What’s Baseball? Chopped Liver?

Seriously. After reading yesterday’s New York Times article announcing that the Super Bowl was the most watched show in television history (not the most watched sports show, but the most watched show of any kind), I had to ask myself why the World Series doesn’t approach such spectacular numbers.
Sure, there were good reasons why the Saints-Colts game drew a huge audience.
* The two quarterbacks offered a nice head-to-head story arc.
* The heavy snow kept people indoors and in front of the TV.
* People watch the Super Bowl for the ads.
* There are Super Bowl parties.
And then there’s the fact that the football season boils down to one dramatic contest as opposed to a series of 4-7 games. But it was this comment by Rich Sandomir that got me thinking: “Football is engaging us more than ever.” Is that true? And if so, what is baseball doing about it?
On this blog we’ve talked about ways MLB could improve the sport itself. But what about the marketing of the sport? Why aren’t there World Series parties and better ads and more human interest stories in the media about the individual players so that people who aren’t diehards can still appreciate the games? 
I don’t like seeing baseball trounced by football, so if Bud Selig wants to hire me to help market the sport, I’m available. How about the newly created position of vice president in charge of fans? Just leave me a comment, Bud, and I’ll get right back to you.


  1. bklyntrolleyblogger

    Parties and food aside…the game starts at 6:30est and that means even most kids can stay up and watch the game. The NFL dictates to the networks how it wants it’s product marketed. Selig sold MLB’s spine years ago. A kid is lucky if he can watch 3 innings of a World Series game today. When was the last time the World Series had a day game? Do we stay up till 1:30am (est) watching Football games? Playoffs? Super Bowls? NO! Baseball is making it’s fans O.D. on five-hour-energy to see their biggest games.
    Football gets it. They excersize control over their product. Baseball sold their integrity to the networks.

  2. mhugill@verizon.net

    I agree to a point of above commenter but hubby & I hate football but we even switched over to see the score at one point. it’s hyped beyond belief on EVERY show not just ESPN or the network showing the game. I was watching a Rachel Ray show and it was football. Jeez.

    I also think the weather had a lot to do with it. I mean if we hadn’t been trapped in our homes with 34 inches of snow trust me we would NEVER have turned the channel to see who was winning because honestly we didn’t care.

    My b-day is the day after spring training starts. I am thankful they are giving me this gift.

  3. dschaub@gpo.gov

    First, a local reply…hiya Peg…glad to hear you’ve survived so far…we’re over here in Rockville, got close to 3 feet on the ground by now (and still comin’ down at 7am, lots more to come). I pray you keep your power. When we survive this, we gotta get together & compare notes.
    Now…beisbol…total agreement with Brooklyn Trolley…the damn networks have badly wounded our sport with their night-time marathons…how can baseball generate new fans, when every Series game is the Late Late Show? Yes, it may inconvenience you left coasters if earlier, but sorry, WE DON’T CARE. Sadly too, baseball is pastoral and fairly calm…football is VIOLENT and macho and given to preening and barking and woofing…all the players jump up and down like tribal warriors before/during games, and even baseball teams have adopted some of that. I’ve always believed that baseball is FAR more complex…try to explain the rules of the game to a foreigner, versus the basics of football or anything else…my football-loving family disagrees. Hey…no matter…we know how great we have it with the greatest game ever…Babe was/is always right.

  4. cheshirecat9

    The Super Bowl is almost a national holiday at this point. It is hyped beyond belief in the media. There is nothing else even remotely interesting going on in professional sports when it is played. Even the commercials get hyped. There is the half time show (football really needs to have an act from a band that has put out a record this decade next year). I agree with the comment above that it is more violent with more action. That’s what a lot of people like.

    Snow is coming down hard in NYC, but not hard enough that I am going to miss work. Snow is pretty in New York for a bout an hour and then after that is turns to dirty, disgusting slush. When is spring?!?!?!

