Take me out to the ball game – the glorious American pastime of baseball is set to hit the UK with the brilliantly-named ‘International Series’ headed to British shores next year. The NFL has made somewhat of a seamless transition to the imaginations of the public, but will baseball have the same success?
The simple answer here is no. While the majority of the British public never truly thought a franchise in the UK was an actual possibility (good morning, Shad Khan sir – how are you?), they were always dangling that carrot that one day it would be a possibility.
Ironically, the team itself will likely struggle to pick up support because so many people are invested in their own American franchise. They would have to tag onto a new generation, and that takes time. People don’t just drop teams in England, Mr. Khan.
Baseball’s season is 162 games long and, bar an extended homestand, it would be next to impossible, logistically, to locate an MLB team in London. But that’s only the tip of the iceberg. The very appeal of baseball support to the majority is somewhat of a cultural phenomenon rather than a nation of analytical nerds sat in front a scorecard waiting on a cycle.
Going to baseball games is part-and-parcel of everyday life in America. If you have 81 home games, most people might go to ten and depending on the success rate, come back for a few more.
It takes time for anything to integrate into the psyche of a populous, let alone an event that asks you to open your wallet.
British people are used to the European model – games mean a lot, because they’re fewer in number and they’re big days out where you can be vociferous.
You won’t have the quality of snacks, you won’t have the weird nationalist nonsense of the seventh-inning-stretch where they play ‘God Bless America’ and you certainly won’t have people eager, on the edge of their seats, waiting to see a closer’s impossible-to-hit 90mph splitter.
Globalisation is a terrific thing, but if you don’t watch baseball and you’re reading this – can you name a single baseball player currently playing today? You probably know who Tom Brady is, and Rob Gronkowski. There just isn’t the same appeal.
If these games are one-off attempts to capture a wider television audience, then fair play – you might pick up a couple of thousand extra. It still won’t entice them into the market effectively and a PR exercise that makes little sense will be seen as just that.
Baseball is truly America’s favourite pastime for a reason. The struggle for British people to embrace it as that, given how they see sport in general, will be a task too great for even the best brand ambassadors to combat.
If I see an unassisted triple play at the London Stadium, I’ll probably remember it for the rest of my life. The majority won’t understand what’s going on because it’s essentially quite boring if you’re not immersed. There’s no jaw-dropping moments, there’s no breath-taking plays – there’s just analytics and a whole lot of tradition, baby.