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Thread: The Demise of Professional Baseball and the Rise of Other Sports

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    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    The Demise of Professional Baseball and the Rise of Other Sports

    Not too often I start a sports thread, but there has been a question bothering me for the past week and I'm not really satisfied with the answers I've heard.

    I stopped by my father's place the other day and he and his 70-something neighbor were out on the back patio reminiscing about how great baseball was back in the day. 'The day' in this context I guess was anytime prior to the mid-1960's. Kids idolized baseball players and all dreamed they'd make it to the big leagues one day; whole families would gather around the radio and listen to big games; entire offices/factory floors would experience significant slow downs during the Series as everyone had half their mind on baseball. Relatively few people followed professional football and even fewer had heard of basketball. Part of me would like to say that's a bunch of Norman Rockwell, but I guess the sport wouldn't have acquired the moniker 'America's pastime' were there not more than a mere nugget of truth to these claims.

    What then caused (or is causing) the demise of professional baseball? Baseball was the General Motors of the American sports scene 45 years ago but has become, well, the General Motors of the sports scene! () Okay so television viewership of baseball has been ceded to the likes of football and basketball....why? Both of those sports have existed in professional form for almost a century - did baseball suddenly get boring? Is there something about either the game itself or the American public that changed? And if Americans have simply broadened their tastes for other sports how come we still see soccer getting the 'metric treatment'?

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    Cyburbian imaplanner's avatar
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    I think principally it is the slowness of the game. You can watch for hours before anyone ever scores. In our parents time people were much more content to have life follow a slower pace and baseball fit very nicely with that pace. Over time- Americans have developed a much faster paced, instant gratification mindset that does not jive with a slower game like baseball.

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    Cyburbian Planderella's avatar
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    Could it be the rampant 'roid use?
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    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Planderella View post
    Could it be the rampant 'roid use?
    No doubt there's been rampant 'roid use going on in baseball for decades.....but that's certainly been the case in football too during this time period.

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    Cyburbian TexanOkie's avatar
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    Speaking in terms of professional sports, only, not amateur or collegiate, baseball still gets pretty high remarks in terms of live experiences. I think it's just that the TV crowd needs instant gratification. If TV didn't have entertaining commercials to fill its gaps, football probably wouldn't be nearly as popular either, while basketball and hockey would probably thrive.

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    Cyburbian hilldweller's avatar
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    Overall baseball is just too damn boring compared to football and basketball IMO. Too much b.s. like unneccessary mound visits, stepping out of the box, arguing of calls, etc. The umps do a poor job over moving the game along. Yeah home runs are popular, but every game is pretty much a 3-hour slugfest nowadays (even in the NL) due to ever-shrinking ballparks (i.e. the new joke that is Yankee Stadium) and steroids. Good pitching performances, one of the great things about the sport, are rarer and rarer.

    I also think that the regular season is way too long, and playing wild card playoff games during the day is asinine. Recently World Series games have had starting times as late as 9:00 eastern to get the west coast viewing audience, but this means a lot of kids can't stay up to watch the games. Also, the lack of a salary cap has meant that MLB teams can just buy championships year after year. Conversely in the NFL the salary cap has made for a competitive league top to bottom, and there is a genuine feeling at the begining of the season that every team has a chance. This can't be said about the MLB because everyone knows the same teams are going to suck every year.

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    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    My thoughts:
    • Baseball is brutally painful to watch on TV, and there are no decent play-by-play people for the radio broadcasts. Part of why it was much more popular prior to TV was having to imagine the game, the atmosphere, etc.
    • Game Length. 60 years ago games took less than two hours. Now they have ballooned to nearly three hours.
    • The 94 Strike. This is what finished me as a baseball fan.
    • Player Salaries. I really think it has begun bothering people how much these guys make.
    • The Steroid Scandal. Pretty much eliminated a whole generation of baseball role models over the span of a couple of years. Little Leaguers were no longer encouraged to look up to MLB players because they were cheats and set a bad example. Older fans watched what they thought were great players get exposed as cheaters. Most probably knew it was going on, but to have it revealed and in the open is something else entirely.