  5. mel.tmottbg@gmail.com

    I am chuckling at the US and the way we forget that the rest of the world exists. I’m sure many US households watched the Super Bowl, but compared to a World Cup soccer final, we don’t hold any record. One source said 260 million people watch it.
    Speaking of the World Cup, perhaps that is where MLB should look to for ideas. Real football (aka soccer) fans watch 2 years of qualification games for their teams. The month of finals is just a culmination of a 2 year tournament which narrowed the field from 204 teams to 32.
    Those of us who love the game, then will watch every game of the World Cup finals. That’s a total of 64 games over 25 match days. Getting people to watch the playoffs and WS shouldn’t be too hard!
    I agree that the late start and the length of game makes it hard for people to watch. And the over-zealousness in T-ball, Little League, etc. makes it harder for kids to just love this game.
    It worries me that the sandlot version has disappeared. We were a baseball family and had a hilly, not too large backyard. But my brothers and I played tons of catch, whiffle ball, running bases (now called pickle) and home run derby.
    When kids go out in the backyard these days, many parents focus on skill building. (Okay, so Ichiro’s dad took this to an extreme and look what it got him!). Kids don’t seem to get the joy of the game.
    MLB needs to focus on the fun and relaxation of the game. And to do some marketing towards the women fans, besides just selling pink hats.

  6. mlbtribefan

    I remember when I would see baseball after school and on Saturday afternoons and then try to mimic what went on the television the next day in the school baseball field or in my yard. Now I try to share this with my kid and can’t due to the fact that playoff and World Series games are on too late. The key is to market the product to the audience you want to attract. Are they trying to attract kids? Sure on Sundays for the regular season. But kids resemble and are attracted by champions. How can the casual fan who is a kid watch a champion unless they tivo the game. My kid was able to see most of the Super Bowl live.


  7. jojovanb27@hotmail.com


    I have some ideas, but I don’t LIKE any of them. First, I think we should just concede that the build-up and the one day event is a great marketing idea, and acknowledge that it’s not likely we can top it. Somehow, Super Bowl Sunday resonates a little better than World Series Wednesday.

    The NFL risked alienating its fans by restricting some games to the nfl network, which is only marginally available across the country. By making their game less accessible, they’ve artificially skewed the supply/demand grids that we learned in Economics 101. The jury is still out on the long-term effects of that deal, but I can tell you that the Albany, NY sports bars love it when the Giants have a game on the nfl network.

    My short suggestion for baseball’s marketing arm, and you as its Vice-President, is to find a way to mimic football’s hypocrisy regarding gambling. “We’re against gambling and that’s why each team is required to tell the league three or four days ahead of time, who’s likely to play in their next game.”

    The commissioner should make an announcement on opening day, saying he’s opposed to World Series Pools and then list three or four different kinds of pools he doesn’t want people to get involved in.

    “We don’t want people betting on regular season games, so we’re requiring managers to list their probable relievers along with probable starters and managers will be fined if they deviate from those listings.”

    As I said, I don’t like any of these ideas, but some of them could have the positive effect you’re after.

  8. redstatebluestate

    I’m on your side, Jane, but remember… the Super Bowl is one game for teams who play just 16 games in a season. Ours is an everyday sport and gets overlooked (though it shouldn’t). My dad always told me that “football was a plebeian sport for the masses” — like the gladiators in Rome — whereas “baseball is a thinking man’s game, the game of scholars.”

  9. enternight

    The Super Bowl is just so much easier to hype, is what it all comes down to. It’s been mentioned that it starts and ends at a time when everyone can watch it — also, it’s one freaking game. Like, you watch the Super Bowl, right, and it’s over. You know who wins. It’s soooo easy to hype, and, since it’s one game, it’s easy to schedule it on the same day every year, a day when people aren’t going to have work or school or anything like that.The World Series, on the other hand … could be 4 games, could be 5, 6, 7 games … because of that, games have to be put on weekdays, which leads to the problem of maximizing audience (when are most people across the country not at school or at work?)… You know, I think I’m just going to blog on this one. Thanks for the inspiration. :)Anaenternight.mlblogs.com

  10. jojovanb27@hotmail.com

    I hope it was obvious to the reader, but as a new contributor I feel obliged to let you know that a few of my earlier suggestions were just meant to be silly.

    Also, where in the world does that time stamp come from. It seems like it’s from secret location that’s halfway between Yankee Stadium and Nova Scotia.

  11. diane.anziano@gmail.com

    Of course, it is the fact that football comes down to one game that makes the event that important and that easy to schedule so it can be enjoyed by so many people. Baseball has to be a best of seven event — even the best of five series is not good because of the home field advantage it allows. And the variables in the game of baseball make the series necessary.

    As a football fan, I will tell you that the fact that the season is only 16 games is awful. Just a couple of bad luck games and your team’s season can be over by Thanksgiving.

