Late last night, in a post singing the praises of Steph Curry, a basketball player who acts as a sort of one man argument for the existence of sport, the author used the phrase "one of baseball's last remaining virtues". The idea of baseball being a sport past its expiration date is as common as it is old. Hardball Talk Editor/force of nature Craig Calcaterra has a running gag on the topic. In fact you can trace writing back for a literal century that forecast doom for baseball.
They are right of course, as all doomsayers of anything are. The timing may be off, the date's a bit skewed, the sacred texts slightly misinterpreted, but someday there will be no baseball. Predicting as such is the same as predicting our own death, and it doesn't take a lot of insight or keen philosophical eye to note the mortality of humans.
"Baseball's last remaining virtues...." It's a rebuke that's very casualness gives it its sting. It is a phrase that seeks to place baseball in the same dusty bin in the attic of the mind as car phones, 8 track tapes, laserdiscs, the Model T, Leave it to Beaver, and so on. Baseball does itself precious few favors dissuading the notion when it accepts the modern age like a cat does water, and it's no lie to say that there are very real concerns about the game's ability to attract younger fans.
The answer to baseball's future, like all these hand-wringing existential cultures worries, lies within whatever we as individuals collectively decide it is. Baseball is not something that needs a cause, or a foundation, or a Go Fund Me to save it. The idea of a leisure activity needing to be protected from extinction is hilarious and tragic when the pressing needs of the human race are taken in full breadth. Baseball will live on and do just fine as long as people love baseball, and then no longer. That someday the decline and fall of a professional sport may occur is no rebuke to the game, as much as it acknowledges the very truth of time.
But still there is a certain gravitas, a writer-chic that makes hating on baseball a trendy way for aspiring sportswriters to polish their devices of self-immolation before taking them to carve up the NFL; the fattest, juiciest hog for an aspiring Writer of Great Significance. So "Baseball is dying" will be a thing both overt and covert, aggressively and casually bandied about, for as long as there is sportswriting.
So let it be written, and let what may happen, happen. Baseball is a game never farther away than hitting something very far with a stick, or squinting to try and find that thing in the clear blue sky, or the satisfaction of outracing it to its resting spot, and changing in a moment its destiny from hit to out. Baseball doesn't need me to argue against its demise because its life isn't determined here, or anywhere else with words. Baseball is children in Burien, Kitsap, Beacon Hill, Queen Anne, and Spokane. It's a passion of the cultures of Cuba, The Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Korea, and Japan. As sure as it has issues of great concern, the game's globalization has allowed a diverse influx of talent unlike anything in the sport's 150 year history. If you're a person who views future security as a measurement of income, baseball's fine there too.
Baseball will die, I will not argue otherwise. But for now, tomorrow, and many tomorrows to come baseball is here. And it is coming.