Every fall, Major League Baseball takes a seat on the bench, as the National Football League shakes off the rust and takes the field. According to a survey by the Harris Poll, the NFL is the most popular professional sport in America for the 30th straight year, with 35 percent of fans choosing the NFL as their favorite and 14 percent of fans choosing MLB. Every fall, the heat of the MLB playoff race is doused like Matt Damon during the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.
Let me preface the rest of this column with a disclaimer. I am a huge baseball fan, and admit that I may have a bias towards Major League Baseball. That being said, we are talking about ‘America’s Pastime’ here. As Chevrolet once said it, “Baseball, apple pie, and Chevrolet…”
This MLB season has been incredible. We have Mike Trout and Clayton Kershaw being compared to the Mick and Sandy Koufax, a scintillating race for the American League Wild Card spots, and the emergence of a dominant American League West Division for the first time since the early 2000s. For those who have followed the season closely, these next two weeks are going to be like a roller coaster at Six Flags, as each contending team looks to make a climactic late September push toward the playoffs. But what dominates the headlines this time of year? The NFL’s regular season start.
This isn’t meant to be a sob story for Major League Baseball, and I will include that undoubtedly, the NFL is a larger market in the U.S. than the MLB. As of 2014, the average team value in the MLB was a paltry $811 million compared to the booming $1.43 billion average in the NFL. All I am saying is that baseball is a great American sport, and that the overlap between the end of the MLB season and the beginning of the NFL season very well may damage the power of the MLB.
To support my claim, I asked 25 students at Whitworth two simple yes or no questions: Do you know what month the Major League Baseball playoffs start? Do you know what month the NFL regular season starts? 68 percent of the students knew which month the NFL regular starts, while only 40 percent of the students knew when the MLB playoffs start. This is by no means conclusive evidence, but does suggest that there could be a connection there.
Baseball has been a major sport in the U.S. for over a century, and has always had potential to dominate the sports scene. My proposal is that MLB start their season a month earlier, in March rather than April. That way, the heat of the playoff race would still be in the national spotlight through August, with the playoffs starting in September rather than October. Additionally, the weight of the playoffs would naturally draw more attention to the MLB when the NFL is starting up their season. Perhaps I am just a baseball nut blowing steam, but when I was a young child, it seemed that the game had much more power in our nation. Maybe that’s because my team, the Seattle Mariners, was actually good, but I digress. There is no doubt that the general sports culture in the U.S., as well as at Whitworth, is oriented toward the NFL. But I can’t help wondering how that would change with a shift in the MLB season.
It is doubtful that the MLB, being a league of tradition and history, would ever make a change like this, but with a new commissioner coming into office in 2015, who knows? Either way, I implore you to remember, baseball is ‘America’s Pastime’, and it deserves more respect.
Contact Max Carter at firstname.lastname@example.org