    I'll occasionally go watch a college baseball game, but that is it.

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

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    Cyburbian ofos's avatar
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    Pick as many as you like, they all contributed in some measure:

    League Over-expansion
    Free Agency
    Television
    Speed of the game
    Length of the season
    Playoff Expansion
    Rise of Football and Basketball (Hockey in some areas)
    Cable/Satellite TV
    Commercials
    Boring Announcers
    Too many sports alternatives
    Too little time
    Overly organized youth baseball
    Lawyers
    Title IX
    Computers
    “Death comes when memories of the past exceed the vision for the future.”

  9. #9
    Cyburbian CJC's avatar
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    I actually think that the suburbanization of America has partial blame for this too. I'd put the beginning of the decline in the mid-50's when the Dodgers and Giants bolted for California.

    When I talk to old timers talking about baseball in the 40's, for example, they're typically guys that lived in an urban city and often walked or took the streetcar to games after work. There were so many games, and the games were so cheap, that you could go once a week or at least a couple times a month without any real need to plan a "destination" event. Because you were seeing it live so much, you felt a stronger connection to the team, and thus listened to every other game on the radio.

    Now, the average baseball fan (or potential baseball fan) lives in the suburbs - and going to a game is much more of a big deal. For example, in SF we have an urban stadium, but most of the fan base still must find a way to either A)take a long and expensive transit trip, B)take a long drive and park in an expensive and/or inconvenient place, or C)combo of the two. Ticket prices have gone up and stadium sizes have gone down, so the idea of going to a lot of games has become more rare. Baseball just isn't as good of a TV sport as football or basketball, so when you take away a large portion of the live games that fans can see (conveniently), more fans lose interest. Now it's much closer to the same level of annoyance, planning, and expense for most people to see a baseball game as it to see a football or basketball game live.


    EDIT - Also - (separate idea) while I like the farm system in baseball, I think that in this day and age relying on non-televised minor league teams for your up and coming stars rather than televised collegiate sports is a negative to the popularity of the sport. How many people can name a rising star in college baseball or minor league baseball compared to how many people can name a top college quarterback or point guard? How many people at least watch a few bowl games and March Madness? If you're in a large media market, the development of younger players in baseball is completely hidden compared to football or basketball. IMO, baseball drew the short straw in having a well-developed minor league system before the advent of big money college sports.
    Last edited by CJC; 31 Aug 2009 at 2:20 PM.
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    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Suburb Repairman View post
    Baseball is brutally painful to watch on TV, and there are no decent play-by-play people for the radio broadcasts. Part of why it was much more popular prior to TV was having to imagine the game, the atmosphere, etc.
    Off-topic:
    Speaking of imagination.....Some radio trivia I heard during this same reminiscence session: Back in the Day radio announcers relied on 'sports tickers' which were essentially the same thing as a stock ticker. Someone would watch the game and enter balls/strikes/runs as they happened and meanwhile Joe Schmoe sports announcer in, say, Topeka reads on his end "*****Rogers scores single*****" Which would then become something like: "The pitcher checks the bases, winds up....(hits two sticks together)...and it's a line drive! shortstop picks it up and it's gonna be a close one...Rogers is safe at first!"

  11. #11
    Cyburbian otterpop's avatar
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    I am not a sports fan. I could not imagine watching sports on TV.

    My son likes baseball. So, I go to the ball game. Last Saturday we went to the Helena Brewers game, our minor league team. We sit in the beachers. I see the same dads sitting with their sons and daughters. My ticket was $6 and my son got in free because he is part of their Kid's Club.

    There are a few promotional things they do every game - throw huge fuzzy dice for prizes, have a stick horse race, play let's make a deal, but my favorite is when the little kids run a race for prizes. At the game on Saturday, the kid that won the race kept on running and running and running - about halfway around the field. The crowd was cheering him on as he went. The baseball players were high-fiving him as he went by. It was hilarious!

