America’s Pastime is exactly that. A thing of the past. This is not to say that the game has completely faded from relevancy, but it has faded. Once the prominent sport in American society, dominated by suit-clad men shuffling through the gates after a long day’s work, baseball has been replaced by football as the most popular sport.
The subtleties of the suicide squeeze, the heroics of late-inning home runs, and the mystique of a 1-0 pitcher’s duel no longer seems to quench the American appetite for sport. Instead, hard-hitting tackles, 50-yard passes, and kick returns are now America’s sweetheart. Football is a great game, wildly entertaining and exciting from start to finish, but it’s not baseball. And it’s a shame that the Boys of Summer have been replaced.
What makes the slide even more frustrating is that Major League Baseball attendance doesn’t seem to be the problem. Teams are still drawing fans. Rather than an actual problem attracting fans to the ballparks, Major League Baseball has not marketed itself very well. For those of you who think attendance is dropping drastically in baseball, think again. Below is and chart with attendance figures from 1998-2010 (1998 is the first year the league went to 30 teams).
As you can see, after a significant decline in attendance in 2002 and 2003, baseball recovered and has consistently hovered around 72 million fans. Many news outlets will take the 2009 and 2010 figures and point to the declines, but the fact is 2007 and 2008 were extraordinary years.
So with baseball’s attendance actually higher than when the league first expanded to 30 teams, drawing fans does not seem to be a problem.
In the next part of this three part series, we will examine the perception problem faced by Major League Baseball.