The Real Reason Baseball is Dying

How many advertisements can you identify in this scoreboard image? Photo Courtesy: Jim Ellwanger

By Wiley Singleton

As baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred contemplates different gimmicks to solve the declining ratings of baseball, one must ask themselves how America’s Pastime suddenly has a problem after years of success. Manfred has posed many ideas for solving the declining viewership of baseball. A 20 second pitch clock, a three batter minimum per pitcher, and changing the strike zone are some of the changes Manfred has considered.

Baseball fans are constantly battered with panels of journalists and television commentators discussing these changes. Many are in favor of some of these changes, others are not. The one thing that is never brought up is the actual problem. It is an issue that overpaid television hacks and mainstream media sycophants will never bring up because it affects their bottom line. The real reason baseball is dying is because of excessive advertising.

In recent years, television higher-ups and team owners have had only one thing in mind: how to make the most money. The one thing they should have been thinking about was how to produce the best product. If they had focused on the latter rather than the former, the money issue would have worked itself out. But instead of thinking about how to make the viewing experience ideal, the were short-sighted and only thought about what would line their pockets in the short-term.

Baseball has been relentlessly assaulted with advertisements. Every orifice of baseball has had ads ruthlessly shoved inside of it without any regard for how it would affect the viewing experience. Ads are shown mid-inning, with the game being shrunk down to a measly sideshow. Ads cover every inch of the outfield, not a single panel of outfield wall untainted. The broadcasters are forced to read one corny promotion after another. They are also forced to call certain elements of the game in a way that is a reference to a sponsor or advertisement. Company names are connected to certain innings or events. Pitchers are forced to kill a certain amount of time in-between innings, so the audience can have one commercial after another shoved down their throat. Even the names of the ballparks have advertisements in them. The game has always had advertisements, but the grotesque avarice of team owners and television higher-ups have taken advertising to absurd extremes. The insidious onslaught of ads the average fan is expected to endure is the reason people are not watching baseball.

The average fan will go to a game and arrive to a ballpark named after the highest bidder instead of the city or team. They enter the park and endure an ocular assault of ads and overpriced garbage. Once they reach their seat, even the horizontally scrolling scoreboard displays constant ads. All the walls are caked in advertisements. As if paying over four times what is reasonable for concessions is not enough, baseball fans are not allowed to enjoy their $15+ dollar & hot dog combo. They are bombarded with ads from every angle.

The television watching experience is even worse.

Fans are expected to put up with garbage like this… The players are actually covered by ads (click here for actual proof). Although the execution of this ad was botched, this is the level of avarice owners and television higher-ups are willing to go to. Every single aspect of the game has been ruthlessly mortgaged off to try to squeeze every penny of profit out of the game without any regard for what produces the best viewing experience.

Nothing is sacred for the owners or television higher-ups. Every single aspect of the game is for sale, an open canvas to desecrate with ads and consumerism. Baseball has never seen such a brasin disregard for the viewing experience. This is the difference between an Utz ad on an outfield wall and the repulsive infomercial masquerading as a baseball game that we know today.

If baseball wants to grow and compete with the NBA and NFL, team owners and television-higher ups must understand that advertising has diminishing returns when it degrades the quality of the viewing experience.