Entering month six of the pandemic, people around the country seem pretty desperate for any kind of entertainment.
One would think that a time in our culture when people have been so starved of new movies, new TV shows and sports to come back would lead to major growth in struggling sectors of the entertainment industry. Baseball, however, is the exception to this rule.
America’s greatest pastime has been on the decline for years now. Viewership and interest from populations under age 50 have never been lower.
In-game attendance in 2007 was slightly fewer than 80 million people for the season. The 2019 numbers show attendance clocking in at about 68.5 million people. This staggering drop is an effect of a pattern of lesser attendance that has developed this decade.
The league would argue that the drop in attendance is a result of more viewers going online to watch games, but that argument doesn’t hold up, either.
The most famous team in baseball, the New York Yankees, who are such a large entity that they command their own broadcast network, has seen a 10% decrease in their Nielsen ratings from 2019 to 2020.
The other troubling news for baseball is its complete lack of popularity among young people. As a 19-year-old, I can attest to this myself. People my age talk about basketball and football almost exclusively. I actually have more friends who are interested and consistently discuss what is going on in the world of golf than I do friends who love baseball.
Being from Chicago, I was around when the Cubs broke their World Series losing streak and finally won in 2016.
Everyone was extremely into baseball following the Cubs for about two weeks during that stretch. Then, as soon as they won, everything went right back to normal, that is with people not caring about what happened in the world of baseball.
With all of that said, there are a few things baseball can do to help itself out. First and foremost, the games are simply too long. Baseball games can last up to three hours easily.
Seeing as we live in the cell phone era where the attention span of the average viewer is far less than ever before, asking the viewing population to sit down and watch a game for three hours is too much.
This leads me to my second point. Football games are usually about two to two and a half hours long, but the big difference is that football is played at a much faster pace.
The most action-packed moments in a baseball game usually last for no more than 10 seconds, and they typically come few and far between. In order for baseball to be more attractive to the average viewer, pace of play has to be increased.
The final thing I would argue that baseball needs to do is market toward a younger audience. Continuing to encourage players to speak out on issues of social justice, encouraging player individuality and finding other new ways to engage with young people to pique their interest about baseball are quintessential methods for creating a baseball friendly environment.
Is baseball dying? Yes, it absolutely is, but it isn’t quite dead yet.