Major League Baseball kicked off the 2012 regular season. Yes, it happened. The regular season has begun. Didn’t feel it? You’re not alone, I didn’t either.
By contrast, the NBA season started off with a huge bang four months ago, starting on Christmas to the relief of starved NBA fans who thought the 2011-2012 season was lost to the mutual greed of the NBA and NBPA; it started on Christmas, capitalizing on the fans being at home, with family, wanting to watch the league’s best finally play.
The NFL’s opening game, which is usually on Thursday, but will be on Wednesday due to the Democratic National Convention, is a spectacle unto itself. Once you get to Sunday, then it’s even bigger: fireworks, hyped up fans, seemingly never-ending madness culminating with Al Michaels reminding us implicitly how much we missed the NFL, with ESPN’s Monday Night Football’s double-header the cherry on top of the icing of the cake.
So, where is Major League Baseball in the opening day arena? I mean seriously? For a sport with a longer history than either of the other top two, and whose modern era is longer (the live-ball era began in 1920; the NFL-AFL merger was 1970; I’m not sure about the NBA, but I’m guessing the 1970s), MLB really has let the Opening Day event slide backwards. It isn’t just the regular season games played in Japan, either, which really doesn’t help, but it’s the general apathy of fans who are only moderately interested in baseball for the first half of the season, like me. For me, the season really begins at the All-Star game, and only kicks into top gear with three weeks left to go, and that’s assuming I still have a horse in the race.
Now, don’t me wrong: I care about the game; I care about the Giants and Yankees and how they are doing; I just feel comfortable skipping the actual games and getting my fix on Sportscenter or MLB Tonight, and the fact that the NFL Draft is approaching, the Saints’ bounty scandal hasn’t gone away, I’m watching more NHL (which is ramping up towards its postseason), and Tiger Woods is playing the best he’s played in three years is no help in getting me to watch baseball right now.
The largest part of it, though, is that the baseball season is so long: 162 games, in contrast to the NBA, which is 82, and the NFL’s really short 17 week, 16 game schedule. Again, getting a highlight fix doesn’t seem that badly, because even though I argue that all games are important (case in point, winning the games early in the season makes it easier on the team overall later in the season, since the pressure then isn’t as intense), I don’t feel like I’m missing much that way.
Baseball is “America’s Pastime,” that is true, but football has overtaken it as “America’s Game,” and the soft, quiet opening this past week is the ultimate sign of how true this is. The NBA, recovering from the lockout-induced backlash very quickly, is gaining ground, and even the NHL, whose old broadcasting network, Versus, has merged with NBC Sports (to become NBC Sports Network) is making a few strides. The NFL isn’t giving up ground, and the pie can only expand so far.
So, where is MLB in America today? Trying to hold its ground; whether it succeeds or not remains to be seen.