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Your latest “Baseball is dying” column

Sep 9, 2011, 9:20 AM EDT


The first professional baseball team was established in 1869.  Two weeks later someone probably wrote a column about how baseball was dying, on its way out and utterly utterly doomed.

From then until the present day, scribes have proclaimed baseball to be a dead sport walking. Here’s the latest, from the pages of the Kansas City Star. It’s possible it’s a reader submission — I’m not sure — but it’s given the newspaper’s imprimatur, so I consider it fair game.

As usual, it uses national television ratings as the metric, completely ignoring that baseball is primarily consumed on the local level, not the national level. As usual, it treats baseball different than the NFL and the NBA, noting that each of those leagues has had labor chaos, but then somehow using that as a sword against baseball, warning Bud Selig that he had best be wary in the face of the upcoming collective bargaining sessions with the player’s union. As if baseball’s labor house isn’t leaps and bounds better than that in the other sports.

What is it that gives people such joy in tearing into baseball like this? In proclaiming its death despite the league’s overall financial health and near-historic attendance levels?  I don’t expect everyone to come to praise baseball, but I never cease to be amazed at the impulse to bury it.

  1. Alex K - Sep 9, 2011 at 9:26 AM

    I think the national television ratings have the most to do with it. People see that the NFL is breaking ratings records every year and assume that since baseball isn’t it is in trouble. I think the baseball All-Star game ratings dropping and setting new low bars every year leads some to believe that no one watches baseball anymore.

  2. Francisco (FC) - Sep 9, 2011 at 9:31 AM

    It’s not only that, talk to soccer fans and they will poo-poo baseball because there are ball-players out of shape in the game (you don’t see fat guys running in soccer!!!) and of course they have the World Cup every 4 years. In fairness most of those I know are actually engaging in light-hearted trash-talking, they will STILL watch the local baseball games and Caribbean series. They just aren’t die-heard baseball fans, they will follow it with interest, nothing more. OTOH I do know one or two douchebags that will put down baseball and start up an argument about it for no reason.

  3. kellyb9 - Sep 9, 2011 at 9:32 AM

    I generally find that baseball is far less accessable to the casual fan. Football teams play all their games mostly on one day and throughout that day you get highlights from the other games going (particularly out of market games). Additionally, there’s the NFL redzone channel which isn’t bad. Worst case scenario if I want to watch an out of market NFL game, I can go to a bar. Getting an out of market baseball game means you pretty much have no choice but to buy an expensive MLB package.

    • aleskel - Sep 9, 2011 at 10:23 AM

      “Far less accessable”? Have you ever tried to GO to an NFL game? You need to put up your first-born son for indentured servitude to pay for it. Meanwhile, I’m going to the Mets-Cubs game tomorrow, and all it’s costing me is an Andrew Jackson and subway fare. Yes, please.

    • aleskel - Sep 9, 2011 at 10:26 AM

      Also, I don’t know where you live, but in NYC there are any number of bars that have an MLB package and will gladly turn their TV to a game you want to watch if you ask nicely. Also – if you want to watch online.

      • gammagammahey - Sep 9, 2011 at 11:28 AM

        NFL games are much easier to find at bars because a) an NFL Sunday is an event day that bars cater to and b) the masses demand multiple games on so they can follow their fantasy teams. There isn’t that same demand for nightly baseball at bars. Most bars that I’ve been to in NYC that show baseball don’t have the MLB package. Going out to watch a baseball game at a bar just isn’t as much of a thing as it is with football.

        Also, on your first point about attending games, I think that it’s becoming more and more so that people prefer to watch NFL games from home, almost regardless of the cost.

    • jimbo1949 - Sep 9, 2011 at 11:35 AM

      Expensive TV package is the word I would use to describe the NFL Sunday Ticket.
      Twice the price of Extra Innings (with games every day for six months) the NFL gives you seventeen Sundays worth of games. Network TV gives you 4 or 5 NFL games on Sunday and ESPN on Monday. Later in the season you get Thursday and Saturday games. All at no additional cost.
      $30 a month for Extra Innings is very reasonable.

    • mdumas43073 - Sep 28, 2011 at 6:51 PM

      I think baseball is “less accessible” in a different sense: to appreciate the game, you have to have an attention span of more than five seconds and an ability to appreciate its nuances. With football, you barely have to know or care anything about the sport, its teams, or its players to enjoy the bone-crushing hits, long bombs, or 70-yard runs. It’s like the difference between an intricately-plotted drama and a summer action flick.

      As to Craig Calcaterra’s question of why people enjoy bashing baseball so much, I think it comes from two different places:

      1. Some people just plain don’t like or appreciate the sport.

      2. Some people who claim to like and appreciate the sport are nonetheless convinced that its glory days are all in the past, back before (take your pick) the strikes, interleague play, wild cards, free agency, the DH, Astroturf, night games, etc. Trashing the game that is is a kind of perverse tribute to the game that was, or is imagined to have been.

  4. Jonny 5 - Sep 9, 2011 at 9:34 AM

    What is it that gives people such joy in tearing into baseball like this? In proclaiming it’s death despite the league’s overall financial health and near-historic attendance levels? I don’t expect everyone to come to praise baseball, but I never cease to be amazed at the impulse to bury it.

