Originally posted on The Sports Rocker  |  Last updated 10/28/11
Last night, I watched a little TV: It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown; It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia (two episodes), the season premiere of Beavis and Butthead, Good Vibes, some Family Guy and part of the Miami-Virginia college football game.

I don't consider that an exceptional amount of television, about the usual. But it was either that or one (1) game of baseball: the World Series, Game 6.



No, this isn't going to be one of those standard no-one-watches-baseball-anymore stories (to which the Boston Herald's Sam Mellinger responded astutely: "Shut up".) Admittedly, Game 5 a few days ago was the lowest game 5 ever. And ratings this year are only marginally above last year's ratings: the worst ever.  But the truth is, TV ratings don't really mean anything anymore, or at least they don't mean anything relative to 10 or 20 years ago. Online sites like Hulu don't count, on-demand doesn't count, I think even DVRed shows don't count one week after air time.

The problem isn't poor ratings calculation or small market teams. The problem is we seem to have evolved into media consumers who desire as many shows/songs/websites as possible in a day which means spending less time on each individually. Our time in a day is limited, so we ration it out as economically as possible.

This year's numbers are no surprise to Commissioner Bud Selig, who has talked at length about the poor ratings. And while he defends the game ("it's not hurting ad sales"), even he realizes ratings tend to increase the longer the series goes. Or as Fox Sports Media Group vice chairman Ed Goren put it: "The more games you get, the better you'll be." For example, in 2002 when Anaheim took the Barry Bonds-Giants to a final game, 30 million viewers turned in (versus 19 million for Game 6). This year, games are averaging around 10 to 14 million: a Game 7 would be a boon to MLB.

Obviously Selig wants to improve fan interest, especially for those games and series not involving Boston or New York. His proposal: add two more wild-card teams who would qualify to play into the Division Series. So, even more games, even longer season. Clearly he doesn't get it.

Baseball viewership lags that of the NFL and college football and it has nothing to do with how many teams make the playoffs. It has everything to do with attention span. As a football fan, I have to watch one of my team's 12 or 16 regular season games: any of them could determine the season. And playoffs? They'll play four games, top. And the final deciding series? One game: the Superbowl or the National Championship Game. I have to watch every single post-season football game because there are so few of them. I can't say Eh, it's only Game 2, I'll watch Houston-Rice instead.


Selig's "solution", to add more teams, only delays me needing to watch. It will be two more teams who will likely be a non-factor in the World Series. And when the series is best-of-seven (like the World Series), I know I can wait two or three games before getting involved. With football, miss three games and the playoffs are over.


Baseball has had some really compelling moments this season. The final night of the season. The Boston choke, Atlanta's collapse, Tampa and St. Louis streaking. And the Rangers and Cardinals have (except for one game) given us a compelling series. But there are too many games, Bud, too many teams. A little advice: make it impossible for us to miss a game. Shorten the season. Cut out the wildcards. Shorten the series. Something. Otherwise, fans that fill the stands all year long will find other things to watch come October evenings.
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