The Gray Lady today reports a grim set of numbers and asks the philosophical question: If a World Series falls in
On Tuesday night, the first game of the 2014 World Series drew just 12.2 million viewers to Fox, making it the lowest-rated Game 1 on record. Game 2 on Wednesday night fared somewhat better, with 12.9 million people tuning in...
[T]his week, more people watched “NCIS: New Orleans” and “The Big Bang Theory,” and — for that matter — “The Walking Dead,” the cable show about zombies. The audience for “Sunday Night Football,” a regular season game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Denver Broncos, was almost twice that of Games 1 or 2. Even last Saturday night’s college football matchup — Florida State University versus Notre Dame — drew more viewers than either World Series game.
Ouch. What gives? The first five minutes of every Bud Selig six-minute interview - (like most Yankee starters, the great Bud Selig never goes seven) - involve the great Bud Selig telling how baseball is greater than ever, thanks to the great Bud Selig! (Of course, the game IS more successful - for its billionaire owners, who now can poor-mouth with impunity, while the Gammonites wail about overpaid players.)
But wait... is something wrong in Bud Selig's great dream land? This is Bud Selig's fantasy series - Micro-Market vs. Nano-Market - and it's getting clobbered in the ratings to - huh? - NCIS: New Orleans? (Until today, I didn't know there is a show called NCIS: New Orleans.) Thank God the Royals won Game II. A four-game Giants sweep could have plunged baseball down below Antiques Road Show and the Yankee Classic on YES.
Listen: It's time for us to move on about what Bud Selig did to destroy the Yankees. It's time to recognize the work of Hal Steinbrenner and his country club cronyism. Also, it is time for baseball to realize its rightful place in not only the cosmos - but in this nation's heart.
That place is a World Series being played on crisp fall afternoons, under blankets of sunshine, preempting game shows and soap operas. That place is an America where schools once set up rooms for kids to watch the game, where workers listened on the radio, and where World Series pools - remember them? - absorbed every office. Somehow, long ago - even before Bud Selig - baseball sold its soul to Brent Musberger and the harpies of prime time graphics.
It's time to get it back.
The marketers complain that the fan base of Major League Baseball is old and doddering and - what was I saying again? - oh yes, someone mentioned Antiques Road Show! Well, here's a thought. Maybe - just maybe - that's not such a horrible thing. Could it be that Fox Sports, ESPN and Bud Selig - in their maddened push to capitalize every blade of grass in an American tradition - sold off what was beautiful about the game?
Baseball was never meant to be glitzy graphics, exploding theme songs and sideline nipples. It cannot be saved by third-inning dugout interviews with the pitching coach. (These absolutely dreadful interviews should be accompanied by a scroll that says: TIME TO GO TO THE BATHROOM.) For a generation now, we've watched World Series ratings steadily wither, while the lords of the game wring their hands and try to look for something new to sell.
The trend is not going to reverse itself. Sure, someday the Yankees will play the Dodgers, and ratings will see a temporary bump, because everybody loves or hates NY and LA... but it's not the solution, and it never was.
The World Series belongs in the afternoons, being watched by obsessive fans, even if they're in diapers. Cater to the people who care - the grandparent and the great uncles - and their infatuation will become contagious. Play it at night, and they go to bed in the sixth inning. People yearn for an America where traditions are kept, not sold. And on that criteria, Bud Selig sucked.