Detroit Free Press

	July 5, 2005 Tuesday 1 EDITION

	COMMENT: Give baseball back to the kids;
	Day games make for better viewing and playing than violent movies, video games


	LENGTH: 794 words

	What's the biggest difference between the upcoming All-Star Game
	at Comerica Park and the midsummer classic held at Briggs Stadium
	more than a half-century ago when Ty Cobb threw out the ceremonial
	first pitch?
	No, it's not the size of the ballplayers or the size of their
	paychecks. Nor is it the contrasting venues for the games. The
	1951 match between the best of the two leagues, like most contests
	back then, was played in the warm afternoon sunshine.
	Major league baseball has long been known as "America's Pastime,"
	a healthy diversion for kids of all ages. But in the interest of
	TV ratings and beer sales, it has become "America's Primetime"
	with most games now played at night. 
	So the All-Star Game is a pastime all right -- it goes on well
	past the time when many young fans can stay up to watch. And
	children allowed to catch all of this year's July showcase may not
	be so lucky on school nights in October when the World Series is
	telecast well after dark. Last year, some of the championship
	games didn't end until after 1 a.m. 
	In a different era, many young fans would venture out to old
	Briggs Stadium to sit in the bleachers and get autographs from the
	star players. Other kids would spend their afternoons rooting for
	the home team on radio or television.  Inspired by the skillful
	performances of Hank Greenberg or Vic Wertz, they would then head
	out to the sandlot to imitate their heroes on the field. 
	Of course, baseball is not the only sport to have forsaken
	youngsters. Many young Piston fans -- modern-day versions of
	Cinderella -- could not stay up to watch the NBA playoffs,
	particularly those games that fell on school nights. 
	As baseball and other diversions have become less accessible to
	them, today's children have filled the entertainment vacuum with
	violence -- grisly and graphic movies and video games are always
	available on demand. In the meantime, children's advocates are
	criticizing the role of the media in contributing to perplexing
	episodes of youth crime. 
	Under pressure from Congress, network executives agreed to provide
	viewer warnings for TV programs with dangerously violent content,
	and now the cable channels are following along. Also at the
	direction of Congress, TV manufacturers are installing V-chips in
	all new sets to allow parents to have remote control (all the way
	from the office) over their children's viewing choices.
	Unfortunately, the idea of content ratings and hi-tech filtering
	devices misses the point entirely. 
	Even if parents heed the warnings and supervise their children's
	viewing selections, what healthy and entertaining alternatives do
	they have? Going to see the WWE? Or maybe listening to some
	gangsta rap? How about playing Grand Theft Auto or Doom on the
	Xbox? And there's always porn and hate on the Internet.
	In order to get children to tune out violence, we must give them
	something better -- and just as appealing -- to tune in. 
	TV might consider taking its cue from the movies. It is true that
	youngsters will flock to violent films like the Lethal Weapon
	series; it is also true that they will often shun "kids' movies"
	that are not rated at least PG-13. But the popularity of films
	like "The Rookie" (rated G) indicates that children are drawn to
	sports, no matter what their rating. 
	So, it's not that kids have abandoned baseball. It's that baseball
	has abandoned the kids. 
	We are not naive enough to suggest that we can bring back all the
	day games of yesteryear along with the free autographs and
	half-price tickets for children. But we certainly can have a major
	league "Game of the Day" televised nationally, every day of the
	week during the summer months. 
	Teams do play day games when it suits their travel schedules. What
	about the schedules of star-struck 9-year-olds? 
	Of course, the issue is much larger than just putting baseball
	back on the tube. For the sake of short-term economic savings, we
	have closed down the neighborhood movie houses, community
	recreation centers, and local swimming pools. To control taxes, we
	have neglected the zoos, playgrounds, ball fields and lakes.  
	So violence in the media may be a problem, but it is hardly the
	problem. When it comes to reducing teenage violence and substance
	abuse, boredom and idleness are at the core. As adults, we can't
	just change the channel; we really have to change our priorities.

	Promoting a return to daytime baseball would be a major league
	step in the right direction. 
	JAMES ALAN FOX is the Lipman Professor of Criminal Justice and
	JACK LEVIN is the Brudnick Professor of Sociology and Criminology,
	both at Northeastern University in Boston, alma mater of the
	Tiger's Carlos Pena. Write to them in care of the Free Press
	Editorial Page, 600 W. Fort St., Detroit, MI 48226.

	LOAD-DATE: July 5, 2005


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