MIDTOWN (PIX11) - For most of the 20th Century, the Great American Pastime was indisputably baseball. However, with the Super Bowl now pulling in well over 100 million viewers yearly, compared to an audience roughly one-fifth that size for the World Series, football may be able to claim the title now, nationwide. In New York, however, it appears to be a different story.
“People here are knowledgeable about baseball,” said diehard Mets fan Bryan Kohler. PIX11 News encountered him on the sidelines of the All Star Game Parade Tuesday afternoon. The parade featured All Star Game players with their friends and family in the backs of open bed trucks driven across town on 42nd Street, which was covered in red carpet.
“This isn’t a college football town,” Kohler said, as he observed the fan fantasy unfolding before his eyes. “This is a baseball town.”
“I’m not really a baseball fan, I’m a football fan,” said Crystal Sykes, while watching the parade on her lunch break. She said that she’d made a point to come out and see the all stars with whom she was familiar, who were many, despite her love of football. “It’s something I can tell my kids,” Sykes said.
Her case, according to baseball historian Robert Mann, is representative of how some New Yorkers are. “People are insane for the Giants and Jets,” said Mann, a professor at Caldwell College, New Jersey, “but they are really are nuts for the Yankees and Mets.” He pointed out also that baseball season is 162 games, as opposed to the 16 in football. “So it really is a long-term investment of passion,” said Prof. Mann.
He noted that four different baseball teams have called New York City home: the Giants and Dodgers, as well as the Yankees and Mets, and that all of them, even the teams that have departed, have legions of fans. Some of them were at Tuesday’s All Star Parade, enjoying seeing up close players they had seen on the field for years.
“It brings back great memories,” said Mark Serafino, who spoke with PIX11 News after having just seen members of the 1986 World Series champion Mets in the parade. He beamed as he gushed, “[I was] seeing Doc [Gooden] while I’m wearing his jersey!”
Serafino clearly showed a love shared by many in the large, but not overly crowded group of spectators that lined the parade route along 42nd Street from Sixth Avenue to just past Third Avenue — more than a third of the width of Manhattan.
Fans also show their appreciation with their spending. New York’s two baseball teams generate about $800 million in revenue per year. That’s more than 10 percent of revenue from all 30 major league baseball teams combined.
Statistics are one thing, heart is another. The roles of local players in All Star activities evoked emotions local fans. Connecticut native and New York Met Matt Harvey was the National League starting pitcher, and Met David Wright was the National League captain of the popular home run derby, while Yankee Robinson Cano captained the American League home run derby team.
A full summation of the Tri State’s affection for the sport of baseball was best said by a beloved, legendary New York Yankee, who was in Tuesday’s parade before preparing to try and close out the game at Citi Field for the American League team. The game is likely Mariano River’s last. He has been selected 13 times for the All Star game.
“The passion that New York has for baseball is amazing,” Rivera told PIX11 News. “It’s amazing.”