It was a deliberate and inexorable process that began almost fifteen years ago with the first wisp of hair that shot forth from the youthful face of Johnny Damon, and it endured over the years, gradually building momentum until we were finally hit by the ironic and vapid tidal wave of nihilistic philosophy; style over substance.
It was barely perceptible, but over the course of the 2000s we saw the rise of “throwback” sportswear and “vintage” jerseys making their way through the turnstiles of MLB ballparks from coast to coast. The clean and solid blue and white uniforms of the San Diego Padres on the field stood in stark contrast to the brown and mustard-yellow Dave Winfield and Tony Gwynn jerseys that peppered the stands. In Houston fans eschewed the current variety of team gear in favor of mid-’80s era garb; in Seattle bearded fans sipping from Starbucks cups wore the bright blue and yellow trident Mariners hats of a bygone era. Perhaps, the movement reached the pinnacle of its power just a few years ago when both the Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles chose to revert their official logos (and, thus, their uniforms, hats, merchandise, etc…) back to vintage logos that had been retired for more contemporary and modern looks years ago. Today, the hipsters can claim victory in the battle of MLB duds.
These bespectacled, bearded, and pseudo-intellectual masses have descended upon stadiums across the country for myriad reasons, and, due to public relations issues and the violence of the NFL game, these fans have flocked to baseball as their sport of choice. For one, soccer still hasn’t graduated from playing fields filled with 12 year olds and helicopter parents, thus their options for professional soccer are limited. Secondly, the brutality of the NFL is too much for them, so they congregate at MLB games—possibly because baseball is a more relaxed, docile game that they can embrace with their noble sensibilities and laughable superiority complex. It seems that it is only a matter of time until people are walking around MLB games with multi-syllabic coffees and writing screenplays on their laptops behind home plate. Indifference and outward appearances are the trademark of the modern hipster, so it is only appropriate that those who wouldn’t know Frank Catalanotto from Frank Drebin would come to the games and treat them as social events.
It is not only the denizens of the seats at MLB games that have embraced and propagate the hipster ethos; the front offices have been infiltrated as well. Just as Brooklyn is filled with modern day bohemians with expensive tastes—waiters by day, writers by night—the decision makers of professional baseball have become some sort of yuppie-hipster hybrid of smart looking gentlemen that make really bad baseball decisions. Numbers are crunched in the payroll and stats are invented to cover for the lack of experience that these men (and some women) have. What in the hell is UZR, REW, and Adjusted ERA+? I just want to watch Dee Gordon read a pitcher and try to steal second base. I don’t need an algorithm to tell me whether he should go or not, on a rainy Thursday in mid-April. The days of the skipper spitting and scratching himself obnoxiously in public while tugging on his ear for some sort of sign are missed; now I see coaches in the dugout analyzing flowcharts and spread sheets. The hipsters, once again, have scored a victory with their mind-numbingly inane methods of complicating something so simple. Why download a song when you can spend your Saturday searching the entire county for a vinyl record?
And then we see that the last bastion of baseball normalcy, the safe haven of sanity, the playing field, has been conquered by the vacuous attitudes of hipster culture; the players themselves have become accomplices to the hostile Hipster takeover. Wild beards, waxed mustaches, Brian Wilson, twitter trends, and Eric Sogard. Sogard is a less than marginal player, but over the course of last season he was celebrated by MLB fans, why? Because he’s got those hipster approved, ironically throwback, wannabe nerd glasses and the style has overridden the truly sub-par caliber of his play (substance). Are these players being individuals? No, because so many of them are different in superficial and minute ways, but the culture they adhere to is the same.
The present day condition of MLB culture is so devoid of meaning or passion (aside from the narcissism inherent in the decision making, the presentation of the players and even the fans in the seats) that it’s enough to make me throw out my #19 Bubba Crosby Yankees shirt. Alas, I won’t because he was a no frills, old school type of player that played the game like it was meant to be played.