It's a reasonable question, especially here in Texas where I live. To say "football is king" is a gargantuan understatement. We're in the middle of one of the most interesting pennant races in memory, with five of the six division leads all 3-1/2 games or fewer. The exception, ahem, of course, being my beloved Angels. And we've even got a great local story, what with Josh Hamilton doing a life-imitates-art a la the Natural. Yet what's on the front page of the San Antonio Express-News? Big photo and story about how Terrell Owens likes his coach.
Geeze Loo Wheeze.
But when you get outside of Texas, the world loves baseball, and its cousin, softball. People who measure such things say that Baseball is the world's seventh most popular sport, behind soccer, cricket, field hockey, tennis, volleyball, and table tennis. (Sorry, fellow Texans; even with the efforts of the WLAF and the WFL, the world still loves baseball more than football.)
As for softball, 40 million Americans will play in at least one game this year. 40 million! That's better than one out of every eight men, women, children, babies and Rascal-bound geezers. Internationally, softball is just as popular. There are about 200 countries in this world, and 113 of them belong to the International Softball Association.
So, yeah, a lot of people in the world care about baseball. So I ask you: Why on earth has the International Olympic Committee dropped baseball from Olympic competition for the 2012 London Games? Were there just too many people clamoring for team handball? (Raise your hand if you even know what team handball is. OK, good, the twelve of you can put your hands down.)
There are 28 "sports" in this year's Beijing Games. Many are grouped together under a single banner such as "aquatics" or "athletics." Six of the seven most popular sports in the world are represented. (Interestingly, the other bat-and-ball game -- cricket -- is not an Olympic sport.) Most of the sports in the Olympics are not widely or popularly played or practiced. (This is a prima facie argument; they're not in the top ten sports, so they're not the most popular. No disrespect intended -- I love to watch the platform divers, but you couldn't pay me to jump off the high platform.)
One has to wonder why baseball (and softball) are being dropped. Is it because only 17 countries have participated? Only ten countries have ever earned a medal in the biathlon, and that's counting Russia three times and Germany twice from when they had different names. Should the biathlon be dropped? Howzabout our good friend team handball? Only 15 nations have ever won a medal in a sport that's been played in the Olympics for over 70 years. And only 12 teams compete for medals every four years.
There are some awfully goofy sports in the Olympics. It's hard to imagine the world wants to see them more than baseball.
Oh, and the dropping of baseball isn't a "let's get the Americans" response, either; Cuba has won the gold three of the last four Olympics.
If you love baseball like I love baseball, why not let the International Olympic Committee know you care. Just be polite when you do so. You can contact them through their web site:
Or get fancy and put something on paper. Remember, they're very old school. Here's the snail-mail and the phone:
International Olympic Committee
Château de Vidy
Tel : (41.21) 621 61 11
Fax : (41.21) 621 62 16