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Football writers: please stop trying to write about baseball

Apr 17, 2012, 5:31 PM EDT

Football

Usually we have to wait until playoff season for people who don’t know a lot about baseball to write columns in which the declare it dead or dying and then vainly attempt to explain why.  But today we’re lucky!  We have one from Andy Benoit, the NFL blogger from the New York Times!

The rating for this year’s first Saturday afternoon M.L.B. on FOX was 2.3. That’s about 10 percent of the audience that Fox’s Sunday afternoon N.F.L. Week 1 telecast attracted. Obviously, a regular-season baseball game and a regular-season N.F.L. game do not make an apples-to-apples comparison (there are 10 times more regular-season M.L.B. games, 162 per team, than N.F.L. games, 16 per team). But if they were apples, one would be rotten and the other perfectly ripe.

New rule: if you compare football ratings to baseball ratings without acknowledging that all but a handful of baseball games are televised locally by 30 distinct networks nearly every single day of the season thereby rendering national baseball telecasts far, far less useful as an indicator of the sport’s health and popularity, you have to donate $500 to the anti-ignorance charity of my choice. Cool?  At the very least, go read any of the hundreds of stories written about the $2 billion sale of the Los Angeles Dodgers recently, all of which explain quite clearly just how big local television revenues are to baseball.  Apples and oranges? Local TV is a peach, and football doesn’t have it.

Beyond ratings, Benoit goes on to explain that baseball’s central problem is that, unlike football, it’s not a fluid game played all over a field that demands its athletes get bigger, faster and stronger and constantly innovate and improve their game. Rather, baseball is stuck with the same old field — 126 square inches, he claims, referring only to home plate — and thus is stuck in history, not the shiny new future like football is. As a result:

This is largely why there is so much monotony and downtime in baseball, and why so much emphasis has been placed on peripheral nonsense known as the unwritten rules … Can you imagine anyone in the N.F.L. even batting an eye (let alone fighting) at such inconsequential stuff?

I’m sorry, but if you cover football for a living and you are of the opinion that it does not have more than its fair share of “peripheral nonsense,” you owe another $500 to the Ignorance Fund.  This is a sport that will put on a three hour telecast about its schedule, for crying out loud. A sport that has a scandal about injury bounties. A sport that, due to several days off between games each week, seems to create some new off-the-field drama at every turn, be it comic or tragic. It has plenty of nonsense, thank you very much.  Oh, and before you go crowing about that fast, furious, fluid on-the-field action in the NFL, go read this first.

Benoit ends this piece thusly:

Baseball might be back in full swing, but in the big scheme of things, fewer people are watching. Meanwhile, the N.F.L. draft is just a little over a week away and new ratings record will probably be set. Evolution at work.

He and the millions of people who tune in to watch an old man call out names from a podium and young men put on baseball caps with football logos while wearing business suits can have their draft. I’ll watch the sport I love. If that’s evolution at work, I think I know who the dinosaurs are.

  1. simon94022 - Apr 17, 2012 at 8:01 PM

    This Beloit piece — football rising, baseball dying — is warmed over from the late 1960s. I’m an NFL fan, but thought-free stuff like this is embarrassing.

    Here’s a little tip for Mr Beloit: Baseball has been “dying” according to sportswriters since the Great Depression. Somehow it never actually dies and only continues to in popularity, attendance, TV revenues, online presence, etc. Food for thought next time you are sitting around for 10 minutes waiting for officials to review a replay.

  2. rabbdogg - Apr 17, 2012 at 8:06 PM

    i like baseball..basketball and football…but sorry folks baseball is #3…and it has been for a long time now..its just the way it is..baseball is alot slower than the other sports..but thats what makes it baseball..oh and it aint no harder to hit a baseball than it is to cover calvin johnson or to try to stop lebron james with a full head of steam..and please dont try to fakely claim it is…

    • Alex K - Apr 17, 2012 at 8:18 PM

      I bet that someone like Giancarlo Stanton has a better chance of stopping LeBron or covering Calvin Johnson that either of those two have of hitting a pitch from Roy Halladay.

      • chadjones27 - Apr 18, 2012 at 9:08 AM

        Yes, but can Roy Halladay hit a 3 at the buzzer?

        I would like to think so.

      • stlouis1baseball - Apr 18, 2012 at 9:14 AM

        Excellant play Alex. Dogg: What Alex said!

