By Angelica Beneke
The World Series has already passed, but we can still learn something about American sports culture through a controversy many might have missed the day after its conclusion. The day after the Houston Astros won the championship for the first time in franchise history, Los Angeles actor and baseball critic Rob Lowe tweeted a link to a Sports Illustrated article pointing out how World Series baseballs were slicker than regular season baseballs. His comment? “This isn’t what baseball should be.”
Like many other Houston Astros fans, I was quick to miss what Lowe argued when I first read the tweet. I only saw his comment, not what he was tweeting. I thought he was just another salty Los Angeles Dodgers fan lacking grace. His team didn’t win like they did back in 1988. Plus, Houston’s supposed to be the laughingstock of the sports world!
Well, if you exclude a few players who consistently win awards like James Harden, J.J. Watt and Dallas Keuchel. Any Houston sports team winning any playoff that people care about just shouldn’t happen. Of course baseball isn’t what it should be.
I still don’t agree with his timing of the comment, even if he didn’t mean any ill will toward the Astros. He kept quiet when the Dodgers defeated the Astros in Games 4 and 6 and chose a moment of celebration to bring this up. If you’re going to call yourself a sports critic, be consistent with your criticisms.
After looking into a few articles about baseball’s decline in appeal, though, I understand where Lowe is coming from – questions of timing aside. One of the issues baseball faces today includes struggling to appeal to young people in this age of constant digital distractions. This not only refers to viewership, where 50 percent of viewers are over 50, according to Major League Baseball (MLB) authorities, but in enrollment in Little Leagues around the country.
How does MLB plan to make the sport more exciting for young people so they will watch the game? Maybe they could diversify the baseball teams and management even more so the majority does not look like a large group of Golden Oreos. Or they could reorganize the drafts to be more open to even younger players, especially those who are younger than 28. In other words, MLB could make the game reflect America so when people say baseball is America’s game, they’re not perpetuating a myth.
So, what does MLB decide to do? Make the World Series baseballs slicker to make the games high scoring and exciting, apparently. I understand why Lowe would be annoyed.
But I would be lying if I said I completely agree with Lowe’s grim diagnosis.
Yes, baseball’s not what it used to be, but maybe the Houston Astros winning and the city’s reaction is the start of a new era in baseball. Maybe it’s the start of an era where kids, no matter their color, ethnicity or even disability, can look at someone in baseball, player or management, and say “I can do that too!” Maybe it’s the start of an era where people can see baseball not as that boring, nap-inducing sport, but a sport that can unite a city, a state, a region or a nation.
And maybe MLB won’t have to resort to slippery World Series baseballs to make things interesting.
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