Is Baseball Still America’s Pastime?

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Photo by David McKee

Baseball has long been considered “America’s pastime,” but with the rise of other established sports leagues like the NFL and NBA, has the MLB maintained popularity? Spring Training must compete with March Madness and the World Series opposes the Super Bowl for the largest sporting even in the United States.  In Ohio, the numbers suggest baseball is still king.

The Cincinnati Reds have seen significant fluctuation in baseball attendance over the past sixteen seasons.  In 2016, the Reds reported 1,894,085 fans in attendance ranking them number 25 out of 30 teams in the league. Attendance was down 21 percent from the 2015 season.  In 2003 the Reds recorded their highest attendance, 2,355,259, which won them the rank of 13/30.  Their lowest attendance in the past sixteen years was in 2009 with only 1,747,919 fans, ranking them 27th in the league.

Comparatively, the Cleveland Cavaliers have had irregular attendance as well.  From 2006 to 2011 they remained in the top 5 for NBA teams’ attendance.  In 2012 they saw low of 525,577 in attendance, and the in 2013 they were ranked three spots lower in the NBA, but still saw an increase to 663,882.  Overall, the NBA has shown a gradual increase in attendance in the past sixteen years.

The NFL has a much more stable fan base.  While the Cincinnati Bengals attendance has yet to break 1 million.  They have seen much less fluctuation over the past ten years, consistently bringing in about 500,000 fans from 2006 to 2016.

Attendance is obviously affected by numerous factors such as weather and team performance.  Other indicators of a team’s popularity are the amount of money put into them.  The Cincinnati Reds are listed ad Forbes No. 21 MLB team with a net worth of $905 million, $237 million or 26 percent of which is strictly revenue from ticket and merchandise.  The Cincinnati Bengals are Forbes No. 30 NFL team with a net worth of $1,675 million, $329 million or 19 percent of which is ticket and merchandise revenue.  The Cleveland Cavaliers are No. 11 on Forbes NBA team worth $1,200 million, $233 million or 19 percent of which is ticket and sales revenue. Overall, football and basketball teams may be worth more than baseball, but their fans aren’t showing as much support for them.

St. Bonaventure hasn’t had a football team since the 1950s, but Division I basketball and baseball are both highly competitive.  The university prides itself on having the smallest basketball budget in the A-10, but routinely packs the 5,480-seat Reilly center. The baseball team gets less national recognition, but they still have a dedicated fan base.

“Attendance varies on weather, opponent, and whether it is a weekday game vs. a weekend series. If I had to give a range I would have to say lowest 25 with weekday game and bad weather, 125 with good weather on a weekend. Average is probably around 50. A lot of people stop by and leave because you do not have to buy tickets. Usually the hill has people completely across it,” said Sam Fuller, a sophomore outfielder.

Fuller also believes that baseball is still America’s pastime and “always will be.” “Recently there have been worries that its popularity is decreasing due to length of the game, but it is being combatted by rule changes. However, I think it’s still Americas pastime because people love to go to a Major League game and take in the atmosphere and get a hot dog,” said Fuller.

So don’t fret baseball fans, for now you’re still America’s #1.

M.K. Killen


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