Essay on Baseball in the USA
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Free Essay on Baseball: America’s Pastime?
I recently watched the World Series on television and I was surprised by the fact that I didn’t think it was as exciting as I usually think it is. I wondered if other people felt the same way about the Series and if baseball should still be considered “America’s Pastime.” I am going to look at baseball and compare it to the other major sports in the U.S., mainly football and basketball, to decide whether or not baseball is still the most enticing sport in America. Baseball is my favorite sport and I think my search will prove that baseball should still be considered “America’s Pastime.”
Baseball seems like it’s not as successful as it used to be. This year the television ratings for the World Series were the lowest ever, down 24% from last years, which were the lowest up until then (Des Moines Register, 2002). I know that baseball attendance has been on the slide the past few years since the great home run chase in the summer of 1998 and I know that the NFL’s average attendance has been going up the past few years. I also know that it’s not very fair to compare NFL attendance to MLB attendance because baseball is played every day and football is played once a week, but there is also the problem of contraction in Major League Baseball and the NFL doesn’t have that problem. I’m not going to argue that football should be considered “America’s Pastime” because if you look at amateur participation, baseball compares very favorably to football. I don’t know if the constant changes in the diversity of America will affect the nation’s tastes in athletics. Soccer will become more and more popular as more people move here from Europe and Central America, and baseball is also very popular with people from Central and South America.
The first thing I looked for to decide which sports are most popular was the average attendances at professional sporting events. It might not be fair to compare all these sports because they all play at different times of the year and they all play a different number of home games, but it looked like baseball attracted a lot of fans considering the frequency of their games. The average attendance for baseball games in 2001 was 28,501 people and that’s over an 81-game home schedule (http://www.savefenwaypark.com/baade/fastfade.html). Now the average NFL attendance over an 8-game home schedule was 63,816 people in 1999 (Athens Daily News, 1999). You can say that the NFL doubled MLB in attendance, but baseball played ten times as many home games as the NFL did. If you think about it, those numbers are amazing. You also have to think about if the NFL played 81 times at home every year, would they draw 28,000 people to each game? It’s hard to compare the two sports and their attendances, but I think baseball compares favorably to football in that aspect.
There are a lot more professional minor leagues in baseball than there are in any other sport. There are a total of 20 professional baseball leagues (www.minorleaguebaseball.com) and minor league baseball has had record attendance numbers the last few years. Des Moines has its own minor league baseball team, the Iowa Cubs, who is affiliated with the Chicago Cubs. Des Moines used to have its own professional football team, the Arena Football League Iowa Barnstormers and its own professional basketball team, the International Basketball Association Des Moines Dragons. Both of these teams could not survive in Des Moines, but the Iowa Cubs do year in and year out. There could be something behind that though. Jeff Lance, Director of Media Relations for the Iowa Cubs, says that, “The Chicago Cubs pay our salaries. The Barnstormers and the Dragons had to pay their players their salaries. That’s why we can charge five dollars a game and they had to charge thirty.” So as you can see, the Iowa Cubs don’t have to worry about paying salaries and that probably helps revenue and the cheap tickets help raise attendance.
Major League Baseball is the only major sport threatening contraction and the issue came up because of attendance problems in some cities. The most problematic city is Montreal, Quebec, Canada, home of the Montreal Expos. “The (Iowa Cubs) out-drew the Expos five times this season when they played on the same night. That shouldn’t happen.” Says Jeff. But, baseball is considered “AMERICA’S Pastime” and not Canada’s. I wish I could say though that baseball’s attendance problems occurred only in Canada. There is also the idea that they could contract the Tampa Bay Devil Rays or the Minnesota Twins, both American teams. Don’t think it’s just baseball, there is an NFL team with some attendance problems too. The Arizona Cardinals have not yet drawn 50,000 people to a game this season (www.espn.go.com) and that’s by far the lowest attendance in the league.
I learned some strange things while researching this report. I learned that minor league baseball attendance has steadily gone up the past few years while Major League Baseball’s attendance has gone down. The NFL’s attendance numbers have gone up, but there is no successful second professional league that can even compare. I thought it was interesting that baseball players have gone on strike more than any other sport’s athletes and that there are such drastic payroll discrepancies between baseball teams. What I couldn’t find though was some real fact or evidence that baseball is not “America’s Pastime” anymore. There was nothing that showed me that baseball is not still the most enticing sport in America.
Baseball is still “America’s Pastime.” Even if the majors have problems keeping their numbers up, the minors keep growing. Football is one of the biggest sports in the United States, but there is not the same passion for football as there is for baseball. Any sport that fills stadiums every day during the summer deserves to be tagged “America’s Pastime.”