    • stlouis1baseball - Apr 18, 2012 at 9:13 AM

      Dogg: Your “ain’t no harder to hit a baseball” comment illustrates for everyone that you have never attempted to do it. Hitting a baseball is the hardest thing (from a sports perspective) on the planet. I can cover MegaTron by tackling his ass when he jumps to catch the pass.
      Interference? Absolutely.
      I can stop Lebron by hacking his ass when he drives to the bucket.
      Foul? Absolutely.
      Hitting a baseball? I am good with the fastball.
      But you throw me a curve, sinker, slider, etc… and I meekly swing at it like a 7 year old Girl Scout. And I played the great game of baseball well beyond high school.
      Learn how to hit…then get back to us.

      • wendell7 - Apr 19, 2012 at 7:53 AM

        That guy who used to play basketball for the Bulls tried baseball once

  3. rabbdogg - Apr 17, 2012 at 8:55 PM

    @alex k..i have seen plenty of guys..deon sandets ..bo jackson..brian jordan..play baseball and football..and those guys wouldnt have a problem hitting a roy holladay pitch..how well u think kemp(best player in the game) from the dodgers can cover calvin johnson or get open against darrel revis?..and no baseball player has a snowballs chance to stop lebron

    • stlouis1baseball - Apr 18, 2012 at 9:25 AM

      Dogg: Alex just owned you on this topic. Alex wins…you lose.
      I did get a nice laugh though trying to picture Calvin and Lebron hit ANY pitcher in MLB. Thanks.
      Again…forget Doc. I would put up any pitcher currently on an MLB roster against those dudes.
      I really can’t believe you are actually trying to argue this point.
      There are literally hundreds of players in MLB that could compete in basketball or football based solely on their athleticism. How many Football players could compete in MLB?
      Yeah…about 7.
      Thanks again for the laugh though. I still can’t get the picture of those two dudes trying to hit out of my head. Hahaha!

    • Alex K - Apr 18, 2012 at 9:40 AM

      Oh! you mean the guys that played MLB baseball, too? You know those guys didn’t just decide, “I’m going to play baseball now” and get put in the majors, right?

      Athleticism is what it is. Any elite athlete baseball player (Kemp, Stanton, Braun, ect.) has a much higher chance of not embarrassing themselves when on the basketball court or football field than an elite football or basketball player trying to hit a baseball. That isn’t said to downgrade the technique used in those other sports, it’s just a fact. With lots of practice sure a football or basketball player could be a good baseball player, but they can’t roll out of bed and play in the major leagues. Michael Jordan is the best example of this. He is a super athlete and he couldn’t hit anything that moved.

  4. churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Apr 17, 2012 at 9:07 PM

    This has to be satire, doesn’t it?

    There’s no room for progressive change in baseball. Literally. There’s not enough space.

    What progressive change has football undergone? I’m sick of these idiotic articles that compare A to B, and then only ever talk about what A does/doesn’t do. Progressive change in football? Please. Then need committees formed to ensure player safety. Multiple football players are dying each year from head trauma, but the neanderthals involved what to keep playing because “that’s what real men do”. Progressive change, give me a break.

    Including end zones, a football field is 120 yards long and 53 yards wide, giving it a playing-surface area of 8,242,560 square inches. Eight million-plus square inches is a lot of space in which to mobilize participants. Thus, as players become more athletic and skilled, and as schemes become more creative and intricate, there is room to accommodate the advancements.

    Never mind that you contradict yourself in the next sentence, about how the fields are roughly the same size, but what if you are fan of a team like mine, the NY Jets, where Mark Sanchez rarely finds the end zone. So the field of play is what, 15yds long by the width of the field? Also, if your team is driving and they are on the 1yd line about to score, the field is only 11 yds by the width of the field. Great thing about baseball is the only way you shorten the field is by the placement and skill of the fielders. If the Yankees are down by 3 in the 9th, they can’t move the fences in to the infield if they load the bases.

    But it is a clear explanation for why baseball has always been married to the past.

    Somehow I see a lot more people comfortable with fangraphs.com, baseballprospectus.com and baseball-reference.com and the use of advanced statistics in baseball than I do people reciting footballoutsiders.com statistics. So who’s stuck in the past?

    This is largely why there is so much monotony and downtime in baseball

    Ok you are definitely trolling now. Only a person who is making a joke can follow a sport that does:
    [Broadcast start]
    Announcers talk for 2 min
    Commercial
    Coin Flip
    Commercial
    Kick off
    Commercial
    3 plays (if you are the jets, run stuff, pass inc, pass inc)
    Punt
    Commercial

    And then complain that another sport is monotonous

    A pitcher yelling at a batter who is jogging to first base? Such disrespect can be grounds for a bench-clearing brawl.

    Terrell Owens posing on the Dallas Star caused a brawl. Players dance on the “wrong side of the field during warmups” causes brawls. Yeah, football isn’t the same….

