Another reason fans started to lose interest in baseball was because of the growing gap between the good and bad teams. Baseball was alive and well in New York because they were constantly a winning team and had a lot of money. But in cities like Kansas City and Pittsburgh fans began to lose interest as their teams continued to be bad and get worse because they had no money to pay for better talent. This trend has continued all the way to the present day when the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees have some of the biggest fan bases in baseball, and they are paying $241M and $208M respectively for their teams. The Houston Astros and Miami Marlins have some the emptiest stadiums and smallest fan bases and they are paying $45M and $42M respectively for their teams (MLB Top Teams Payroll). Martin Schmidt and David Berri discuss several positive and negative forces that go into fan attendance at games and on average, an additional win to a baseball team means an additonal 21,500 fans (Schmidt and Berri, 161). There is a direct correlation between fan bases and how much money the team is paying for talent. There was no way for the MLB to see this effect coming, but they did nothing to stop it. The NFL was formed during the Great Depression and so they formed their league under a completely different set of rules and ideals. They couldn’t afford to have a team go broke because then the whole league would collapse. To combat this, they started revenue sharing where the money generated by each team and the league as a whole would spread out evenly amongst each team. This revenue sharing kept an equal amount of money amongst the teams and every single team had the same shot at signing top talent to stay competitive. The NFL has been able to keep revenue sharing up to the modern day, and as of last season the Oakland Raiders had the lowest payroll at $65M while the Seattle Seahawks spent about $125M as the most (NFL 2013-2014 Season Salaries). The NFL clearly has a much more balanced payroll per team than the MLB and that gives even the worst teams the ability to stay competitive. By keeping the bad teams competitive, fans from those cities don’t have to wait 100 years for a championship. There’s always the hope that one offseason can bring in that one talented player a team needs to build a franchise around.
Internal issues in baseball is another reason the sport lost fans in the mid to late 1900s. Baseball has been a sport that is deeply rooted in tradition and that is something owners and commissioners are reluctant to move away from. Since 1892, baseball teams have been playing 154 games and it fluctuated between 140 and 154 all the way up until 1961 when they played 162 games and it has been the same ever since. 162 games is a very long season to hold the same enthusiasm and interest through, especially when every game is at least 9 innings and about three hours long. Today, in a day and age where attention spans are shortening, many people just simply lose interest a third or halfway throughout the season. The reason the NFL is the most popular sport in America is because the season is 16 games long, and each game is fast paced and action packed. Basketball has a long season as well with 82 games, but that is nearly halfway shorter than baseball and each game is faster than football with quick, head turning play back and forth across the court. In a Wall Street Journal article, Matthew Futterman talked about a thirteen year old boy, Hank Crone, who said that he loved baseball, “but it [was] just too slow for [him]” (Futterman, par. 2). The slow pace of the game is driving away young players and baseball refuses to budge on its old traditions.
Going back to the gap between good and bad teams, fans of poor teams might lose interest a lot earlier in the season than fans of better teams. If one’s team starts off very poorly and there is little hope for a turnaround, a logical question to ask is why invest so much time into something with no reward? Professional baseball added some changes to their postseason to try to add fan interest like the expansion of the playoffs and wild card teams and games. This added some interest but they continued to lose interest by labor strikes in 1972, 1981, and 1994. In the case of 1994, the owners and players had such a labor dispute and the owners were so greedy that the World Series was cancelled. This caused a severe dip in fan interest, something that the owners and players were trying to prevent.
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