price for a in the park seat with the potentional for child crankiness and resulting parental distress. For five bucks, I can hang with the lad on the grass and if he isn't into the game, I can write off the price of admission and go for a walk. With the state of the Padre's I can see the beginnings of a routine. Good luck with the John Wooden routine, I'm just off a long afternoon of paintball in the rain on the side of a mountain. I should try windsprints next time.

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