There was a time in my youth when I could tell you the name of every major league baseball manager.
Fast forward to today. I have to think long and hard to tell you the name of every major league TEAM, much less what division they play in, or in the case of at least two league-hopping teams, even what league they play in.
And though many may still regard baseball as our national pastime, pro football and basketball now rank as high on the interest scale. Some actually put football ahead of baseball these days. And there are devotees of hockey as well, and the WNBA, and even pro soccer. The sports pages these days are drastically different than they were when I was on The Anderson Herald sports staff back in the day.
A week or so ago I tuned in to a Cincinnati Reds baseball game. They were playing the Arizona Diamondbacks. The who? I had forgotten that Arizona actually has a major league baseball team now. And Colorado. And when I was a kid the Atlanta Braves were playing in Boston (that was before they moved to Milwaukee). The Braves’ move in 1953 not only was the first baseball move in half a century, but it opened the floodgates.
On a busy baseball day in the summer, a TV sports announcer would have up to eight scores to report. Now there are twice as many. And with some of the games on the West Coast at night, very little attempt is made to report game-by-game results of how the Los Angeles Angels at Anaheim did against the Oakland Athletics, or whatever. There are more important details to dwell on. Such as what Andrew Luck ate for breakfast. Or how much money the No. 1 draft pick signed for. Or who’s the latest player to earn a virtual lifetime suspension for taking performance-enhancing drugs and lying about it.
The highest-paid athletes when I was a kid barely made six figures. Now they earn that much in signing bonuses, and the league minimums are enough for most folks to retire on. If an NFL starting quarterback is earning less than eight figures he’s considered underpaid.
Much of the difference, of course, is inflation. And agents. The story goes of New York Yankee slugger Babe Ruth’s contract negotiations during the Great Depression. “You’re already making more money than the president of the United States,” the Yankee negotiator insisted. “What @#$% difference does that make?” barked the Bambino. “I had a better year than he did.”
With so much to keep track of, how does a sports fan manage to immerse himself in the expanding athletic scene when even 24-hour sports channels struggle to keep up?
Thank goodness for computers. You can find just about anything relating to sports at your fingertips, replacing the plethora of sports publications that have gone by the wayside.
Jim Bailey’s column appears on Thursday. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.