    Because it’s “NEWS”. Somehow we must slant it as such, it’s “NEWS”.

    • natstowngreg - Sep 9, 2011 at 1:23 PM

      It may have been news when Howard Cosell proclaimed baseball’s death about 45 years ago. Now, it’s just filler on a slow news day.

  5. Matt D. - Sep 9, 2011 at 9:39 AM

    The second sentence of the last paragraph should read “In proclaiming its death…” I apologize for being snarky and correcting grammar, but I have an English degree and, therefore, no other useful skills.

  6. - Sep 9, 2011 at 9:41 AM

    How about this metric: $7.2 Billion Dollars in estimated revenue in 2010. The highest ever. Dying indeed.

  7. halladaysbiceps - Sep 9, 2011 at 9:42 AM

    I’m not even getting into this post nor reading an article from the Kansas City Star. Baseball may be dead there, but it well and alive on the east coast. A waste of my time.

    • Alex K - Sep 9, 2011 at 10:02 AM

      It’s still alive in the midwest, as well. The Cubs and White Sox are trying their best to kill it, but we’re not letting them.

    • nategearhart - Sep 9, 2011 at 10:44 AM

      Wow, dude. You’re not ever allowed to whine when you perceive someone trashing your fair city or its ballplayers any more. Because here you are, again, talking shite on something having to do with Kansas City. I’m cool with overbearing fans, and even whiners can be tolerable when they show the occasional spark of wit as you do now and then. But if there’s one thing I can’t stand it’s a goddamn hypocrite.

      • halladaysbiceps - Sep 9, 2011 at 10:48 AM

        Get real. I didn’t trash the people of Kansas City. Get it right. One of their own writers talked about baseball dying. It may be dying there out in the midwest, but I can assure you, it’s not here in the east.

        Worry more about your Nationals than my comment, buddy.

      • nategearhart - Sep 9, 2011 at 10:51 AM

        “Get real. I didn’t trash the people of Kansas City. Get it right.”

        I’ll remember you said this next time you take a post or article that’s critical of the Phillies a little too personally.

      • halladaysbiceps - Sep 9, 2011 at 11:06 AM


        You do that. Jealosy stings, doesn’t it?

      • heyblueyoustink - Sep 9, 2011 at 11:19 AM

        Eeek! Man, ‘ceps, you can’t even get away with a fairly innocuous comment. You’ve become the Don Imus of HBT.

      • halladaysbiceps - Sep 9, 2011 at 11:21 AM

        LOL!!!! No, Don Imus doesn’t quite fit. Probably the Howard Stern of HBT is more fitting, according to some of these clowns.

  8. Old Gator - Sep 9, 2011 at 9:54 AM

    I never quite understood what Dorothy found so attractive about Kansas.

    • yankeesfanlen - Sep 9, 2011 at 10:02 AM

      Travelling vagrants that turned into Wizards, no doubt.

    • - Sep 9, 2011 at 10:33 AM

      The Star is located in Missouri. We Kansans wouldn’t claim them.

      • nategearhart - Sep 9, 2011 at 10:45 AM

        It IS sad that this article came from the Star. They obviously could use a good dose of Posnanski.

      • - Sep 9, 2011 at 12:05 PM

        It is sad. I would expect something like this from Bleacher Report or Yahoo Sports. (outside Dan Wetzel and his crack team of snipers)

        It completely ignores issues and information that can be easily found with Google. Mainly, how relativly easy the MLB CBA is expected to go, and the fact that MLB is making money. More money than the NBA.

  9. heyblueyoustink - Sep 9, 2011 at 11:22 AM

    Football is God mentality. That’s my guess as far as where this comes from. Same old tired thing, baseball is like Barnabas Collins, impossible to kill.

  10. scatterbrian - Sep 9, 2011 at 12:22 PM

    The national TV ratings system is so archaic it should just be ignored. Not only is it a ridiculously small sample size (as of 2009 only 0.02% of American homes–or one in 4580–participates in Neilsen’s rating system), it hasn’t caught up with technology, accounting for games recorded on a DVR for future playback, or watching games on the internet.

  11. macjacmccoy - Sep 9, 2011 at 4:53 PM

    i guess they do it because they are tired of hearing baseball writers claim how much better a sport it is then football even when all signs point to the contrary. The probably figure that because you guys dont feel the need to live in reality, use facts, or tell the truth when making statements to support your argument then they shouldnt have to either.

  12. leftywildcat - Sep 10, 2011 at 11:46 AM

    Some of us love baseball, some others football. I don’t care.

    Some of us love beer, some others wine. I still don’t care.

    Some prefer SUV’s, some prefer cars.

    Cake, pie. Etc.

    Slow news day. Maybe the lawn will dry so I can mow it before game time.

  13. hijackthemic - Sep 20, 2011 at 12:14 PM

    If the MLB didn’t lie about it’s attendance more than Bernie Madoff lied about investment earnings they might have more defenders in the media. The fact is, we all live in the same society, men know if other men are talking about baseball, caring about baseball. And most just aren’t. That combined with the relatively low ratings compared to football and people see baseball as dying. It’s not, but it’s not in a golden age either, not by a long shot.

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