  5. hushbrother - Apr 17, 2012 at 9:11 PM

    Careful what you say, Craig, you don’t wanna upset the higher-ups at NBC by denigrating their precious cash cow, the NFL.

  6. stex52 - Apr 17, 2012 at 9:25 PM

    I wish I knew where to look for it, but a general interest magazine some years back had a study that actually showed that baseball and football down times are essentially identical. You know:

    Three yard run; pile up on the tackle; untangle the players; place the ball; form the huddle; go to formation; shift around and read the defense; play clock is going down; snap with a millisecond left; four yard run; start over………….

    In point of fact, baseball and football are both very slow, deliberate games. The fiction of constant action in football just doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

    If you want constant action, go check out soccer. Oh wait, that’s boring…………..

    I’m a baseball guy. Comfortable with the choice.

  7. Kevin S. - Apr 17, 2012 at 9:33 PM

    I love the downtime argument. As Dave Cameron pointed out to us this morning, the average time between pitches is 21.2 seconds. The NFL play clock when not coming off of a stoppage? 40 seconds. Who has more empty time, again?

  8. astrosfan75956 - Apr 17, 2012 at 9:43 PM

    It is past time for Gardner to leadoff, he is a great hitter and a good table setter with top speed. It’s been fun Jeter but you’re now batting 8th.

  9. astrosfan75956 - Apr 17, 2012 at 9:43 PM

    It is past time for Gardner to leadoff, he is a great hitter and a good table setter with top speed. It’s been fun Jeter but you’re now batting 8th. Thanks.

  10. Stiller43 - Apr 17, 2012 at 9:44 PM

    Just because footballs better than baseball, you dont have to go and get all butt hurt over anythin or anybody saying so.

  11. tomfroemming - Apr 17, 2012 at 10:07 PM

    A good baseball team will draw 3 million fans, while a good football team draws 600,000. I’m just sayin’.

  12. nightman13 - Apr 17, 2012 at 10:22 PM

    I am a far bigger football fan than baseball fan, and if I had to choose one I’d choose football in a heartbeat. However, there is so much about baseball that football just can’t compare to.

    Saying football is better because it’s watched by more people is like saying The Real Housewives of Orange County is better television than Arrested Development. The NFL has sold out to attract the lowest common denominator fan, while baseball has finally exorcised the demons from their own foray into that territory (the homerun era.)

    Baseball is truer to it’s fans, tradition and it’s players. The NFL has basically flipped a huge middle finger to it’s hardcore fans by moving the draft, changing the rules to increase scoring and has always taken advantage of the players. The NFL could learn quite a bit from MLB, but they won’t. They will make huge mistakes that could have been avoided and give MLB the opportunity to regain the market.

    I am as hardcore a football fan as there is and I look at baseball with admiration and respect. Yes, the league could use more parity and there are issues but baseball has lasted a long time and weathered so many storms that the NFL has yet to even encounter.

    PS the unspoken rules are some of the greatest things in baseball and every sport could benefit from more of that.

    • mgv38 - Apr 21, 2012 at 3:26 PM

      “The NFL has sold out to attract the lowest common denominator fan, while baseball has finally exorcised the demons from their own foray into that territory (the homerun era.)”
      That’s probably my favorite line in this whole thread. Well said.

  13. tjwilliams - Apr 17, 2012 at 11:14 PM

    I guess I’ll just bust out my “Comment of the Day” from last fall, though I really should update the numbers as they’re slightly inaccurate: (http://hardballtalk.nbcsports.com/2011/09/15/comment-of-the-day-how-many-people-really-watch-mlb-games/)

    “Okay, so I just did some quick back-of-the-napkin math and came up with 1.65 billion viewers for NFL (live and TV) and 1.01 billion viewers for MLB (live and TV). Here’s how I got there.

    The NFL numbers were fairly simple. An average of 17.9 million people watched each NFL game last year (not including playoffs) and there are roughly 91 games broadcast each year (18 MNF, 17 CBS, 17 Fox, 9 Doubleheader, 17 NBC, 8 NFL Network, plus a smattering of Saturday and Thanksgiving games). That totals about 1.63 billion viewers. Add in the roughly 17.2 million people who annually attend in person and you get a total of roughly 1.65 billion people.

    MLB is a little tougher. The regional broadcasts in 2010 varied between 210,000 average viewers (Phillies) and 14,000 average viewers (Nationals). I estimated a mean of 100,000 viewers for each team which, when figured for 30 teams and 150 games equals 450 million viewers. 2011 attendance figures project that annual MLB attendance will be 74.2 million. Finally, the national broadcasts seem to attract anywhere between 2 and 5 million viewers depending on day, time, and teams. I figured an average of 3.5 million viewers per game with approximately 140 nationally televised games each year totaled 490 million. All totaled, roughly 1.01 billion people viewed MLB games.

