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Friday, July 29, 2016

Baseballs Dilemma

Recently FC Cincinnati drew over 35,000 fans to an exhibition soccer game against a British Team Crystal Palace.   Even though this was a unique event, the soccer club has been drawing well this season - over 16,000 a game.   Moreover these are young fans - the average attendee is in their mid-thirties.   Also something to note - this is not even major league soccer.   FC Cincinnati is probably the equivalent of an AA baseball team in their sport.   You have to wonder what the numbers would be if this was a major league soccer team.

My generation has always looked down their noses at soccer.   I can recall Pele being signed by the professional soccer league mainly as a PR stunt to get fans interested in their league.   It was partially successful as he did help the Cosmos win a championship, but soccer never really took off in the 1970's.   But soccer did gain inroads as youth leagues were set up and youngsters began to play soccer. So now that these players are adults, they understand the game and can follow it as my generation cannot.

Baseball was the nations pastime for the longest time.   It was the countries only professional sport for decades until football and basketball gained traction.   They have caught up with and pretty much passed up baseball.   There is more action in these two sports compared with the slow pace of baseball. You have to admit that there is a lot of standing around in this sport.   And I think that with our shorter attention spans we gravitate to events with more action.

This is proven out as baseball has the oldest fans of any of the major sports.   The average baseball fan is in their 50's.   The oldest fan demographic in professional sports.   Basketball and Soccer have the youngest fans interest while football is somewhere in between.   So baseball has to be worried.   They are not attracting so many in the youth leagues as they once did.   Once this generation of fans fades away, who will replace them?

The Reds are averaging over 24,000 paid attendance in a lackluster season.   But they have to be looking over their shoulder at this young upstart team that already is drawing about 2/3 of the fans that they are as a 1st year club in a mid tier league.   There are only so many sports dollars to go around and it looks like the younger generation is spending their money on soccer.   Once this current generation of baseball fans is gone there is a problem where fewer people will be around to spend money on baseball if they don't do something to get more young people interested in the game. 

The game needs to be sped up and have more action to appeal to a younger fan base.  There needs to be a limit on the number of foul balls and time outs are two quick changes that would speed things up a little.  I am sure that there are other means of speeding up games too. Traditionalists would not like toying with the sport, but it needs tinkering or risk gradually going into oblivion.