    While I wouldn't watch the baseball game on TV or listen to it on the radio, I do enjoy spending an evening with my boy, watching a leisurely game and enjoying the sunset and the evening's cool.

    The game was awful. The Brewers got smoked by the Great Falls Voyagers. But my son had fun. He got some autographs and one of the Brewers gave him a bat.

    Maybe sports has gotten too big and expensive. Maybe people need to take it down to the local level and frequent the minor league games.

    There is a low hassle factor for me to go to the game. I leave about twenty-five minutes before the game starts, and park nearby, The only problem is the concessions are so expensive, but that is how it goes.
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  12. #12
    Ahem friends: Let me introduce you Terrance Mann. Terry, what say you?

    Quote Originally posted by Terrance Mann
    Ray, people will come Ray. ... The memories will be so thick they'll have to brush them away from their faces. People will come Ray. The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it's a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again. Oh... people will come Ray. People will most definitely come.
    The one constant has been baseball. Not futbol nor football, not basketball, not golf, not ice hockey or The X Games. Baseball.

    Boring? Good heavens, have we been completely corrupted by action video? There is so much going on with every pitch, people! How exciting is a huddle in football? Yawn.

    Not telegenic? Compared to say hockey, where the puck is hidden half the time? Puhlease.

    The only things fundamentally wrong with the baseball? The DH and Interleague play.

    Now, you blasphemers go post your negativity in some other thread. Scram!
    Je suis Charlie

  13. #13
    Cyburbian Bubba's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Gedunker View post
    The only things fundamentally wrong with the baseball? The DH and Interleague play.
    Bubba's fix for baseball:

    Quote Originally posted by Bubba View post
    1. Replace Bud Selig
    2. Contract by 6 franchises
    3. Realign into two 6-team divisions in each league
    4. No wild card teams in the playoffs
    5. No more regular season interleague play
    6. GET RID OF THE STINKING DH!!!!!!!!!!!
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  14. #14
    Cyburbian Seabishop's avatar
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    Being a committed baseball fan (which I'm not) requires watching a 3 hour game virtually every night. Football lets you watch every Sunday with your buddies. The Superbowl is a one time deal, unlike a 7 game World Series.

    I wonder why horse racing suffered an even worse fate. The general public used to actually care about it.

  15. #15
    Cyburbian Rygor's avatar
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    The main thing that has led to a decline in the popularity of baseball is the commercialization of it (in addition to the rise of pro football and basketball). Once contracts got huge people stopped being able to identify as much with the players. Their inflated contracts led to inflated egos and inflated prices at the stadium. The inflated prices for games limited the audience that was able to actually attend live games. Alienate the people and you alienate the game and it will decline. It's happened slowly over the years but it's been long since gone. Most teams have new stadiums that were bought with commercial sponsorships leading them to lose their charm, too. Petco Field done's have quite the same aura (or history) as Wrigley Field, or Fenway, or the old Yankee Stadium. The one thing baseball can now hang it's hat on to attract fans is the history of the game but even that's being lost (only two old school stadiums left!), and the steroid scandal and subsequent revision of the history books isn't helping matters.
    "When life gives you lemons, just say 'No thanks'." - Henry Rollins

  16. #16
    Cyburbian PrahaSMC's avatar
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    Honestly, I think the "decline" of baseball goes hand-in-hand with the mass-media revolution and the explosion in the number of entertainment options that are available today. In the 1940s and 1950s, when players like Joe Dimaggio were literally cultural icons, it was a radio and newspaper world. Today, cable television and the internet have created an endless supply of diversions for people from all walks of life... I just don't think it's possible for one form of entertainment to capture the attention of a nation again.

