Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Taiwan's national sport, baseball, being replaced

While we're looking at trends here, I am also predicting another one about Taiwanese sports. And I know I'm going to get bawled out for this one.

Baseball is on the decline. Face it everyone!

That's right. Taiwan's pride and joy is going the way of the dodo. And not even Wang Chien Ming, Taiwan's savior, can stem this tide.

Baseball has been popular in Taiwan, South Korea and Japan since the post-war years primarily due to the American (military) presence in these countries. However, another sport has been rising at a breathtaking pace in recent years.


And why do I believe this is happening? Well there are some clearly visible signs and some general things that can be said about affinity to sports in different countries.

Take a look around you. Kids in Taiwan are playing basketball in droves! When was the last time you saw a scrub baseball game?

And why do they prefer basketball? Well, there are many reasons:
a) it's easier to start a game, requires less players and less equipment and set-up and even space (which is at a premium in Taiwan!)
b) it can be played indoors (an asset considering the weather here)
c) it's faster paced and higher scoring (remember the up-and-coming generation has been raised on PS2 and PS3)
d) guys are getting taller due to dietary changes so basketball doesn't seem like such a far-fetched choice of sports anymore

There is a larger international trend to look at though. Soccer and more recently basketball are more popular than other sports primarily because they allow the most people to play and to play easily. It's no surprise that the poorer countries excel in soccer as, if you have some motivated kids and some basic equipment and set-up, you can have a game. It doesn't really have to be all that organized even. The same things can be said of basketball. (Even soccer, which is not popular to play or watch in Taiwan except than at World Cup time, is popular in China where scrub games are a common sight. However, I believe that even soccer cannot withstand the rise of basketball in China as the middle-class and crowded city-dwellers seek a sport that appeals to them.)

Once again simplicity, cost, space and pace all mean that aspiring Taiwanese are choosing basketball more often over baseball by far. Oral testing of students almost always plays this one out: 99% of students claim to play basketball in their free time while a show of hands in class only once in a while reveals a single student who played or had played baseball regularly. So I wonder if many young kids are really playing baseball these days, how long and where?

All these factors bode ill for baseball in Taiwan. Basketball is the clear future winner... for now...
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