The World Series does not consume the US as it once did. But baseball still offers a window on the best and the worst of America
Baseball has long seen itself as Americas game, a game as great-hearted, humble and fundamentally decent as America itself. And for the better part of the 20th-century, at least in terms of the games popularity, baseball was indeed Americas game, and its biggest stars were famous in a way that athletes simply arent famous anymore. Fans in the 1920s traveled hundreds of miles just to see Babe Ruth, and the New York Daily News hired a journalist to write about Ruth, and only Ruth, 365 days a year. The most famous players of later eras like Ruth, they tended to be Yankees became not just athletic icons but national figures of myth. That they tended to be human in all the familiar unflattering ways Joe DiMaggio was an icy, exploitive jerk; Mickey Mantle a self-destructive alcoholic for much of his life was never allowed to jeopardize the legend. In an era before television ratings, the World Series was not just the nations most popular sporting event, but something like a national holiday.
This hasnt been the case for some time, and this years World Series which starts on Tuesday and features one of the countrys most famous teams, the Los Angeles Dodgers, against the Houston Astros is unlikely to change matters. The NFL, in all its Trump-ian shamelessness, has been the most popular league in the United States for more than a decade. The NBA, which has the youngest and most diverse fanbase of the major US sports leagues it has the highest TV viewership among African Americans and the second-highest among Hispanics seems to have a more credible claim on the future.