Yesterday I offered up the name of Albert Pujols as the best player in baseball today. I received one comment on the post, where fellow blogger "Execu-bot," the proprietor of the Raspberries! blog (found at: http://ontheoregontrail.blogspot.com) noted that he had never heard of Albert Pujols.
Here's what you need to know - Execu-bot is not some garden variety ignoramus. He is, rather, a bright, college-educated young man with fine manners and wide-ranging tastes and knowledge. He also follows sports. But baseball is not one of them. And that's a problem for baseball.
Baseball has long claimed to be "America's Pastime," but it really hasn't been for a long time, maybe since the 1960s. During that decade, the National Football League began to capture the hearts and minds of more and more fans, as the legendary Packers of Lombardi, followed by the Cowboys of Landry and the Steelers of Noll, became the pre-eminent sources of sports entertainment in the country. Part of the change was marketing - images of the 60s and 70s NFL gladiators are often now seen with the surging orchestral ministrations of NFL Films and offered with the "Voice of God" narration of John Facenda, Harry Kalas and other stentorian Philadelphia announcers featuring helmeted gladiators with steam coming from their masks. Comparable baseball films usually feature porn-star quality music and the more ordinary sounding Curt Gowdy, with mustachioed bohos sporting double-knit fashion monstrosities. Come to think of it, some of the best ballplayers of the era looked a bit like porn stars.*
Baseball by its nature is quotidian - during the season, there's a game nearly every day and each contest is just a contest, not an EVENT like an NFL game. For those of us who love baseball, the challenge is to help people understand why the rhythms of the game and the slow, steady accretion of detail that occur during the course of a season are worth following. But it's not been easy for a long time now. For baseball to survive and prosper, Execu-bot and his contemporaries need to understand why Albert Pujols matters, even if they choose not to follow the game as closely as hopeless causes like me.
*at least that's what I hear; your humble host has of course never indulged in watching such horrible things. Nuh-uh. No way, Jose.