Thursday, April 19, 2012

Hipsterball

Is baseball slowly replacing soccer as the hipster sport of choice? Has soccer become so pervasive that – even with all the bravado and international bragging rights that accompany it – it has been supplanted in the consciousness of the Common Hipster?
Courtesy of www.ghostrunneronfirst.com
Now, this may be solely housed within in the confines of the Rogers Centre – where it seems the official Jays fan uniform consists of an ironic jersey (see below), black horn rimmed glasses, a flat cap, and scarf thrown jauntily about the shoulders – I can’t say for sure if it has stretched to other teams (with the exception of the Seattle Mariners and Chicago Cubs). If it hasn’t, though, it will.

The Jays are often noted for their increasingly younger fan base, and the reach that social media gives their team1; as other teams and players utilize Twitter to interact with their fans, those teams are bound to experience an increase in the younger demographic.

But what does baseball have going for it that could contribute to this?  Consider the following:

* Baseball has made a killing off of “throwback” jerseys. While other leagues have tried, baseball has it down pat with numerous jersey re-designs and plenty of “So Bad, It’s Good” colour combinations. What better way to ensure that people knew you liked a player or team “Before they were cool” than to rock a powder blue Pat Tabler or Buck Martinez jersey?2 On a side note, a surefire way to get that kind of treatment as a player is to retire after a long but unspectacular career to become a verbose but unspectacular TV personality (right @buckblunders?)

* Baseball is a pioneer among sports for its extensive use of statistics. While the uninitiated can certainly enjoy a ballgame as they have been doing for more than a century, they can never truly appreciate it if they can’t recite Jose Bautista’s WAR from the past three seasons. It takes a keen mind, a careful eye, and a deep passion for the game (or a smartphone) to know that kind of stuff

* Baseball features a variety of players from a number of ethnic, racial, and geographic backgrounds – but none of the really scary ones like former Eastern Bloc countries, or Compton. No, baseball players come from such far flung places as Japan and the Caribbean, with the occasional Australasian player – you know, places where you would want to spend a year discovering yourself or go to an all-inclusive resort

* Baseball is relatively cheap to pick up and play, but actually rather expensive if you plan to go far. Again, not only does this help block players from scary places from having a realistic chance to crack your kid’s junior varsity team, but you can feel good about donating a used glove to a poor Little League team that would probably prefer it if you’d just buy their fundraiser chocolate-covered almonds

* It’s really, really easy to get hammered in the stands at a baseball game, spill your watered down beer on someone and blame it on The Wave (ironically, of course)

* Baseball hearkens back to a time of peanuts and Cracker Jack, where legends hit homeruns for sick children, and events had names like “The Shot Heard ‘Round the World” or, simply, “The Catch”. The only time it mentions the fact that an entire race of people was precluded from playing the game for the better part of a century is when it celebrates the breaking of the colour barrier. Yay! Simple solutions to complex social problems! Free Tibet!

* Baseball players are exceptionally difficult to compare over various eras, leading to near endless barroom discussions about who truly belongs in the most prestigious sports Hall of Fame in the world. Sure Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds, and Sammy Sosa crushed baseball homerun records in the late 90s and early 00s, but they’re certainly no Ruth, Greenberg or Foxx.  Which, of course, they weren't…they faced black pitchers

* Two words – Fantasy Baseball. Sure, people are rabid about fantasy football, but most of the action is confined to one day per week. Canadians obviously go nuts for hockey pools, but that only really ramps up come playoff time. Baseball, though – whoa. With 1,200 players to choose from on 40-man rosters, nearly 200 days of action, and seemingly endless statistically categories to be ranked on, the bragging rights that come from a baseball league are second to none. Even though fantasy teams are sneaking into the collective consciousness, they’re still not quite popular enough to be unpopular; they’re still quirky

I love baseball. I will always love baseball. That is why I do not blame it for the hopped-up knuckleheads and insufferably self-righteous dinks that are flocking to it because they can’t quite understand cricket yet. I blame myself for letting my guard slip – I should have known something was wrong when I started scouring for someone that would get me plenty of holds.



1 - Considering a communications giant owns the team, is that really surprising?
2 - Despite the fact that Tabler played only two seasons in Toronto, and not while they wore their powder blues, and that Martinez is more known for a gruesome broken leg double play than his actual play

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