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When did baseball become the 2nd most popular sport?

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  • When did baseball become the 2nd most popular sport?

    In the days of Cobb, Hornsby, Ruth, and Gehrig, baseball was king, second to none, the most popular sport in America by a massive margin.

    When did that change?

    Today football dominates, and basketball is closing in on baseball (if it hasn't done so already).

    Is there a certain point in history where you could point to and say "This was when baseball fell from the top"?

  • #2
    For the most part it is all PR. Baseball is the most attended sport in the country. No other sport has as many professionals teams and no other sport comes even close to the amount of professional teams that baseball has. Baseball and football receive roughly the same amount of revenue and it is quite possible that baseball receives more once you factor in baseball teams owning television stations. The only thing baseball loses on in terms of popularity is the single game but that has more to do with the format of the sports than anything else.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Ubiquitous View Post
      For the most part it is all PR. Baseball is the most attended sport in the country. No other sport has as many professionals teams and no other sport comes even close to the amount of professional teams that baseball has. Baseball and football receive roughly the same amount of revenue and it is quite possible that baseball receives more once you factor in baseball teams owning television stations. The only thing baseball loses on in terms of popularity is the single game but that has more to do with the format of the sports than anything else.
      Many would say that when the Dodgers and Giants moved west, it made major league baseball truly national, which was incredibly important, but it also eliminated a lot of the interest in New York City, which, then as now, is a major cultural arbiter. NL fans didn't switch to the Yankees, and the print media, having to cover something, began paying more attention to football, just as the NFL had that great championship game. It wasn't immediate and it's possible to overstate that, but it was part of the problem.

      Another factor is the growth of television. Baseball is not a TV sport the way football and basketball are, and the accompanying decline in attention spans had an impact: our season is longer (although NOTHING is longer than the NBA season, unless it's the NHL) and the games have less violence.

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      • #4
        Right around Superbowl 3.

        I think TV also helps football a lot more than baseball. TV broadcasts of baseball leave a lot to be desired with all the downtime. TV broadcasts for football are often better than actually attending the game.

        Another thing with me at least is I can watch any football game. Give me the worst two teams in the league and I'll find it interesting. Baseball I struggle watching games that don't involve my team (the Sox), the Yankees, or some really great pitching matchup. I couldn't make it through 1 inning of Padres / Astros.
        Last edited by Seels; 08-01-2012, 11:03 AM.

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        • #5
          I became a baseball fan in 1972. Football was already more popular than baseball then.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Michael Green View Post
            Many would say that when the Dodgers and Giants moved west, it made major league baseball truly national, which was incredibly important, but it also eliminated a lot of the interest in New York City, which, then as now, is a major cultural arbiter. NL fans didn't switch to the Yankees, and the print media, having to cover something, began paying more attention to football, just as the NFL had that great championship game. It wasn't immediate and it's possible to overstate that, but it was part of the problem.

            Another factor is the growth of television. Baseball is not a TV sport the way football and basketball are, and the accompanying decline in attention spans had an impact: our season is longer (although NOTHING is longer than the NBA season, unless it's the NHL) and the games have less violence.
            Right now in NYC, baseball is actually the most popular sport - even bigger than football. Almost everywhere else, it's the opposite.

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            • #7
              Are there any numbers to support this claim? I think football's popularity is just an illusion, because there are so few games, thus every game seems like a big deal.

              Frankly, I could never get into football just due to this reason. You have to wait a whole week to see the next game, and by that time you don't care anymore. And a 16 game season hardly proves anything...not enough sample size.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by willshad View Post
                Are there any numbers to support this claim? I think football's popularity is just an illusion, because there are so few games, thus every game seems like a big deal.

                Frankly, I could never get into football just due to this reason. You have to wait a whole week to see the next game, and by that time you don't care anymore. And a 16 game season hardly proves anything...not enough sample size.
                Support what claim? That football is more popular than baseball?

                Last season, a regular season NFL game outdrew a MLB post-season game. You can argue about which sport is better, but it's a known fact that football is more popular.

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                • #9
                  That isn't a known fact. What you have presented is TV ratings by third party company which at best argues that more people watch one football game on TV than they watch one baseball game on TV. There is more to popularity than just Nielsen ratings.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Ubiquitous View Post
                    That isn't a known fact. What you have presented is TV ratings by third party company which at best argues that more people watch one football game on TV than they watch one baseball game on TV. There is more to popularity than just Nielsen ratings.
                    You actually doubt that football is more popular than baseball?

                    http://www.sportsbusinessdaily.com/D...ris-Poll.aspx/

                    Poll Shows Popularity Of Pro Football Continues Growing While Baseball Slides
                    Published January 26, 2012

