As many of you know, I absolutely despise baseball. I love the sport. Love playing it. Catching a high school game or a pitching duel at Victory Field is often kind of cool.
But Major League Baseball? Utter garbage.
I'd rather watch two somewhat mediocre NFL teams that didn't make the playoffs last year fumble and bumble around each other on the gridiron than any kind of meaningful MLB game. And guess what? Most of America agrees with my tastes.
Last night, a boring Monday Night Football contest between two back-up quarterbacks in the city of Jacksonville drew a better TV rating (7.2 percent) than the American League Championship Series (ALCS) playoff game between the New York Yankees and the Texas Rangers. That game drew a terrible 6.5.
To give you a bit pf perspective, Sunday Night Football on NBC has consistently been one of the top rated TV programs this Fall season. The Colts v. Redskins game, a contest between two non-division and non-conference opponents, drew 14.3 million viewers and a 8.8 rating-14 share in households.
Heck, this past Sunday afternoon, CBS hooked 11.9 million viewers and a 7.2 rating this past Sunday. FOX had 9.8 million viewers, 6.1 rating. Sunday afternoon football destroying primetime playoff baseball in the ratings? What?
What this tells the suits in the boardrooms is that people do not give two craps about the MLB. TV ratings are king in all professional sports. TV contracts pay for everything. When advertisers see that people are more interested in regular season football games between teams barely at or above .500 over baseball's playoffs, it signals that football is king, and baseball is next to irrelevant.
I know we have some MLB fans out there, and this isn't intended to trounce on you. I'm just conveying to you, in blunt terms, what everyone else is thinking today. The ALCS is baseball's equivalent to the AFC Championship Game. Imagine if a day game between the Oakland As and the Houston Astros drew a better rating than Colts v. Patriots. That's pretty devastating.
Deadspin weighs in on this:
[America] could have watched an exciting, important game, a tense changing of the guard of the best playoff pitchers ever. Or you could have watched Kerry Collins and Trent Edwards trade handoffs in a meaningless AFC South contest. Guess which you chose.
How could this happen? No one disputes that football is by far the more popular sport in this country, but I had always assumed that was a generality. Of course I'm going to watch last week's Vikings/Jets game, because it's one of 16 and means so much for both teams (setting aside the subplots). And of course I'm going to skip over a random Padres/Reds ESPN Game of The Week, because it's just one of 162, so who really cares.
Last night's ratings still baffle me. The criticism of baseball is that it's not a national sport, that only fans of the teams care. But this is the playoffs! You're telling me the fine folks of, say, Sioux City, Iowa, care more about Jaguars/Titans than the ALCS? And the New York and DFW viewers alone should have been enough to blow the small markets of Jacksonville and Nashville out of the water.
My two cents?
Yes, people in Sioux City, Fort Wayne, Tulsa, Dayton, Kansas City, Springfield, and many many other non-East or West coast towns and communities care a helluva lot more about football than baseball. The reason is parity. In the NFL, a team from Green Bay can make the playoffs. An 8-8 team one year ('08 Saints) and win the Super Bowl the next ('09 Saints). A team in Indianapolis can draft and keep the best player in the game. This is unlike baseball, which will likely see Texas Rangers' ace Cliff Lee sign this off-season with the team he utterly dominated last night (the Yankees).
Also, look at the teams in the championship games this year for the MLB: New York (big market), Dallas (big market), Philadelphia (big market), and San Francisco (big market).
Compare this with the teams in the NFL's championship games last year: New York (big market), Indianapolis (small market), New Orleans (small market), and Minneapolis-St. Paul (small market).
Ratings are often dominated by what people in the interior of the country watch. This is why TV execs always ask 'Will it play in Peoria.' Right now, people in 'Peoria' don't give two craps about baseball. Considering that baseball's home run hero Barry Bonds is soon to go to trial for perjury while supposed 'greats' like Roger Clemens, Raphael Palmero, Mark McGuire, and current Yankees slugger Alex Rodrigez are all blatant, lying cheaters... why would anyone in Peroria care to watch the MLB? If they wanted to watch a bunch of cheaters, they'll tune into Jersey Shore.
Oh wait, they already do.
Again, to apply these types of players to the world of NFL football, it would be like finding out Dan Marino, Peyton Manning, Emmitt Smith, and Tom Brady were all using steroids and PEDs during their record-breaking careers, got caught, and then lied about it to the Federal government. Would you follow NFL football after news like that broke? I know I probably wouldn't.
Now, cynics say the Fantasy Football is the reason the NFL dominates ratings. My argument against that is the NFL's playoffs often KILL in the ratings, when most football fantasy leagues are decided and done. Again, we're talking about the ALCS here. The baseball playoffs! The reason people aren't tuning into it isn't because they prefer to watch Chris Johnson score a meaningless TD that only affects their fantasy numbers.
They aren't tuning in because people in 'Peoria' don't care about friggin baseball because friggin baseball doesn't care about them.
Again, if you are a baseball fan, this isn't meant to bash you or the actual game. I'm just saying that the NFL does a much better job tailoring its game to 'middle America' than baseball does. Look no further than the NFL's recent announcements about helmet-to-helmet hits. Football changes their game to fit with the times while baseball stands pat, holding on to their tired, seemingly meaningless traditions.
This is why baseball, from a ratings standpoint, is pretty much irrelevant. And in the world of professional sports, ratings are everything.