by Alex Langer
At the time of publication, we are almost a month into the MLB season. Trends and statistics are beginning to stabilize, and the pennant races are shaking themselves out. Right about now is a good time to look at the state of the sport. The question must be asked: how is baseball doing? It will be fine, once the MLB focuses on its culture clashes and not on the length of the games.
Consternation about the state of baseball never ends. Baseball may be America’s pastime, but it never seems to be America’s passion. Some other sport seems to be perpetually overtaking baseball, a state of affairs which has been true for most of the twentieth century. And yet, baseball remains one of the top American sports. Still, baseball appears to be at several crossroads. Young people are less invested in baseball, at least according to doomsday predictions. In fact, even though attendance dropped by 1% last season, it still stood as the 11th-most attended season in MLB history. Critics point to two factors for this alleged crisis: slow pace of play, and lack of dramatic moments, especially compared to sports like basketball.
Baseball is long, and nothing happens; that seems to be the biggest criticism of the sport lately. It is true that baseball games are getting longer. The average game last season lasted just under three hours. The in-game action is decreasing as well: hits are down, while strikeouts and home runs are up. To solve these issues, MLB has instituted a countdown clock giving pitchers only twenty seconds in between pitches, and a minute and a half between innings. This has shortened game times by about eight minutes. And yet, I’m left wondering why there is so much focus on baseball’s length. The average college basketball game lasts two and a half hours, with TV timeouts every ten minutes that last far longer than the warm-up period between innings. The average NFL game is even longer than an MLB game, with interminable TV timeouts after every important moment, and an NFL game has an average of twelve minutes of action. Is baseball boring because it lasts an extra eight minutes? I think not.
by Chris Foss
In 2010, as NFL players and ownership geared up for what would become the most acrimonious collective bargaining agreement (CBA) dispute in decades, one of my graduate school friends called football a “golden goose” owners had to be careful not to harm. Since then, however, it seems all the NFL can do is blunder, and after years of rising attendance and viewership, declining TV ratings in 2016 may have finally started to make the suits a bit nervous. This week, I outline the ways in which the golden goose is tarnishing, discuss the reasons behind the NFL’s struggles, and suggest some common-sense solutions for the league’s problems.
The NFL dodged a bullet when it emerged from a spring/summer lockout in 2011 having only lost part of training camp and the Hall of Fame preseason game. After that, league attendance continued to be strong, and TV ratings rose. The on-the-field product continued to be good, particularly during the playoffs, culminating in New England’s come-from-behind overtime win in the Super Bowl in February. Even in the worst-played Super Bowl in the era (Carolina vs. Denver in 2015), Peyton Manning at least walked off into the sunset with a ring. The league’s financial health has also been strong, as TV contracts and salaries continue to rise in value
by Keith Aksel
Major League Soccer (MLS) always had a hold on me. As a Columbus Crew fan, I was present at one of the first-ever MLS matches in 1996 (Columbus 4-D.C. 0), and the opening of Crew Stadium, the first soccer-specific professional stadium in the U.S. I still follow the Crew and enjoy heading to various MLS venues around the country.
Beyond my personal connection with soccer in the United States, America’s general relationship with the world’s game has been hot-and-cold; as the cycle goes, an American men’s national team appearance in the World Cup usually gives rise to a bunch of cookie-cutter sports articles asking, “Is this the year soccer will finally gain a foothold in the U.S.?” only to find soccer relegated to the back pages of national newspapers two years later.
In truth, soccer has been gaining a small but stable foothold in the U.S. for the past 20 years through the endurance of MLS. Since the 1996 inaugural season, MLS expanded and contracted, but today boasts 22 teams, up from the initial 10-city footprint that first year. Last year’s MLS Cup Final between Seattle and Toronto was the most-watched in league history. MLS has clearly proven its staying power, even in a landscape filled to the brim with sports and entertainment options.
by Alex Langer
The 2017 Major League Baseball season officially opened on Sunday, April 2. Today (April 4), most MLB teams will be playing their second game of the season. In 162 days, give or take off-days and rain delays, ten teams will make the playoffs. In 163 days, eight teams will face off in playoff series to determine who will follow up one of the two most historic World Series victories in history with a championship of their own. Many of you reading this rightly have hope for this season. The top tier of teams in most divisions is clear, but the addition of the Wild Card in 1995 and the second Wild Card in 2012 means that twenty or more teams, in my estimation, have a solid chance at making the postseason.
This is the Tattered Pennant’s baseball un-preview. In this article I will give you a few pointers for what to look for when you ask the question “is my team actually good, or is this a mirage?” What I will not be doing is making any concrete predictions for the season. Any attempts I’d make will inevitably look foolishly optimistic, especially when I pick Mariners to win all the awards.