Tha Sports Junkies 101

The Warning Track: Is Baseball America’s Favorite Pastime?

Fans G.O.A.T-Hutchinson



Is Baseball Still America’s Favorite Pastime?

If you look at the statistics that have been gathered over the years you will see that the answer to that question is NO baseball is not America’s favorite anymore.  For at least the last 30 years the most popular sport in America is professional football (NFL).  I am convinced fans have gone football crazy in this country.  The NFL doesn’t even seem to have an offseason anymore.  Fans are constantly chomping at the bit for more football.


The Harris Poll

The Harris Poll is a poll that was conducted from 1985-2014 asking adult fans, 18 and older what their favorite sport is.

  • 35% said NFL was their favorite
  • 14% MLB
  • 11% College Football
  • 7% Auto Racing
  • 6% NBA
  • 5% NHL
  • 3% College Basketball

Over a 30 year period Major League Baseball has seen the biggest drop at 9%.  In 1985 the NFL was at 24% while the MLB was at 23%.


Adam/Via Flickr

So what happened to baseball?

There have been many factors that have driven the popularity of baseball down over the years.  What was once a sport that many were passionate about has managed to damage itself from within causing fans to walk away.

The 1994 Strike

The 1994 season was a season that would change the game of baseball in many ways.  It would be a season that would turn fans off from the game.  It would be a season where owner and players went head to head in a battle for revenue sharing and player salaries.  It would be a season where for the first time since 1904 the World Series was cancelled.

On July 28, the Players Association executive board set August 12, 1994 as a strike date.  When that day came, the players went ahead with their threat to walk off the job.  The last games of that baseball season were played on August 11, 1994.

On August 31, three-and-a-half hours of negotiations with federal mediators would carry out nothing.   According to then-acting Commissioner Bud Selig, September 9 was the tentative deadline for canceling the rest of the season if no agreement was reached between the owners and players.  No agreement could be reached and just like that the 1994 season was cancelled.  The strike would be the longest labor strike in MLB history, lasting 232 days.

This hit baseball hard

In no way did Major League baseball expect the negative effect that this strike and cancellation of a season would have on the game.  Many fans swore that they would never come back to a game full of greedy already rich people.  The strike did not sit well with the average American that had dreamed of making that kind of money but never would.  The problem with the loss of fans was they were people who had followed baseball their whole lives and people with children that were just learning about the game.  A generation of fans lost to baseball as many fans stood by their word and would never return to the game with the passion they once had.


A changing culture

We have seen a massive shift in our culture in the attention spans of people.  We have become a nation of instant everything and quick access, along with busier lives and longer work hours.  The problem that baseball has met is in finding a way to make the game less time-consuming.  The MLB has attempted many things like a clock to speed up pitchers, instant replay to avoid managers coming out to argue a missed call. They have discussed doing away with intentional walks, limiting pitching changes and are always listening for options to help the game.  The MLB is constantly looking for any way they can think of to speed the game along and help the short attention spans that most Americans have.


What makes baseball so great?

I do not claim to be the master of solving all problems in the universe, but I am a person who has always loved baseball.  I recognize all the nuances that make this my favorite sport.  We live in an imperfect world and the game of baseball is a game that fits right into that landscape.  It is a game of imperfection.  A game where a batter can fail 7 out of every 10 times and still be considered great.  It is a game where each player must be patient and on their toes because on any pitch the ball could be headed their way.  Yet that same player has to learn that he may sit through the game and never see a ball come his way.  It is a long and grueling season during the heat of the summer where players take the field day in and day out and compete hard for 162 games a year.

When I think about baseball, I think about the times my father and I would spend hours in the yard just throwing a ball back and forth and talking.  Baseball is a bonding experience where fans of the same team become family as they cheer their teams on through the wins and losses.  The ball parks smell like a step back into the past as the hotdog vendors and peanut vendors yell out looking for the next willing customer.  Baseball was never meant to be a game of speed, but rather a game of finesse.

The pitcher throws the ball as a batter digs in to try to guess what pitch is coming and only a split second to make the decision to swing or not.  It is the greatest team sport where one man cannot put a team on their back and carry them to a championship.  It counts on every player to be willing to do whatever it takes to get the runs across home plate, even if that means sacrificing yourself just to move a runner over to the next base.

Yeah I love baseball and I have instilled that same love for the game in my son.


How do we fix it?

When I look at the way Major League Baseball has addressed the decline of the sport I see problems in their methods.  All of the things that I and many other fans love about baseball is some of the things they want to change.  Part of what makes baseball great is the chess match that goes on between managers as they try to figure out the best match-ups or the best methods for winning a game.  In my opinion Major League baseball does not need to figure out a way to make the game fit into todays hurry-up culture. There are no changes that can be made that will speed the game up enough without drastically changing how the game is played.  MLB needs to figure out a way to give people the opportunity to take a breath and a break from their rushed lives and enjoy the game.

I will admit that this is not an easy sell in todays society, but it is the only option that protects the integrity of the game that many of us love.  This is a campaign that needs to be started at the lowest levels of the game.  Our youth have been raised with all the technology to give them the world at their finger tips.  Major league baseball needs to reach out to youth coaches and parents of youth baseball players and teach them to love this one thing that is left in the world that will not speed up and give instant satisfaction.  As a true fan of the game I want to see the game of baseball taught in a way that truly gives a new generation a taste of when life didn’t move so fast.  We need to teach upcoming generations what makes baseball such a beautiful game of imperfection.


Baseball is a game that is full of things that parallel every day life and throughout history this is what has made so many people love it.  It is a game that tells a story and with every pitch the uncertainty of what the outcome might be.  Some days you may be the hero and some days you may find the world blaming you.  It is a game where you can be at the top of the baseball world and in a moment find yourself at the lowest of lows.  It is a game where making the right decision is critical to success, but on occasion a bad decision might just pay off in your favor.  It is a game that happens on a stage so big but yet the spotlight can be so small.  Baseball is so much like life because hard work can find you success but it does not guarantee it.  So many great life lessons lie between the foul lines and without some attention the beauty of the game will get lost.

 baseball image


“No game in the world is as tidy and dramatically neat as baseball, with cause and effect, crime and punishment, motive and result, so cleanly defined.” ~Paul Gallico