Slate's Takedown of Baseball Analysis
The basic premise of the Slate article is that football has a bunch of great analysts (Ron Jaworski and Chris Collinsworth are specifically called out) and shows designed to highlight "smart" analysis of the game, while baseball has nothing similar. Peter Gammons, Tim Kurkjian, Jayston Stark, and Buster Olney are all given some credit for not being idiots, but Jon Kruk and Joe Morgan get hit pretty hard, as does the basic method of operation for baseball analysis generally.
One other thought sparked by the article -- is the NFL really so much more popular than MLB, as we always hear (and often assume)? One of the key takeaway lines from the Slate piece is the following:
And with so many fans, football shows can afford to devote screen time to relatively esoteric subjects that will appeal to the die-hards. With baseball's playoff games routinely rated lower than regular-season football, producers have obviously decided to appeal to the dreaded "casual fan."Now, I can't argue with ratings. That's pretty good empirical evidence. But does it really mean what the author suggests (i.e. that football has a vast majority of fans while baseball is toddling along)? I think the answer is probably no. For one thing, look at revenues -- according to this CNN Money article from last October, baseball revenues are running just a tad behind football revenues (both right around $6 billion a year). Of course, baseball is spread out over 6 months and 162 games per team, but why is that relevant? That's just the structure of the sport.
How about attendance? The NFL drew 17,345,205 fans to regular season games in 2007. Major League Baseball, on the other hand, drew more than 79.5 million fans. Again, with 10 times as many games, baseball of course has many, many more chances to sell seats (and football per-game attendance is obviously significantly higher). But if baseball is making nearly as much revenue, and is selling more tickets in total, is it really so obvious that there are fewer fans, or that the NFL has supplanted baseball in the hearts and minds of Americans?
For me, the nature of the two sports is sufficiently different that it's hard to measure this kind of thing. Football is a spectacle -- with just 16 games a year in the regular season, fans can never get enough -- as a result, they watch the playoffs no matter what happens with their favorite team. In baseball, while there are plenty of fans who watch no matter what, there are also a lot of folks who don't care unless the local team gets in to the playoffs. I think this accounts for the lower playoff ratings. Baseball demands more of its fans; it's more of a commitment.
Anyway, I've rambled on for long enough tonight. Hopefully it's somewhat coherent. Now, I'm back to reading about Canada, and pondering the US Election in 20 days. Here's hoping the Phillies close out the Dodgers tomorrow, and the Rays do the deed in Boston on Thursday night.
Labels: Nightly Notes