    Now that having been said, and I have probably said this before now, I am not a baseball fan, I’m a Yankees fanatic. If the Yankees are not in the World Series, I don’t watch it — not one minute of it. But I can watch any two football teams play, even college, and The Super Bowl is always huge in our house. We always have a party and its always a major event.

  12. Jane Heller

    You make an excellent point, Mike. The late game times certainly play a role in a family’s ability to watch the WS together. When I was a kid, way back in the Dark Ages, we listened to afternoon games on the transistor radios we snuck into school. And somehow working adults managed to listen to the games too. But baseball has decided to take their premier series to prime time, and it’s a problem.

    Peg, the hype about the Super Bowl is exactly what I’m talking about. Yes, snow keeps people indoors (sorry about yours, btw), but baseball could do a better job of hyping the sport – especially reaching out to those who aren’t fans and might tune in just as you did to the Super Bowl. There should be more cross promotions with other television shows (and not just promos on Fox). There should be more outreach to kids. There should be lots of things. Sigh.

    So glad to see you’re not buried alive in all that snow, Dave! And you have power. Woohoo. Not to worry about us left coasters in terms of the start times to the games. I watch weekend day games starting at 10 am and they’re just as exciting as those at night, believe me. I’d happily accommodate the rest of the country. Yes, the macho violence is part of football’s show. But the same is true for hockey (more so, in fact) and that sport isn’t pulling in ratings except in Canada.

    So true, cheshirecat. The Super Bowl almost is a national holiday at this point. But the Olympics take place over a period of time, just like the World Series, and yet it gets promoted in a much broader, more innovative way than baseball. Maybe each WS game needs more entertainment than someone singing the Star Spangled Banner before the game. Hope you’re doing OK in the snow. Be careful going home!

    I know that’s part of it, kaiser. The fact that it’s a one time event certainly adds to the drama and “must-see” aspect of it. But as I said above about the Olympics, maybe there’s a campaign baseball could launch having to do with the series itself.

    I totally agree, Melissa, that baseball needs to reach out to kids, women, minorities, you name it, instead of preaching to the choir. And yes, sandlot baseball seems to be a thing of the past, which is so sad. When we were young, everybody wanted to grow up to be a baseball player, whether they had the talent or not. Nowadays, that isn’t the case.

    Bravo, Aaron. Well put. It’s the same in the book publishing industry. If you want kids to grow up to be readers, hook them when they’re young with stories they love to read. If you want kids to grow up to follow baseball, hook them by showing them the sport’s greatest event when they’re young. I love your image of wanting to mimic what you saw on TV the day before. We all felt that way.

    Jojovanb, I kind of figured you were having fun with the issue. And I have no clue about the time stamp thing. MLBlogs is full of little bugs. My responses to comments often appear before the comments themselves, making me seem psychic. Sometimes I can’t respond to comments because I’m told the site is too busy. Oh well. Such is life on the blogosphere.

    Jeff, it’s true about the one game versus everyday sport thing, as we’ve said, but how about Melissa’s comment about soccer? Sure there’s more inherent drama in a one game playoff, but baseball could do a better marketing job for the WS. Or maybe not. Maybe they’re perfectly happy with their ratings! As for chopped liver, each to his own. It gives me the creeps.

    Ana, you’re right, but you also lit on something else. We don’t know how many games the WS will go: 4, 5, 6, 7. Maybe that’s part of the suspense and baseball should capitalize on it. Good luck with your blog post! I’ll come check it out.

    It’s a shock that the game falls behind football to such a huge extent, Paul. When I read that the Super Bowl was THE most watched show in television, it took me by surprise, no question.

  13. Jane Heller

    I don’t like pate either, Melissa! It looks like…well, never mind. I guess I don’t have an enlightened palate.

  14. mel.tmottbg@gmail.com

    I’ve always liked liver and it was great when I drove cross country with a friend back in college – a liver dinner at Denny’s cost $3.50! Shows you how old I am!

  15. Jane Heller

    So interesting that you only watch Yankees games, Diane, and not any other baseball. Is it because you identify with the players and the team and don’t really like the sport itself?

    A liver dinner at Denny’s for $3.50, Melissa? I wouldn’t eat it if it was a dollar!

