SBD/January 30, 2014/Leagues and Governing Bodies

MLB Faces Critical Stretch With New Commish, Changing Culture; Rule Changes Needed?

Despite MLB's financial success, there is "a concern for the game's standing as both an American cultural institution and an entertainment option, particularly for a younger generation of fans bombarded with choice and marching to a louder, faster drumbeat than did their parents," according to Tom Verducci of The challenge facing the successor to MLB Commissioner Bud Selig is "obvious if not delicate: How much do you change a sport that prides itself on timelessness?" Red Sox President & CEO Larry Lucchino said, "I think we're at an obvious crossroads, especially with the change in the leadership in the commissioner's office pending. The next five to seven years will be an important time that offers both challenges and opportunities. The aging and graying of baseball's demographics is obviously a concern and has been for several years." Verducci wrote the "aging of the baseball audience is obvious," as the median viewer age for the final game of the '13 World Series was 53. MLB's lack of younger viewers "may be more about how culture changed," as many qualities associated with baseball are "less valued in today's society." The NFL "radically has changed how pro football is played," using "pencil and paper, not stone tablets, to write its rules." But MLB, because there is "a kind of tyranny in its statistics, does not enjoy a similar freedom." While Selig "has modernized the game in many ways," none of the changes have "addressed the conundrum of how the game is taking longer to produce less action while the pace of popular culture has quickened." MLB "must consider changes to the way it looks, the way it is marketed, even the way it is played." Verducci offers some "starting points for healthy discussions" about rule changes in MLB (, 1/28).
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