    I'll preface this with the disclaimer that I am an unabashed baseball nut, who devotes a huge chunk of his free time to the game, but I think the demise of baseball, relative to other sports is also greatly exaggerated. Certainly, the NFL has surpassed baseball in overall popularity, but a lot of that is due to the nature of the respective sports... it's a lot easier to commit to 16 three hour games than 162. If you are an NFL fan (as I also am), every Sunday between September and January is an *event*... not so in baseball. Otherwise, any talk of baseball being surpassed by basketball as the number two sport is certainly not supported by the revenue streams. The NBA salary cap is projected to shrink over the next two seasons and it's been widely speculated that a vast majority of teams lost money last season. The game is potentially facing a lockout after next season, at which point it is believed the players union will be making some serious concessions. Basketball is gaining popularity, but it's been hit very hard by this economy and it went through a very rough patch earlier this decade. By contrast, MLB revenues have been increasing at nearly an expontential rate this decade and the game remains very health, despite the recession.

    I also don't believe that steroids have had more than a negligible impact on the popularity of the sport. To suggest-- as some media pundits imply-- that steroid abuse has been isolated to Major League Baseball between the years 1994 and 2005 is beyond naive. Steroid use dates back as far as East German Olympiads in the 1940s; they were almost definitely available to baseball players as well. Not to mention, the prevalence of narcotics in virtually all North American professional sports during the late-1970s and 1980s. Athletes and drugs? Imagine that.

    Professional baseball games are incredibly expensive in major markets because there is a rabid demand. Two weeks ago, I paid an embarrassing sum of money to take my girlfriend to Fenway Park to see here hometown team play on the road. We sat about 30 rows up in the bleachers and it was hot and uncomfortable, but for two baseball enthusiasts... totally worth it. Overall, 9 times out of 10, you have a better experience on your couch. Still, people shell out the money. The inflation in player salaries and ticket prices isn't some conspiracy to prevent Joe Six Pack from taking junior to see Mighty Casey at an afternoon matinee... it's just that there are a lot of people wanting a piece of a heavily regulated product. Now maybe this isn't the case in Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Miami, etc, but I also seem to recall having the opportunity to go to a Royals game for $20 when I was at K-State.

    /end of rant.

    So I guess what I'm saying is the game is as healthy as it has ever been, society just perceives the teams, owners, and athletes differently, relative to other forms of mass-marketed entertainment.

  17. #17
    Cyburbian Brocktoon's avatar
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    There is nothing wrong with baseball except how it is marketed. MLB is just starting to promote its star athletes properly. Casual fans are learning about people like Ryan Howard and Curtis Granderson.

    The notion that games are too long is ridiculous...when was the last time you watched a college football game...it probably took 4 hours...how about a basketball game where 48 minutes balloons into 2 1/2 to three hours.

    All sports wax and wane. Basketball was written up until 5 years ago when David Stern focused on rebranding the game and getting rid of the "thug" image of the sport. The NFL struggled in the late 80's after the strike and steroid allegations.
    Hockey is less popular in this country than soccer. MLS and premier league games on ESPN get a far higher rating score than hockey.

    Baseball also has a terrible tv contract. The MLB network only shows one game a day if you are lucky. TBS, WGN and WOR used to broadcast every Brave, Cub and Mets game across the country. (That is how a kid in Tucson, AZ became a die hard Braves fan.) Now if you want to watch your team you have to pay for the MLB package. Why, because baseball wants to make a buck.

    I have friends across the country that are Bo sox fans. They get to see their team 10 times a year on ESPN and may attend a game if they live in an American league city. If they know they could watch their team 50 times a year on a cable network then ratings would go up and would ad revenue.

    Baseball is having some of its most profitable years, attendence is up as is merchendise sales. Just because baseball is not the most popular sport in the country does not mean that it is near death.
    "If you don't like change, you're going to like irrelevance even less" General Eric Shinseki

  18. #18
    Cyburbian Duke Of Dystopia's avatar
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    Baseball is the last of the pre-industrial revoulution sports to be well established. Every sport after has had a time limit imposed on the game itself.

    Time and media are one thing, but don't forget the "body type" required to play.

    For instance, Soccer, rugby, swimming, diving and basketball among just a few need highly specific body styles to generally be considered "good" for the sport. Its no wonder that soccer is starting to catch on in the US. Those kids are undersized for football but better able to keep up the constant pace over football players.

