I was just on a Tampa radio show — primary topic: Georgia-Florida — when the host wondered if we Atlantans were watching the World Series. In a wicked combination of guess/generalization, I said I didn’t think so. (As for myself, I refuse to watch baseball on Fox. I listen on SiriusXM. But I’m of that advanced age where baseball on radio is a slice of nostalgia.)
I also believe this, and national ratings would seem to support me: Baseball has become what the skeptics used to say college basketball and college football were — a regional sport. (And didn’t we use to call it the National Pastime?) Gone are the days when you’d watch the World Series just because it was the World Series. Now there has to be a hook, and there’s really not one for us Atlantans.
(Unless you’re talking about unpleasantness. We could watch Elvis Andrus and Neftali Feliz work for the Rangers and think, “Hey, aren’t those the guys the Braves traded for Mark Teixeira?” Or we could watch the Cardinals and say, “Weren’t we leading that team by 8 1/2 games in September?” But who wants to be a masochist?)
Were the Braves in this series, we’d all be watching. Since they aren’t, we aren’t. And that’s not just the case here: That’s true in every city that lacks a dog in this fight.
Consider: In 1985, Game 5 of the World Series between St. Louis and Kansas City — two Midwestern teams in smaller markets — drew a national rating of 24.9; Game 5 of this World Series — St. Louis is again involved, along with another team from the Central Time Zone — drew an 8.8.
I blame many things for this: The failure of baseball to maximize its strengths in a medium that caters to quicker and sleeker; the failure of baseball to cultivate a younger audience back when, and the proliferation of entertainment choices, about which even baseball can do nothing. (It was a lot easier to pick the World Series as viewing fare when it was one of four options; now you’ve got 150 channels plus video on demand.)
Oh, yeah. Almost forgot. I also blame Tim McCarver.
By Mark Bradley