With the 2011 MLB season just starting, once again it’s time to see if fans will lose more interest.
With the NFL being the king of all American sports from a viewership standpoint and a new era of the NBA that has brought attention back to the sport, baseball has to find ways to keep the attention on their sport.
Now, with the recent buying of Strikeforce by the UFC, baseball has to deal with another juggernaut of sports entertainment. MMA is currently the fastest-growing sport in America.
MLB is trying to become modern, but is anybody really noticing?
In this day and age of frenetic lifestyles and instant gratification, the sport has fallen behind. While the baseball purists and lifers will always have a special place in their heart for the sport, the casual fans create a buzz that sticks.
Like any hobby or sport, if the mainstream audience isn’t there, it will suffer.
I have asked numerous people whom I would call casual sports fans, “What sports have you watched in the last few years?”
Not one person told me they watched a baseball game. Most of the answers were NFL and MMA, which are as frenetic and fast-paced as it gets.
Even some of the biggest baseball fans have said they just watch the wrap-up shows or wait until August to start watching regularly.
I think that a lack of incorporating the sport to the youth in the past few decades could be to blame as well. When driving from urban to rural areas, what you see is basketball courts and big grass lots. (If any kids are outside to begin with.) Years ago, those grass lots were used by kids playing in a home run derby, getting two paper plates and playing run-down or a pickup baseball game.
Now, kids are emulating their favorite quarterback throwing a touchdown pass to a friend instead of dreaming of being their favorite slugger knocking one out.
The greed in baseball has also caused a loss on interest with blue-collar fans. Without a salary cap or salary floor, the parity of the sport just isn’t what it could be. You have teams like the Yankees spending all of their profits on the team, while the Royals’ owner keeps the profits and is a richer man at the end of the day when it comes to the bottom line.
It seems that everybody wants to give flack to the teams in New York, Boston and Chicago for spending so much, but the real problem is that the bottom-feeders don’t spend, so the fans and teams suffer.
There will come a day when the collective bargaining between the union and the league will have to look at this problem and say, “Look at the NFL—they have to pay over 50 players and they can spread the wealth, why can’t we find a system?”
MLB is trying to draw more viewers with a few changes. One of the things that baseball is doing is getting technology into the game.
Baseball has been known for not embracing new ideas. They can barely get their heads around instant replay—they would rather let human error undermine a team’s preparation and execution.
Fox Sports will test umpires wearing cameras on their masks, which could bring a whole new aspect to the viewer. They are also testing some of NFL technology by putting cable cameras up. (Purists will scream when the first foul ball touches one.)
Honestly, I don’t think that these minor touch ups will bring in tons of new fans. When people are given three hours to do something with their day or night, will they choose a baseball game? That is the golden question and the answer has moved to "no" for many.
The hardcore fans will always have their stats, sabremetrics and history. So baseball needs to keep their attention, because they are losing the attention of the nation one pitcher leaving the mound or a hitter leaving the batter's box at a time. Time is money and nobody wants to waste time or money this day and age.
I think many of us are just not able to appreciate a pitchers' duel or the little nuances of the game…we want action, and if isn’t there, we will move on to something that stimulates us.
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