    Football is one of the few sports that mixes different body sizes that are radically different in physique and skill sets. But a lineman is that plays football is unlikely to be able to play soccer. Rugby players tend to split the size difference between football and soccer players.

    In the end, more sports mean there are smaller pools of specific players, but more talent is exposed due to more spots available to perform a specific function.

    Baseball will stick around. But look for soccer to get MUCH bigger.
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    Cyburbian Joe Iliff's avatar
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    Similar to what others have said, let's be careful to separate baseball from Major League Baseball. The NFL is the most successful sports league in the world, but American football is not a sport played by persons globally. Association football (soccer) is very popularly globally, but Major League Soccer is not a tremendously successful professional league.

    Why is MLB not as popular as the NFL or NBA? The NFL and NBA have done a better job refining and marketing their product, while the MLB has not. Same as with the NHL or MLS.

    That is all.
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  20. #20
    Cyburbian Emeritus Bear Up North's avatar
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    It's A Loooong Belt !!!

    This Bear will echo many of the comments.....

    Game is too long......unless you are a couple runs behind in a late inning while in a pennant race.
    Big name favorites move from team to team, for the mula.
    (Big salaries don't bother me. Salaries are "market driven".)
    Season is too long.
    I would add wild cards, not subtract. End the season on Labor Day and start the playoffs.
    Game ducats and the dogs'n'beer are too expensive.
    The announcers suck. I grew-up listening to the great Ernie Harwell. Go get'em Tigers!
    Sports fans have so many choices.

    I like baseball. (And I like football, hockey, and basketball.)

    Bear
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  21. #21
    Cyburbian btrage's avatar
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    As a hardcore baseball fan, I guess the premise that professional baseball is in a demise is ridiculous. Historically, attendance numbers have never been greater. And when the multitude of professional, minor league teams are factored in, the reach of baseball is tremendous.

    I think people are just feeling a little nostalgic for the days when baseball was the main sport, and basketball and football where just gaining steam.
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  22. #22
    I grew up in Boston going to Red Sox games for $2.............now a beer is $7 at most of the AAA games around the country...........

    I cannot get a Red Sox ticket without spending a BUNCH of money..........

    Players today make too much money...............

    But I do not think baseball is in a popularity decline.............it will attract people with higher incomes...........and those makingless will watch on TV if they can.........I spend $160 for MLB every year and they black out Yankees and Red Sox games here in Texas...............go figure.............

    Baseball is a business now more than ever.............money is the bottom line.....

  23. #23
    Cyburbian TexanOkie's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Duke Of Dystopia View post
    But look for soccer to get MUCH bigger.
    Soccer will get bigger because our nation's demographics will shift considerably, especially with all the immigration from Latin America. Of course, that probably means baseball will also at least stay where it is in the hierarchy. Look for basketball, hockey, and perhaps even football to decline in popularity.

  24. #24
    Cyburbian imaplanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by TexanOkie View post
    Soccer will get bigger because our nation's demographics will shift considerably, especially with all the immigration from Latin America. Of course, that probably means baseball will also at least stay where it is in the hierarchy. Look for basketball, hockey, and perhaps even football to decline in popularity.
    You think football? I see the others but football has really become America's national pastime. And it seems to me that as immigrants become assimilated into our culture somewhat they really start digging on the football.

  25. #25
    Cyburbian Duke Of Dystopia's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by TexanOkie View post
    Soccer will get bigger because our nation's demographics will shift considerably, especially with all the immigration from Latin America. Of course, that probably means baseball will also at least stay where it is in the hierarchy. Look for basketball, hockey, and perhaps even football to decline in popularity.
    Not sure the projected change in demographics has anything to do with it. It definately wont hurt the sport, but I think it will become more successfull with or without the shift.

    Soccer is time limited and allows those kids not built for football a team sport to rally around. Its easier to find a soccer team to be on, and the suburbs have facilities better dedicated to it. Its just a growth sport with or without a demographic change.
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