The Gradual Decline Of Baseball Popularity
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The Gradual Decline Of Baseball Popularity

The U.S. is now respected as a soccer country, that should never be the case.

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The Gradual Decline Of Baseball Popularity
ESPN

As baseball becomes less popular, is that also a sign that America is losing its place as a world superpower? Last Friday at the University of Alabama sports symposium, keynote speaker Michael L. Butterworth from Ohio University made that argument.

In Butterworth’s lecture titled, “American Exceptionalism and Media Ritual," he uses the World Series as a tool to explain what the United States thinks of itself and its place in history. He used the game of baseball to recall that history. Butterworth recalls the history of the game of baseball, and the origin of the title of the World Series. It was originally named that during a time when the league was made up of teams that were mostly in the Northeast part of the country, and had nothing to do with the rest of the world.

Now that has changed, as the MLB is the premier baseball league on the planet and players from around the world make up the league and its teams. Even so, as Butterworth puts it, baseball loves to recall its nostalgia from the past. He discusses baseball events in reference to historical landscapes in America. He uses examples like Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier and how President George W. Bush's first pitch of Game three in the 2001 World Series impacted the country and sent messages to the rest of the world. Does baseball still have that same impact today?

For the last few years the ratings of the World Series have dropped. Compare that to the Super Bowl or the NBA Finals, both of which ratings have risen. Then compare the ratings to the World Cup and the Olympics, and it may come to reason that baseball is becoming less popular than it once was.

Butterworth says the decline in baseball popularity might have to do with how we view the games. Today, sports are not only viewed in person and on TV, but around the world on the Internet. People also follow the games closely due to the increase in fantasy sports. While the commercial side of baseball is still very strong, viewers of the game tend to be less in tune. His argument is that unlike football, baseball as a game doesn’t lend itself well to being on the Internet.

He says that using tools like social media to interact with the game is a problem because baseball as a sport goes a lot slower. Compare this to mega events like the World Cup, which once every four years can now truly grab the world’s attention because people can access it from anywhere.

Butterworth makes that point clear. He notes that now, unlike any time in previous history, the world views the United States as a decent world player in soccer. He thinks this shouldn’t be the case. His argument is that what made America great in the first place was that it focused itself on the past.

This harpooned back to this idea, as Butterworth put it, to the myths of America, that America was a chosen nation, they are naturally right, the people are chosen and are morally separate from the rest of the world. He discusses these myths and how they related to with the Cold War. America viewed itself as superior to the rest of the world, and felt it needed to stand up to democracy when it was threatened.

Baseball was used as a tool during wars and was seen by many who are in love with baseball nostalgia as a way to communicate peace. Baseball is linked to the American identity and baseball loves to play off of that idea. By having a former military member sing the national anthem before the game and having “God Bless America” played at every seventh inning stretch, baseball is still in love with its spot within Americana even though the game is called the World Series, and many of its players are not from the U.S.

As Butterworth showed the audience, that could be a problem, but more importantly, could be a sign of a bigger problem. He shows that football is now America’s most popular sport and that events like the World Baseball Classic, which the United States has yet to win, show that America is falling out of love with baseball. He thinks this could speak to a bigger issue that America should not be the world police. He argues that the U.S needs to realize that their place as a superpower makes them need to adapt as the world is changing.

Overall I tend to agree with Butterworth and his lecture. I do believe the reason baseball is becoming less popular with America is due to the fact that the game has failed to change much in its history while football and the NFL has changed some of the rules, which tend to favor passing and points rather than running. Since football has gradually made those changes it has exploded as the nation’s favorite sport.

I would also agree that the rise in popularity of soccer has also contributed to baseball’s decline. I believe this is do to the popularity of video games like EA Sports FIFA games, which now because of online gaming, has quickly become one of the most popular games in the world.

Baseball needs to adapt quickly if it wants to remain “America’s Pastime." They need to speed up the game. A 4.5-hour Red Sox vs. Yankees game in the middle of June simply isn’t as popular as it once was. Because of the increase in access to different methods of viewing the game, why would anyone in the middle of June want to watch such a long sporting event, when there is going to be one the next day? I have always loved baseball, but I am losing that love. The sport simply needs to change in order to keep the attention of the rest of the world.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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