During my time at Columbia, I have learned to respect the diversity among its sports fans. Different people value different aspects of sports, and develop unique attachments for various reasons. But for myself, no sport better encompasses the best aspects of sports better than baseball.
It seems that as each new class has entered Columbia, its interest in America’s pastime has continued to shrink. While I understand some of baseball’s flaws that have contributed to this disinterest, we still go to school in the baseball capital of the world—no other city has such a year-round passion for the sport. It may be helpful for those living in New York to gain some insight on the sport instead of just inherently dismissing it as “boring.”
After all, other sports have grown on me throughout college, such as college basketball, while many still exist that I do not appreciate because I do not understand their appeal.
“Baseball is dying” is a very popular narrative. It always has been and likely always will be. Much like how it never was, and never will be correct.
National television ratings are often used as exhibit A when describing baseball’s demise. This argument may be convincing, except that baseball is a regional sport—local ratings are far more important, and those are thriving. Having 162 games worth of compelling nightly content is enough to sustain regional networks by themselves. The TV deals are very lucrative, and attendance is at an all-time high. Competitive balance is also at an all-time high, thanks in part to exploding local TV deals and revenue sharing.
Star players with celebrity qualities such as Yasiel Puig, Matt Harvey, Clayton Kershaw, and Mike Trout, are re-emerging, attending games is actually affordable, and the games are not dragging on as long.
The sports industry is thriving—it keeps TV networks afloat and has only grown more popular with the advent of the “second screen”—the use of a second electronic device to enhance the viewing experience—in recent years. Now consider that baseball plays more games—and thus provides more content—than any other sport. Baseball is not dying, but interest is still waning from us millennials. Let me explain what you are missing out on.
Baseball is comforting because your team is there for you seemingly every day for half of a year. Baseball is not meant to be watched continuously from start to finish, but at your own leisure. Nobody watches every minute of all 162 games, but it is there if you need it.
The greatest thing about baseball is that no two games are ever alike. The old adage that “you never know what you’ll see when you come to the ballpark” is absolutely true. There are so many moving parts, intricacies, and potential outcomes, that all 2,430 games in a season are unique—as every game is at every level.
And since baseball has such a prolific and well-recorded history—every play, every number, and every game can gain special meaning or context. There is even that one moment—on an almost daily basis—when you can be certain you’ve witnessed something that has never happened before and will never happen again. That is the true charm of baseball for me.
Fittingly, I wrote most of this column on the way to the wackiest sporting event I have ever attended. But I can’t say that I am not surprised. I promise you this would not have been the case if I went to an NBA game, for instance.
Additionally, baseball has endless strategic maneuvering (especially in the superior National League), and it is at the forefront of statistical analysis.
There is no intentional fouling, kneel-downs, or adding an arbitrary amount of time to the end of the game. A game will not end because a clock says so (unless you start an Ivy League doubleheader too late in the day).
If none of this matters to you and all you care about is constant action, then we just value different aspects of sports. You are missing out.
Maybe watching Columbia baseball can change your mind—as its games can be as unpredictable and entertaining as any around.
I have written for several years about how the baseball program is great, so no need to state the obvious. The makeup of the team has changed though, so if you like offense, then this team is for you.
And it is only appropriate that the two-time defending Ivy baseball champions reside in the baseball capital of the world.
The Lions will also bring on another fun aspect of baseball—the drama of tight races. The Ivy League will likely come down to the Columbia-Penn showdown to close out the regular season.
That will certainly be a spectacle because with baseball, there is no way to know what will happen. The only exception being that when an Ivy champion is crowned, I am pretty sure baseball will still be alive and well.
Ryan Young is a Columbia College senior majoring in economics-statistics. He is the sports director for WKCR. Roar Ryan Roar runs biweekly.