Listening to a debate on a sports talk show yesterday between a caller and host, with the caller insisting that with the growing Hispanic population of the United States, in "10-20 years" soccer will pass big league baseball in popularity.
I've heard this before. In the 1960's, the 1970's and the 1980's. I stopped listening after that.
This time, the upcoming World Cup seems to be sparking similar predictions. But where are those fans between international tournaments?
Probably at the ballpark.
Interestingly, the host of the show insisted that the reason kids aren't playing baseball that much anymore is that "the game's too slow..." It's not too slow...it's too hard. A lot of kids these days don't want to do hard things. They'd rather vegetate in front of a PC. Baseball has a greater degree of difficulty than football, basketball, or soccer. I'll give it to the soccer players for overall fitness, but the skills to play baseball on its highest level trump the other team sports, outside of professional hockey. It's still harder than hockey, but with a lot of kids on skates by age 3, the NHL gets a head start on scouting.
Yes, there's a burgeoning Hispanic population in the U.S. But there's no shortage of Hispanic players in the big leagues, and playing the sport in huge numbers back "home," wherever that happens to be. Baseball attendance is still strong,and the influx of players like Jason Heyward, Austin Jackson, Mike Stanton, Stephen Strasburg and this year's first pick Bryce Harper - indicates the continuing strength of America's amateur program. There might be a smaller percentage of kids playing the game on sandlots, but there are a lot more kids to start with these days, so the actual numbers are still pretty good.
Soccer - or the real football, if you please - has its place in North America, but it's no more going to replace professional baseball in the minds of sports fans than is lacrosse. No swipe at lacrosse, but it's a fringe sport with regional appeal that has little appeal professionally.