Wine, Baseball, and Dumbing Down Culture

ignoranceThis article by Zack Geballe in WinePair is about as dumb as it gets.

As a lover of both wine and baseball, two industries that are struggling mightily to connect to a younger generation of potential consumers, I’m struck by their shared shortcomings: Oversaturation, a lack of access, and an obsession with the past.

The issue of oversaturation for wine boils down to the existence of an ever-growing array hailing from every corner of the globe, made from hundreds of different varieties at every price point. While this abundance can be great for those who truly enjoy exploration and discovery, it’s also undoubtedly confusing for many would-be wine drinkers, driving them toward more easily understood categories like hard seltzer or spirits. For baseball, the issue is more that the 162-game schedule means that no one game can really be all that impactful on a team’s fortunes for the year.

This is absurd. If you’re confused by all the wine choices available then just stick with what you know. You don’t have to be into exploration to enjoy wine. Does anyone complain because there is too much music available today?  In fact, spirits are gaining in popularity because mixology is gaining in popularity. There are endless combinations and flavor profiles to enjoy that were not available in the past. As for the frequency of baseball games, that’s part of the attraction of baseball. Yes, there are fewer stakes with each game but you get to enjoy your favorite sport almost every day. Why is the drama of the standings more important than the daily excitement that each game brings?

Access plays a role in this as well: Wine comes with at least the perception of a higher cost of entry, as well as an expectation of mastery that the industry has struggled to move past. Additionally, many highly acclaimed wines are made in small quantities and heavily allocated, in addition to carrying hefty price tags, making them functionally unobtainable to all but the most well-connected and deep-pocketed collectors. Baseball’s rules might not technically be more complicated than those of basketball or football, but the intricacies of the sport definitely pose a similar barrier to entry.

More nonsense. The cost of entry to become interested in wine is not particularly high. Because of the aforementioned vast diversity of choices available you can find something good and interesting at every price point. The fact that some of the best wines cost a fortune is an issue but it’s not a barrier to entry and, if you know where to look, you can find wines every bit as good as the cult wines at a fraction of the cost. Does wine require some degree of knowledge to fully appreciate? Indeed it does. So does baseball, art, and music. Why should all cultural products be accessible to people who lack the motivation or interest to learn?

Lastly, both baseball and wine are tragically obsessed with their pasts. Aged wine is considered by both experts and novices to be the pinnacle of wine experiences, yet the sheer scarcity of those bottles means that most people never even get to experience decades-old bottles of Bordeaux, Burgundy, or Barolo. Baseball, too, is obsessed with ancient things: To wit, ESPN recently released its list of the top 100 MLB players of all time, which featured just seven active players, only two of which (Bryce Harper and Mike Trout) could reasonably be argued to be in their prime. As a point of comparison, the NBA announced its 75th anniversary team earlier this year, featuring 11 active players out of the 75 selected, six of whom were named among the league’s top 15 players in the 2021 season.

More to the point, only one of the top 10 players on ESPN’s list — Barry Bonds — has played in a game since 1976, years before the oldest millennial was even born. Wine geeks also love to sing the praises of vintages decades or centuries old, from which almost no wines even still exist, and those that do are as likely to be museum pieces as actually enjoyable to drink.

Please. Yes drinking aged wine is a unique experience that many wine enthusiasts extol. They aren’t available in the supermarket but you can easily find aged wines online or at a wine shop. They aren’t scarce unless you’re looking for a particular wine from a very old vintage. And I don’t know any wine geek that is obsessed with centuries old vintages. The vast majority of wine enthusiasts are up to date with what they drink and routinely enjoy recent vintages’.

More importantly, I don’t know of any genuine cultural artifact that doesn’t have traditions that are revered. It’s certainly true of music, literature, or painting regardless of genre.  It’s even true of TV given the contemporary fans of Seinfeld, Friends,  and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. This whole essay is a paean to ignorance and cultural illiteracy.

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