                    Pro and college football’s popularity continues to grow in the U.S., while the popularity of baseball and men’s tennis continues to decline, according to results from Harris Poll’s most recent survey of America’s favorite sports. Over one-third of U.S. adults (36%) who say they follow at least one sport say pro football is their favorite, while just 13% say baseball is their favorite. The gap between the two sports has widened. Last year, 31% chose pro football compared to 17% for baseball. Since the Harris Interactive first conducted this poll in ’85, pro football has gone up 12 percentage points, while during that same time baseball has gone down 10 points. College football, auto racing and hockey have all gone up three points, while men’s tennis has gone down three points.


                    http://outkickthecoverage.com/colleg...ular-sport.php

                    COLLEGE FOOTBALL CATCHES BASEBALL AS NATION'S SECOND MOST POPULAR SPORT

                    Published on: January 27, 2012
                    The Harris Interactive Poll does a yearly poll of sports fans to determine what America's favorite sport is. On a year-to-year basis the results can vary -- as all polls can -- but there's some pretty fascinating data when you take a look at the numbers running all the way back to 1985. In particular, the inexorable rise of football becomes readily apparent. Indeed, in 1985 the NFL and major league baseball were at a virtual dead heat as the nation's favorite sport. But since that time the NFL has crushed baseball, from an even favorability rating to a nearly three to one advantage.

                    But more interestingly, college football has now caught baseball as well.

                    When you look at the data, baseball fans, as an aggregate, are much older than football fans. (The most popular demographic for baseball is men 50-64.) So the slow decline of baseball will continue. Meanwhile college football is a comparatively young man's interest.


                    http://www.harrisinteractive.com/New...0/Default.aspx

                    Football is America's Favorite Sport as Lead Over Baseball Continues to Grow
                    College Football and Auto Racing Come next

                    NEW YORK, N.Y. - January 25, 2012


                    "If you had to choose, which ONE of these sports would you say is your favorite?"

                    2011 % (Change from 2010)
                    Football 36% (+5)
                    Baseball 13% (-4)
                    College Football - 13% (+1)

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                    • #11
                      Nobody has to choose just one sport. Most people who follow one sport will also follow another sport.

                      Baseball's attendance has been steadily increasing for years. Football's attendance has been declining since I believe 2007. Baseball has something like 300 professional teams spread out all over this country from little towns to major metropolises. Local TV ratings for baseball keep going up and media companies keep throwing more and more money at baseball to get the rights to televise their games. Baseball is and has been extremely popular in this country. Baseball's presence on the internet is huge and what they offer blows away any other major sports offerings.

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                      • #12
                        While it is true that football began to become more popular in the 1960s and early 1970s once the games were on both Sunday and Monday nights, baseball regained in popularity in the later 1970s. Since 1994, the ultimate culprit has been ESPN. IMO, ESPN doesn't understand baseball well at all.

                        A case could be made that 1981 was the year that the tide turned against baseball for good. While MLB allowed 1/3 of its season to disappear with a strike, football continued to gain in appeal. Plenty of hardcore baseball fans remained in support of their favorite sport, and baseball did well in the 1980s, but then shot itself in the foot again in 1994. Baseball regains its health after its strikes by marketing its tradition and winning over sentimental baby boomers. But this return in growth only keeps pace with football and not much more.

                        Football hasn't had labor strife get in the way of its growth, and ESPN is far more supportive of football than baseball.
                        Catfish Hunter, RIP. Mark Fidrych, RIP. Skip Caray, RIP. Tony Gwynn, #19, RIP

                        A fanatic is someone who can't change his mind and won't change the subject. -- Winston Churchill. (Please take note that I've recently become aware of how this quote applies to a certain US president. This is a coincidence, and the quote was first added to this signature too far back to remember when).

                        Experience is the hardest teacher. She gives the test first and the lesson later. -- Dan Quisenberry.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by abolishthedh View Post
                          While it is true that football began to become more popular in the 1960s and early 1970s once the games were on both Sunday and Monday nights, baseball regained in popularity in the later 1970s. Since 1994, the ultimate culprit has been ESPN. IMO, ESPN doesn't understand baseball well at all.

                          A case could be made that 1981 was the year that the tide turned against baseball for good. While MLB allowed 1/3 of its season to disappear with a strike, football continued to gain in appeal. Plenty of hardcore baseball fans remained in support of their favorite sport, and baseball did well in the 1980s, but then shot itself in the foot again in 1994. Baseball regains its health after its strikes by marketing its tradition and winning over sentimental baby boomers. But this return in growth only keeps pace with football and not much more.

                          Football hasn't had labor strife get in the way of its growth, and ESPN is far more supportive of football than baseball.
                          The NFL had strikes in 1982 and 1987. Those strikes didn't seem to hurt the NFL.
                          Strikeouts are boring! Besides that, they're fascist. Throw some ground balls - it's more democratic.-Crash Davis

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                          • #14
                            I believe that the decline of televised baseball began on May 10th 1955. The date of the birth of Chris Beeman.
                            Baseball. The official sport of god.

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                            • #15
                              Easy question, 1994. Also the NBA is still a distant third

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