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Where did all the players go? /Paul Peterson

May 25, 2012
By Paul Peterson - For the Gazette , The Daily Mining Gazette

It's a question that is being asked all over the Copper Country.

Where did all the people who used to play sports go?

It's a fair question because participation is down in just about every area - and every sport.

I believe the drop in athletic numbers starts with the sharp decrease in youngsters playing sports.

Nowadays, kids can usually be found with iPods and cellphones rather than baseballs, footballs and basketballs.

When was the last time you saw a bunch of kids playing ball in an empty lot or field? Soccer has filled in nicely in some respect, but the last time I checked there were no leagues for players 18 and over.

And those who aren't tuned in to the latest in technology fads are probably on a skateboard.

That's not a knock against skateboards, which at least offer strenuous activity.

Just this past spring, you could find various local baseball and softball leagues that were scrambling for numbers.

The Twilight League, which has had a proud tradition for more than 60 years, was hardpressed to come up with four teams this season and appears to be in turmoil.

This was once a league that used to have a North and South Division comprised of at least six teams in each division.

On the subject of baseball, the Hancock American Legion squad this year, has by all accounts, one of its strongest ever squads.

But putting together the team has required getting players from all around the area.

It wasn't that long ago that Hancock had TWO Legion teams, and played in a league that also featured squads from Calumet, Houghton, Rockland, Ontonagon, L'Anse and Baraga.

Fast-pitch softball is a sport that completely vanished around here some 25 years ago. Perhaps, it was a national trend but the fact is that the sport can only be found in a few scattered pockets today.

There were once as many as 20 fast-pitch teams located in Houghton and Baraga County alone.

And slow-pitch softball, considered by many to have doomed fast-pitch, has also suffered.

The CC Slow-Pitch League has a dozen teams this season. But you must consider that the league once had three divisions with nine teams in each division.

Even the Over 50 Softball League - the last bastion of the so-called Boomer Generation - had to adjust to dwindling numbers this season by allowing some teams to pick up players as young as 47 years old.

I can tell you by hard experience that players 60 years and over are not going to be able to compete game after game against foes that are that much younger.

Is there an answer to the problem? Probably not, but unless something is done, we'll all be be playing computer games in the near future.



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