I know that for a lot of people baseball is a sport that exists, but because it lacks “action” like football, basketball or hockey along with the fact that it goes from April to October, they don’t want to watch it. Frankly I think that baseball is worth watching, but maybe for different reasons than most sports.
Lack of action doesn’t make the game dull
Unlike football, basketball or hockey, baseball is not a sport that thrives on action. There aren’t hard hits, incredible buzzer-beater shots or fights (usually), but that’s because baseball doesn’t rely on that kind of action. In fact it’s one of the only sports where the offense hardly ever has the ball, they’re just trying to hit it away from the defense, not take possession of the ball.
Baseball doesn’t need those kind of things to remain exciting. The length of the season and the nature of the sport allow a type of suspense and strategy that no other sport can offer. I have never met a person that wasn’t captivated by the thrill of a pitcher throwing a perfect game, or who didn’t feel disappointed when the 27th batter prevented perfection.
When a team that was behind ten games in the standings at one point, catches up and wins the playoff berth on the very last day of the season, that is a type of excitement that no other sport brings to the table.
Bear with me (I am a Cardinals fan after all), but the sixth game in the 2011 World Series epitomizes just how exciting it can be to watch baseball. Down to their very last strike the Cardinal David Freese hit one just out of Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz’s hand saving the Cardinals postseason life.
Later in the same game, after a Josh Hamilton home run, the Cardinals were down to their last strike, but this time Lance Berkman got a hit that once again saved their championship dreams. Finally, David Freese came up again and launched a towering fly ball into the center field bleachers, winning the game for the Cardinals who used that momentum to win the World Series.
Moments like that are what make the game great. People in St. Louis speak of that game with a sense of reverence. That is what makes baseball a great sport to watch, the moments that go down in the history of the sport that can a whole region can get behind and will remember for decades.
National sport vs. regional sport
One of the big issues that people point to with baseball—and one that we ran an article about last fall—is the decline of viewership, especially when compared to the NFL’s recent success. People point to that statistic and make the claim that the NFL is truly America’s game. The numbers seem to make the case for that claim, but the statistics can be misleading.
NFL games are more like events, rather than sporting competitions. Yes, the games themselves are sports, but the way that they are advertised is more made for T.V. specials. Sunday Night Football and Monday Night Football are made out to be big events that cater to a national spotlight.
In that way, the NFL is more of a national sport, people who don’t have a team to root for will still tune in to watch the game. This is most obviously seen with the Super Bowl. Super Bowl Sunday has almost become a national holiday at this point, with the food, the commercials and the parties. This is because it acts as an big event, and then adds a sports game into the day.
Baseball caters to a different group of people. Baseball is a much more regional sport. Where the NFL broadcasts all of their games on one of five networks, every single baseball team has their own broadcasting network for their region. This would explain why there’s this idea that baseball is declining in T.V. ratings, everybody watches their own teams on their own regional sports network.
If you just look at the contracts alone, networks like Fox Sports or Root are shelling out a lot of cash to gain the rights to broadcast an entire team’s season of baseball. This is why the viewership decline claim is misleading, they use data from national games—like the All Star game or World Series—and claim that since those numbers are down, the whole sport is on the decline.
The problem with that is that baseball is a regional sport, people will watch their own teams in the big games, but if they have no horse in the race then, unlike football, they are less likely to watch the national games. The nearly 120-plus years of history for some teams builds a fanbase that will support their team, and prevent them from supporting any others. The storied history of the sport, and the fact that popularity of the sport is actually increasing, are just another reason why baseball is something you don’t want to miss out on.
Though it is considered to be America’s pastime, baseball is a sport that is played around the world—from Japan and Korea to the Dominican Republic, even to Holland and Spain. I wasn’t aware of just how far baseball had spread until I went to the World Baseball Classic in 2013. There were fans from Italy, the Dominican Republic, heck even Russian baseball fans were there without having a team to support. This proves that baseball is a truly an international sport, something that people from different countries and completely different cultures can share. That’s something that not every sport, or even non-sport can claim.