    Obviously, the NFL gets more eyeballs. But it’s not leaps and bounds above MLB.”

    • sportsdrenched.com - Apr 18, 2012 at 11:33 AM

      To which I will throw this out there from the co-comment of the day:

      That kind of jives with the estimations that the NFL had 9.2 Billion in revenue in 2010, and MLB had 7.2 Billion. We can all agree that NFL is King in America. But clearly MLB is holding it’s own and is no where near the death bed a lot of people think it is.

      I’m not sure about the 2011 numbers, but from interviews I saw with Bud, 2011 was better in terms of revenue than 2010.

      The only thing I can tell is Football Fundementalists some how feel threatened by baseball? That because one likes football they are a superior human being? WTH? I don’t get it.

      Football is my second favorite sport. I will attend High School, College, & NFL games this fall, and I’ll throw the football around in the backyard and at family reunions. However, if I like football…I LOVE baseball. I don’t get why there has to be a competition between the two. I guess the loss is on the Football Fundementalists. After all, they’re breaking down dudes running around in their underwear, and wondering where they go on draft day. Then they wish 5 months of their lives way waiting for football season. Baseball Fans have 2400 actual games to savor until football starts.

  14. thenmoveback - Apr 17, 2012 at 11:42 PM

    Please hardball writers. Dont ever think that baseball compares to the NFL. That’s all

  15. Stiller43 - Apr 17, 2012 at 11:57 PM

    The funny part is – you think a football writer might actually read this when they have much more interesting things to do and write about than read a baseball blog…ya know. Cause football, and hockey for that matter, are much better than baseball.

  16. Marty - Apr 18, 2012 at 12:35 AM

    My Giants sells more seats than the Niners. Though NFL gameday is so expensive revenue is probably the same.

    Still pricing out families from attending live games does not sound evolutionary to me.

  17. spudchukar - Apr 18, 2012 at 1:12 AM

    …ain’t no harder…fakely…Yep, Baseball does have a different appeal.

  18. Jack Marshall - Apr 18, 2012 at 1:21 PM

    If you had to choose between baseball or football as to which could go the way of boxing and horse racing as former “national pastimes” relegated to marginal status. As with boxing, fans might just realize that they are paying athletes to cripple themselves or worse, making them invalids by their 50′s. And if football has the integrity to change that (or is forced to by lawsuits), the sport may not be the one Americans want to watch.

    My guess is it won’t happen, but it could. Baseball, however, will be here and thriving as long as there is green grass, summer days, and memories Bobby Thomson, Fisk, Gibson, and the Bird talking to the ball, and Willie, making that catch in the Polo Grounds….

  19. koufaxmitzvah - Apr 18, 2012 at 1:32 PM

    By the way, fantasy football geeks, where do you think the idea of fantasy sports comes from?

  20. creek0512 - Apr 18, 2012 at 5:17 PM

    As someone who is also a soccer fan, I am all to used to people belittling my sport for no apparent reason, other than they don’t understand it and therefore don’t like it and seeming can’t comprehend how anyone could possibly reach a different opinion than they have, even though they know nothing about the sport.

    I have never understood the need some people have to try to put the sports they don’t understand down and pump their chosen sports up. I have sports that I like and their are others that I fon’t really care for, but why would I care if someone else likes those sports that I don’t?

  21. rabbdogg - Apr 21, 2012 at 3:20 AM

    soutlouiswhateveryourname is…lol @u..alex didnt own anything..i said i like baseball..i know how to hit one..hitting a baseball IS NOT the hardest thing in sports..it aint no harder than doing the other things in any other sports…make no mistake about it..no baseball player can guard lebron or cover calvin johnson..lets not be stupid here..u reason u coudnt cover calvin is u wouldnt be within 20 yards of him to hit his feet/knees when the ball got there and neither would 99% of mlb players..lebron is so big,strong,and fast that he most like still dunks on u and shoots his free throw after u febaly try to foul him..if he doesnt break your ankles with a crossover just like he would do to 99% of mlb players..could lebron or calvin johnson hit a fastball as good or better than u can?..likely..maybe…could they hit curveballs or sliders? probably not…bottom line is..it doesnt take any more skill to play baseball at a high level than it does to play any other sport at a high level..so please lets dont pretend it doed

    • chuckleberry1974 - Apr 24, 2012 at 6:38 AM

      Dumb

  22. rabbdogg - Apr 21, 2012 at 3:21 AM

    *does*

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