Maybe you’ve noticed. There is a World Series taking place.
Well, maybe it’s over now. As I write on Wednesday afternoon, the Texas Rangers hold a 3-1 lead over the Arizona Diamondbacks. If they win tonight, the Rangers will secure their first Major League Baseball championship in the franchise’s 62-year history. And you’ll find a big story on the cover of the Daily Herald’s sports section and a few mentions on the front page. If they don’t win we’ll have coverage, but the big story has to go into the weekend and a champion will be determined between two wild card opponents.
Sure, history will climax, but within a few days the glitz outside Arlington, Texas, and Phoenix, Arizona, will have faded to a picture or two of celebrations in the winner’s hometown and local analysis of a Chicago team’s chances to get there next year. By this time next month, most Americans, aside from serious sports fans, will have a hard time remembering which teams even played in the series, let alone who won or which player was named Most Valuable Player.
I mention all this after seeing Wednesday’s story about the outcome of Game 4, which was posted at the bottom of the Sports Front under a story about the Bears’ second-round draft pick and a feature about the Bears’ linebacker corps Batavia High School Bulldogs is placed. This level of attention seemed extremely sensible to me. After all, we’re in the middle of the NFL season with a struggling home team, and the Daily Herald’s bread and butter is prep sports in the suburbs. Still, I couldn’t help but think about how much “America’s Favorite Pastime” has been pushed out of the spotlight over the years.
I’m trying not to fall into the boring trap of remembering how great things were “in my time,” but if Adele, at 25, could lament sadly about how different things are from “When we were young “, then hopefully someone like me at a slightly more advanced age would be able to forgive a moment of leniency.
Furthermore, I think that in this reflection there is a relevant message for our times in terms of our popular interests.
An immediate assumption when you compare the attention the World Series once attracted – in my elementary school in central Illinois, it was an opportunity to wheel a black-and-white television into the classroom no matter who was playing Alan Shepard’s Shot Into Space or John Glenn – is that we just don’t care about baseball like we used to. But that is only partially true.
Rather, it’s that now we just have so many more great things that we clamor for and that often grab our attention. Professional baseball was once hailed as America’s favorite pastime, largely because there weren’t many other competing pastimes.
Today, the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field is home to not only Chicago’s hometown Cubs, but also greats like Taylor Swift, Bruce Springsteen and the Jonas Brothers. On the same nights that World Series games could be played if the Rangers failed to win their title last night, comedian Nate Bargatze, just one of many weekend entertainment options in Chicago, will be entertaining people at a sold-out crowd Making shows laugh costs hundreds of dollars per ticket. At best, sports radio stations only interrupt for the requisite perfunctory coverage of the World Series and then watch the Bears’ probably unspectacular game on Sunday. When it comes to television, viewers have literally hundreds of options available across dozens of streaming channels and media.
And all of this just applies to entertainment reporting. When we turn to reporting, the abundance of fragmented options easily dispels the stereotypes of a single news media monolith, just as the many entertainment pursuits available dispel the notion of a single American pastime.
So while the entire nation once waited for the outcome of every pitch and every game of the real October classics, newspaper readers, radio viewers and social media users will be capturing the Big Game in the middle of numerous other sights.
It’s not the same as “in my time” but like Adele, “I continue to hold on”
Just in case it’s not gone.” And it’s not. There’s just so much more to enjoy and, for a newspaper, to report on now.
• Jim Slusher, [email protected], is senior opinion editor at the Daily Herald. Follow him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jim.slusher1 and on Twitter at @JimSlusher.