As a sports fan, it pains me to say this: I watched not one inning of the 2020 World Series. This revelation is not some preening, pin-a-medal-on-me political puffery — “Those sportsball players are annoying, America-hating commies, so I’m not watching” — but rather the embarrassed confession of a discouraged, disillusioned former fanatic who has come to realize that my erstwhile sports obsessions are really not all that important.
Apparently, I’m far from alone. The Tampa Bay Rays’ instant classic walk-off Game 4 win drew 8.95 million viewers, the second-lowest viewership in World Series history — ahead of only Game 3’s 8.2 million. For contrast, remember that only four short years ago, Game 7 between the Cubs and Indians peaked at 49.9 million viewers. Game 7 of the classic 1986 Mets-Red Sox series had an estimated viewership as high as 60 million.
The ratings numbers have attached themselves to an anvil and tossed the anvil off a cliff into a black hole. It’s a shocking decline. MLB is not alone in seeing its appeal become more selective, Spinal Tap-style. The NFL’s once-vaunted viewership juggernaut is shedding passengers at an alarming pace; the league is left celebrating a 33 percent decline year-over-year for the most recent Sunday Night game, because it represented a slight uptick compared to the rest of this season’s dismal numbers.
And the NBA? Woof. Game 3 of the 2020 NBA Finals averaged 5.9 million viewers. For comparison, Michael Jordan’s last game as a Bull, the clinching Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals, averaged almost 36 million viewers. Overall, the Lakers-Heat series dropped 51 percent from the 2019 numbers and 67 percent from 2018.
To extend the Spinal Tap metaphor, the NBA is a few BLM wokebombs away from second billing behind Puppet Show. Let’s be fair: There are mitigating circumstances. Nothing about this year is normal. MLB shoehorned a 60-game season into a pandemic-ravaged sports calendar. The NBA played its Finals at a time of year when teams are normally in training camp. The NFL has clung to something resembling a normal schedule, but the mostly empty stadiums and piped-in crowd noise have lent a surreal, off-putting atmosphere to the proceedings.
Personally, I’ve found it hard to care about sports when the very future of the Republic seems to be at stake, and every day’s headlines bring some fresh hell to torment and terrorize my fragile psyche. Sport becomes far less relevant in times like these, even as simple escapism. There’s no escaping a pervading sense of doom. But after the election, will my apathy magically dissipate, much like I expect the pandemic panic to do? Will I re-engage my former passion for pro sports? It’s entirely possible. A return to normalcy in 2021 would likely include a reboot of a casual interest in the exploits of overgrown man-children and a willingness to set aside their silly political posturing. A post-election de-weaponization of the virus will allow us all to relax, breathe and reclaim life’s simple pleasures. I hope so, anyway.
One final piece of advice: Don’t wait for woke-ism to recede from pro sports before re-engaging. Believe it or not, it is possible to set all that aside and simply enjoy the games themselves. If I let politics control my entertainment choices, I’d be left with listening to the Beatles song “Taxman” on an endless loop, and not much else. Life’s too short, and Jon Voight’s not making many movies these days.
The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.)
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