Baseball’s Popularity in Decline
by Sophie Cloherty on Friday, October 11th, 2013
As the fall begins to settle in, October brings us a new season of hockey, the return of Sunday football, and of course, the start of the baseball postseason. Although it is a significant part of our nation’s identity, Major League Baseball continues to fall in viewer ratings and youth participation, with many people opting instead to tune into the Patriots or to play lacrosse in the spring and summer. Meanwhile, the Red Sox are playing postseason baseball after a league-leading season. So why does it seem that the beloved national sport of our grandparents’ generation is “dying out”? The causes stem largely from the youth of today and the inner workings of Major League Baseball.
The popularity of American football spurs from the exciting nature of the spors and the idea that one game is just as important for any given team as 10 games of baseball. The NFL plays 16 games in the regular season, but the MLB plays 162 over the course of the season. In comparison, baseball teams play mini-series, rivaling the same team up to four times, causing the outcomes to become extremely repetitive. Spectators choose only one game to watch or attend, figuring that they can then predict the rest.
Games themselves stretch through nine lengthy innings, an experience that is often unfriendly to families with younger children. Managers casually walk back and forth to the pitcher’s mound, interrupting and prolonging innings. Batters take their time, setting up for the perfect swing. Most players completely ignore the unenforceable guideline that the batter may not walk away from the batter’s box until he has hit or struck out. MLB.com states that, in the 1970s, a standard nine-inning game lasted for about two hours and thirty minutes. At the beginning of the new century, the predicted time came to two hours and forty-five minutes. Today, on average, every game takes more than two hours and fifty minutes. These small changes to the game may very well be driving away thousands of fans.
Furthermore, the cost of the whole ordeal of baseball has steadily increased over the years. Experts suggest that the cost to take a family of four to a game has increased on average by 2.4 percent in just the last year. That means roughly $53.38 per person for a Sox ticket, not to mention an average cost of $17 for parking. When factoring in rain delays and other possible setbacks, the whole experience is draining. So even to the most avid baseball fan that wants to introduce his children to the game, is splurging $300-400 really worth it?
All these factors have caused the popularity of the sport to drastically decrease, to the point where stadiums are rarely sold out, and tickets are most often available outside the stadium on the day of the game. Many Sox fans even opt to travel south to Camden Yards, the Orioles ballpark, in light of the far cheaper ticket prices.
Looking around at games now, most teens in attendance aren’t even watching the play on the field; their noses are typically stuck in the virtual worlds of their phones. The attention span of our generation is significantly less than those of our parents and older. The social universe has completely changed, and many of baseball’s rules haven’t been able to keep pace.
Although excitement can be found in most everyday baseball games for those who look for it, particularly in the Red Sox’s latest season of constant walk offs and triples, the two-hundred-year-old sport wears the general stigma of being slow and and often uneventful. Many games start in the late evening, and the most exciting parts often come in the last innings, when younger kids not attending are asleep. The MLB should consider introducing a pitch clock to regulate time spent at the plate and speed up games in order to allow its younger fan base to experience games in their entirety.
It seems the MLB has failed in doing a good job publicizing the sport to the younger generations. Big stars such as Boston’s David Ortiz or Yankee all-star Derek Jeter will always be talked about, but the MLB does a poor job of promoting their up-and-coming stars. The only young stars being hyped right now are the Angels’ 22-year old center fielder Mike Trout and the Nationals’ 20 year old power hitter Bryce Harper.
The Boston Red Sox have had one of their best seasons since 2007, and the new team has been compared to the memorable 2004 group. Yet many of the players are younger and not as well known. Kids still wear the older jerseys their parents got them, rarely investing in a new name.
Although the MLB can blame youth for their lack of a sufficient attention span, there are many ways in which Major League Baseball, as an organization, has been unsuccessful in maintaining their fan base. The sport is no longer America’s “perfect game.” If baseball ever wishes to regain that title, it will have to step up to the plate and make some serious reforms.
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