Somewhere between the loud arrival of John Madden and the coronation of Michael Jordan and Dale Earnhardt, baseball ceased to be the American pastime. If you measure a sport’s influence by the revenue it produces or the number of TV viewers it attracts, baseball falls to second or third place, well behind NFL football and buried when college and professional football are considered together. A recent Harris poll confirms baseball’s downward trend, which in long-term consistency resembles that of the mainline church.
The exact date of baseball’s demotion is as hard to pinpoint as the birth of postmodernism or the death of American innocence. But tune into the MLB Network for a late game between the Mariners and the Astros in a near-empty stadium in which the few remaining fans are snacking on sushi rather than hot dogs, and you know something bad has happened.