Has America’s Pastime Changed?

Cade Counsell, Cub News Writer

October is a time when the sports world flourishes, a so-called “Sports Equinox”. Baseball is heading to the playoffs, the NHL season starts, and NBA basketball is just beginning. Fans have a lot to watch and a lot to look forward to as they approach the best time of the year.

With everything going on in the sports world, I begin to wonder, what truly is America’s pastime? For the longest time, the widely-known belief was that baseball is America’s sport. Since its creation in 1869, MLB baseball has taken the sports world by storm. There had never been anything like it before. Its popularity especially took off during the eras of legendary players like Babe Ruth (1914-1935), Hank Aaron (1954-1976), and Barry Bonds (1986-2007). Players like these brought in millions of fans each year to watch. Fans equal popularity, and therefore baseball has forever since been regarded as America’s pastime.

But starting in the 1990s, a new game started to take hold of the sports world. NBA basketball started out in a way similar to the MLB. This new, fast-paced game fascinated a multitude of fans, but its popularity never reached the level of baseball. Baseball was believed to forever reign as America’s pastime, that is, until the Jordan era. Michael Jordan, arguably the greatest basketball player of all time, increased the NBA’s popularity in the 1990s. The sports world was dazzled by Jordan’s flashiness and unique athleticism on the court. More and more fans began to shift to basketball, leaving the MLB with a rival sport for popularity.

Ever since, the MLB and NBA have competed for the title of America’s pastime. But in recent years, the NBA has been more popular than ever, causing some fans to believe that America’s pastime is changing. Supporters of this claim argue that NBA basketball is quick, not slow-moving like baseball. The game is more exciting due to its fast-paced nature. Many have also argued that the NBA’s branding is much better than the MLB’s. Many NBA players, regardless of their rank, are able to create their own brand. They have their own clothing-lines and shoe designs, which leads to more profit and, thus, more fans. Only the stars of the MLB have their own brand, and even then, some don’t. The NBA has also taken hold of the social-media world, America’s youth. Mark Rogers from USA Today stated that “the NBA was the most discussed sports league in 2018, LeBron James was the most talked about athlete.” He also declared that “the NBA has them (America’s youth), in greater number, than any other sport.”

Recently, Aaron Judge’s breaking of the single-season homerun record has increased the MLB’s popularity, but not enough to surpass the NBA’s hold on the sports world. Both sports offer fans the opportunity to watch professional athletes at work. Both will continue to be considered a top-four sport in America, but who ranks higher? Which sport is America’s true pastime? Sports fanatics will continue this never-ending debate.