Kids today — raised on expanding tech and shrinking attention spans — don’t seem interested in sports that have long been staples of American culture.
Maybe it’s my newborn son that’s transformed me into a paranoid old curmudgeon, cynical about the future.
Oh sure, there are the minor concerns that come along with another child, like how to pay for college and health care costs, providing him with good opportunities, blah blah blah … But what I’m really worried about is: In the future, what will happen to the sports I love?
For several reasons, looking about 20 years into the future, traditional sports seem to be in trouble. If you’re a Baby Boomer reading this, good news! By the time these sports have decayed, you won’t notice because you’ll be so senile you’ll spend your mornings prattling out your front door to engage in your daily delightful conversation with the mailbox.
A Sports Fan Bemoans his Generation
But if you’re a Millennial like me, you have to live with the consequences of your (not to be rude) moron generational counterparts, not to mention the scatter-brained, raised-by-a-glowing-rectangles next generation.
Why exactly do traditional sports seem doomed, and is there any hope? Let me put on my “Thinking Cap” (when I switch the cans in my “Mr. Thirsty” hat to light beer) and explain.
First, you might recall from last week’s interview with Zack Johnson, a former collegiate basketball player and eSports proponent, his bleak forecast for traditional sports. Johnson made a good argument, that with streaming apps like Twitch exploding and attendance for baseball, basketball, etc. floundering among younger people, eSports has a bright future, while sports most of us grew up playing and watching have a gradually diminishing audience.
Then there’s the NFL, the supposed “King” of sports. You’re all tired, I’m sure, of hearing the political talking points perpetually regurgitated in talk shows and columns. So I’ll skip all that and get to the bottom line: Even if the NFL can get past the political controversies, the head-trauma conversation isn’t going away, and barring some incredible leap in medical technology, I have a feeling it’s going to haunt the NFL for years to come.
Who’s Gonna Fill Those Stands?
What about my favorite pro sport, our National Pastime that has inspired so many great films and literature, baseball? Well, the long game doesn’t look good for MLB. A Wall Street Journal story last week highlighted a continuing trend at ball parks across the country: empty seats. League-wide attendance is down more than 8 percent overall from last year.
You could say that the NBA is growing in popularity, and in some ways it has gained ground, like TV viewership. But that doesn’t change the fact that, like Johnson pointed out, younger people aren’t as interested in it as they are in eSports.
Some of you might be thinking, “Soccer! That’s the future!” But in my not-so-humble opinion, soccer is not a sport, so much as it is an exhibition of communist ballerinas taking pratfalls. Of course, my opinion is subject to change if my kids (God forbid!) choose to play soccer in the future. I’m going to respectfully exclude soccer from this conversation until the US men can qualify for a World Cup. (If you’re a true fan reading this and that stings, sorry. I’ll show myself the yellow card.)
Capitulate or Keep it the Way it is
The way I see it, we have two choices with these sports that have long been a part of our culture. We can either stick to our guns, keep them the way they’ve always been, and allow them an inevitable yet noble demise. Or we can capitulate to the younger generations and add “Youth-Enticing Elements”.
Since these younger generations have no attention span and are, judging by videos on the Internet, not the brightest, we need to make the games more engaging. Teams could invite those irritating YouTube stars to shoot viral videos during breaks of the game, like ingesting whatever’s popular to eat at that moment in time. “Tide Pod Timeouts”, for instance.
T-shirt cannons could be replaced with Selfie Stick cannons. If any of the miserable little narcissists get impaled, so be it.
I know I’m being really hard on the next generation, but I’ve got my reasons. First, pretending like sports aren’t in danger (even if it’s in the distant future) isn’t going to help anything.
Second, if I set my expectations way, way low, who knows … maybe these whippersnappers will grow up to surprise skeptics like me.
Until then … get off my lawn! I need to talk to my mailbox.