The national pastime is dying.
At least that’s what sports analysts have been saying about baseball for the better part of the last decade.
Between the sport’s steroid scandals, declining attendance at games and the rising popularity of sports like soccer, people have become convinced it’s just a matter of time until what was once the most popular sport in the country becomes an afterthought.
While it’s impossible to deny the public’s attention has largely shifted to football, with a growing interest in basketball as well, these predictions of doom and gloom are a tad premature.
Observers are quick to point to Major League Baseball’s shrinking attendance numbers as evidence that the sport is on the way out.
However, not only has the advent of high definition TV and the Internet caused a decline in turnout in virtually every sport, but baseball’s numbers also aren’t that discouraging.
It’s easy to forget, but the MLB actually posted an all-time high in attendance in 2007, when an average of 32,770 people attended each game.
Since then, attendance declined every year until last season, when there was actually a small increase. Economists seem to believe baseball attendance is directly tied to confidence in the economy, given most fans are squarely in the middle class, and the recent uptick in the country’s financial system should be a reason for optimism.
“Sports Business Daily” recently predicted attendance would see a 3 percent to 5 percent increase this year, and the results of the season’s first weekend seem to be bearing this out. After all, it isn’t often that the Pirates are able to sell out two games over a weekend.
It is worth noting that attendance is hardly the only measure of a sport’s popularity. TV ratings are a major factor in assessing a sport, and baseball’s ratings in the playoffs haven’t been stellar.
The sixth and seventh games of this year’s Fall Classic were encouraging, as they drew in 21.1 million and 25.4 million viewers respectively, but when compared to the Super Bowl’s 111.3 million viewers, they pale in comparison.
Many of baseball’s problems can undoubtedly be traced to the fact that the game has been unwilling to adapt to many of the technological advances other sports have embraced in recent years.