There were also fluctuations in fan interest within the past decade because the steroid era. For the majority of the second half of the twentieth century, baseball was a slow paced, low scoring game that favored pitchers. Fans became more interested in basketball games that finished 100-98 or football games that finished 28-21, not baseball games that took three hours to finish 1-0. What the steroid era did was make baseball a high scoring game. Players like Barry Bonds, Rafael Palmeiro, Mark McGwire, and Jose Canseco were smashing out home runs and driving up scores. Baseball suddenly became more fast paced and impressive with balls flying out of stadiums left and right. But in the mid 2000s baseball commissioner Bud Selig really cracked down on performance enhancing drugs and drove out all steroid users. Baseball fell back into a low scoring affair and fan interest yet again started to decrease.
Today, baseball teams are trying different ticketing strategies to bring in more attendance and more camera technology has allowed for a better experience on TV. Robert Baade and Laura Tiehen discuss what attendance at games means for fan interest in the Journal of Sport & Social Issues. They discuss the Noll Equation (Baade and Tiehen, 15, Equation 1) that teams use to determine how many fans will show up to a game. It takes in factors such as how good or bad the opposing team is, how good or bad the home team is, in game experience and how much fans enjoy the stadium. With the ability to put a value on these abstract ideas, teams decide how much they should price games so they have make the most money and have the most fans as possible. For example if an incoming team is poor, the home team might lower ticket prices to draw in fans and use a promotion but if an incoming team is good they’ll raise ticket prices because they know fans will still want to come to watch the other team. The at-home experience has also improved due to new technology with cameras. They now have slow motion, replays, and cameras all over the diamond and stadium to give the viewer every possible emotion going on in the stadium at a given moment.
Where the decrease in fan interest is felt nowadays is in the Little Leagues across the country. According to a study done in 2009, the number of people aged seven to seventeen playing baseball fell 24% from 2000-2009 (Futterman, par. 7). This is a staggering decrease in participation and it is certainly being felt in Major League Baseball. Professional scouts are saying that the talent they see just is not the same as it used to be (Futterman, par. 10). While participation in baseball is decreasing, participation in lacrosse and soccer are seeing huge leaps. Lacrosse and soccer are sports that require constant motion and quick change of speed and young kids tend to gravitate more to that. Young children want to run around and expend all of their energy, and baseball just does not offer that option.
What a lot of people are questioning however is that is interest in baseball truly decreasing? There are people within the game of baseball who aren’t concerned at all for the future of the sport because they say it is not only surviving, but thriving. Maury Brown of Forbes sought to debunk all the myths and reasons of why baseball is declining by proving that fan participation doesn’t mean they are losing interest. He said that it is true that soccer and lacrosse leagues are growing but that is because of the decreased interest in Pop Warner football, not Little League. Pop Warner lost about 23,000 participants from 2010 to 2012 which is the largest two year decline in their history (Brown, par. 7). This is due to the growing studies that prove playing football increases mental and physical struggles for years after playing and have lasting effects. And yet, the NFL is growing in fan interest every single year while their youth numbers are declining. If fan interest was related to participation Brown says, then NASCAR would be the least popular sport in America instead of one of the most. Secondly, he agrees to the statistics that show people watching national baseball games on TV has dropped, but the key word is nationally. Television and sports has gone back to a regional structure like it was in the early years. People are watching less national games (even though the numbers are still very strong) because they are watching their own teams on regional broadcasts. The NFL is able to broadcast all of their games nationally because they only broadcast sixteen times a year. For a sport that broadcasts 162 times a year, baseball is doing more than okay.
Whether or not baseball truly is in decline is a matter that is a very contested idea and there is still a large amount of research going on about it. But what can’t be denied is America’s love for football, and Dave Bry of The Guardian looks at what that means for us psychologically as a nation. “The all-for-one-one-for-all aspect of [football] buffers our militaristic metaphors so often employed to describe it” Bry explains (Bry, par. 8). Many military terms are used to describe football such as the trenches, calling players soldiers, calling the it the field of battle, and so forth. Bry argues that when we were a baseball nation, we were a diplomatic and beautiful people. Since the rise of football we have been in a militaristic, show off our guns type of country while in and out of conflicts around the world. Baseball has been dubbed the “Beautiful Game” and it certainly was in its early days and still is to this day. Statistics can be skewed and looked at different ways and from different point of views and people can use them to back up their own argument. But no matter where baseball goes from here, it will always be our national pastime and somewhere in this country, children are playing out on the sandlot.Steroids
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