Goose Gossage is a whiny, old guy who hates fun to most of America, but to the demographic of baseball’s most passionate fans, he just put the nail on the head. Gossage went after Jose Bautista, Yoenis Cespedes, anyone who shows too much emotion on the diamond, and nerds who are ruining baseball. Through his comments, he became the poster boy for the much needed culture war that Major League Baseball and its fans are finally having.
Meanwhile, Bryce Harper wants to revolutionize the game. As aggravating as he can he, he represents where a new age of fans want the game to go. Well, maybe he’s not exactly where the fans want baseball to go, but he represents that direction far more than Gossage.
Baseball simply doesn’t excite young fans anymore, and it’s a problem that MLB was way too late to recognize. The game moves too slow for millennials who have the attention span of a goldfish — unless they have loaded up on their Adderal. No disrespect to my fellow millennials, by the way, because I feel the exact same way. For a Red Sox regular season game, I need anywhere between 1 and 4 other things to be doing during while the game is on TV, depending on the pitching matchup, importance of the game, and the time of the season.
Meanwhile, baseball traditionalists not only don’t want the game to speed up, but they hate any emotion being shown on the field. You can tell that I’m being kind of one sided on this one, but it’s clear that the game has to modernize significantly. Any product still has to make itself appealing to the world around it, so long as the very essence of the game is not compromised.
But that’s the problem. Baseball traditionalists feel that speeding up the game, allowing bat flips, and ensuring that catchers don’t die at home plate is an affront to America’s national pastime. The worst part is the MLB’s resistance to highlights and clips on social media. The only way that the MLB is going to grow in the eyes of young people is through social media, and they somehow don’t realize that. The league is relying too much on older, white fans, and they’re only now realizing it. Chris Rock perfectly summed up the baseball’s loss of black fans, as well as how detrimental it is to MLB.
The problem is that cultural change doesn’t take place through a smooth process. Considering the fervor with which baseball traditionalists hold on to the whimsical aspect of the old days of baseball, the culture war will be rough one. If baseball doesn’t fight through the culture war and modernize in time for young fans to catch on, it could be the end of baseball’s prominent cultural significance.