  16. raysrenegade

    Some would say that the World Series doesn’t bring that level of “Do or Die” that most baseball World Series matches have brought to the table.
    Then there is the reality that baseball has to harness that energy to explode after 162 + games, while football only needs 10 percent of that fury and passion to roll over and renew itself.
    But the stark reality is that these two events are like different types of movies:
    Superbowl is the action flick that boasts human carnage on the field, not with death, but with body blows and hits that rival the Roman gladiators fight to the death.
    The World Series is more of the romance movie where the roles are easily defined in the relationship between the two forces before a collision of wills and strengths defines what you see on the field. It ends with a climax of emotions and personal interaction between total strangers as your team comes away, just like the knight, with the sexy princess, and you get to fight another day…..(unless you win the first 4 games).

    Rays Renegade


  17. Jane Heller

    There’s definitely the “Do or Die” aspect to the Super Bowl, Renegade. The WS games will never have that, unless it’s a Game 7 and even then it’s not the same. And I like your analogy about the two genres of movies. Since I’m a sucker for romance, maybe that’s why I prefer baseball.

  18. phillies_phollowers

    Seriously, I think it boils down to our societies lack of commitment and short attention span. Following baseball requires commitment and long term involvment. The WS is 7 possible games. Football has far fewer games to follow and the crescendo is 1 big game, not 6 or 7. Football trumps baseball in that respect; less commitment, less time invested and a faster result. It is the fast food of sports. Baseball is more like a 10 year marriage. Long, drawn out, lots of ups and downs…most people these days won’t invest that kind of time…in anything…let alone a sport. But, we baseball fans are more loyal, dare I say smarter and the really big thinkers. In that respect, we totally win :O)


  19. readbetweenthevines

    Unfortunately, in today’s age there are less and less kids that have the attention spans to watch an entire baseball game because the action is spaced out throughout the game. Maybe showing commercials that remind us of the way baseball was back in the day, more people will want to go back to the game. Also, perhaps there needs to be less break between playoff series’. It seems that in today’s age, the faster the action comes, the better. It’s unfortunate that more people can’t appreciate the beauty of the game, no matter how fast and advertised it is.

  20. mattpeas

    great, thought proving topic Jane. i just wish i had a better response than i simply do not know. i know everyone on here would rather watch a good baseball game than the superbowl, but were a dying breed. Football is now the national pastime. sad but true

  21. Jane Heller

    You could be right about our collective attention span, Jenn. Even one-hour dramas on TV have suffered when compared to half-hour sitcoms. People just don’t want to make the time commitment. So yes, baseball demands staying power. But we are so rewarded by the entertainment it provides. And of course we’re smarter. πŸ™‚

    I think the commission that Bud Selig convened with owners and GMs addressed the shorter breaks between playoff games, readbetweenthevines. They seem to want to change last year’s format and I agree wholeheartedly. But you’re right about people wanting more action and a faster pace. Such a shame, because they’re missing so much by not watching baseball.

  22. Jane Heller

    Matt, it kills me to think of football as the national pastime, but given their ratings it may be true right now. I wish I could go around telling people how great baseball is and convert them!

  23. angelsgirl012

    I was thinking the same!! I came up with the fact that for Football you find out after one game. It’s “THE SUPER BOWL” unlike baseball and basketball where it’s just a series of games. Both sports do have a longer season than Football so if you have a short attention span then….. I have no idea. I do understand your attention can be a bit diverted esp. when you get into the dog days of August but really at least it’s always there when ya need it. A lot of kids at my school aren’t into baseball either. However it being “boring” and “slow” isn’t the game’s fault in my opinion….

    I agree that baseball out of all the other sports out there is our national past time. Whether people like that or not. It truly is. I haven’t really heard an argument on why Football or Basketball is yet so until I hear it then i’m standing by Baseball and what it’s done for us πŸ˜€

    Football and even Basketball are so heavily marketed it’s hard to keep up sometimes. It’s probably easier to market these two sports also.

    As a student I actually appreciate it the fact that the playoff games are on so late. Remember game 3 of the ALCS was a day game? I was still at school and I swear God Bless my math teacher but I was not paying attention in class that day. It was all “how much will i miss?” “I wonder if we’re winning?” “If i run and take the short cut to my locker, rush to get my books and jump in the car all in 3 minutes I can turn on the radio just in time for the 7th inning πŸ˜‰

    What a wonderful blog topic! Very thought provoking! Thank you for that.

    Though I enjoy watching football, baseball always comes first πŸ™‚


  24. Jane Heller

    Thanks for your input, Mimi. I’m sure a lot of kids think baseball is slow and boring. In a way, the pace – and the lack of a time clock – is one of the things I love about it. While a game is on, you can do other things too. It’s more leisurely. But there’s plenty to keep the fan interested too.

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