In Origin of Species, Charles Darwin says, “It is not the most intellectual of the species that survives; it is not the strongest that survives; but the species that survives is the one that is able to adapt to and to adjust best to the changing environment in which it finds itself.”
There’s been a lot of talk about bringing changes to not only Major League Baseball, but also to the National Football League. MLB is aiming to improve pace of play and overall watchability, while the NFL is fighting an ever-losing battle to make its game safer. While there’s pushback from both leagues’ fanbases, they’re going to need to adapt to survive.
Rumors swirl MLB that include the International Tiebreaker and allowing ninth-inning lineup changes. Just like changes to the catch rule or the eventual nixing of the kickoff in the NFL, changes bring the game to the present day.
Sports have evolved since the beginning of time to survive the changing landscape of society. Even in Ancient Rome the fanaticism of gladiatorial games and chariot races were forced to change. If you think about it, gladiatorial sport has evolved into MMA, while NASCAR is essentially a modern version of chariot racing.
Baseball evolved from the dead-ball era by moving from massive parks (Polo Grounds) and small ball to hitter-friendly parks with an increased emphasis on power hitting. This all thanks to none other than the legend Babe Ruth. The game adapted to Ruth’s playing style and thrived.
Nearly 100 years later, baseball has reached another time period when changes should be made or it could go the way of boxing, golf, or worse, the extinct dodo bird. Fortunately, baseball won’t have the same fate as the dodo bird, but a fate of falling into near oblivion like boxing or a niche sport like golf could be a reality if certain changes aren’t made to the game and the fanbase.
By pushing against change, baseball fans are treating the sport like each game should be handled with the same reverence of The Masters at Augusta National. The only thing missing is fast-talking men filing into Fenway Park or Wrigley Field wearing pinstriped three-piece suits, bow ties, and straw boaters while smoking cigars. It’s time to get into the 21st century.
Baseball fans should accept radical rule changes and nuances of the game. Drop the “respect the game” and “play the game right” cliches and embrace the flair that is engulfing the game. Bat flips are a thing, and they’re amazing. Let’s stop throwing at each other and accept that showboating is just a part of sports in this day and age.
Even Roman blood sport evolved from sword and shield to four-ounce gloves and a referee. Baseball fans need to accept that change is imminent, and it’s going to affect the sport we love.
Adaptation is part of survival, and baseball fans need to start accepting changes if the sport is to get back to the level of the NFL.
Photo by Brigham Berthold