As Rock notes, baseball’s love affair with history has turned it into the granddaddy game of American sports. It’s John Fogerty in the era of Drake, and the nostalgia that has largely fueled the game’s popularity and sustained its mystique has faded. For a generation who grew up with the specters of Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson pushing the NBA to previously-unforeseen global visibility and with the Super Bowl as the biggest American sporting event of the year and the NFL commanding such a huge part of the public consciousness, baseball just seems like a sport that only matters because it’s been around forever. Most fans are into the game because of their parents or grandparents. But it’s hard to get excited about it if you have no tradition of loving it.
I enjoyed my experience at the Mets game (they won 5-4) and it reminded me how much fun it can be to go to the ballpark. The crowd was spotty but enthusiastic, and the arena kept blaring “Nothin’ But A G Thang” by Dr. Dre. They’re trying, I thought. Hip-hop is everywhere at this point, but the fans in attendance were largely white and middle-aged or older. There is no easy way to change that. And that does mean that baseball’s “America’s Pastime” tag is becoming more of a novelty title; sort of like a “World’s Greatest Dad” mug. Black people, by and large, have moved on from the sport, and it’s probably far too late to try and put this relationship back together. But don’t be mad at Chris Rock for telling the hard truth. We can still pretend to care about the game when something historic happens and we’ll always have love for great baseball movies. But don’t expect to keep coasting on history and nostalgia, MLB. Actually put in the work in the schools and the communities to draw interest to your sport. If you want black people in the stands and on the field, act like it.