Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Ratings, and what they mean

Over the course of the playoffs Sports Business Journal and Darren Rovell have provided breathless tweets about ratings and baseball. Ratings are down for the post-season, if you didn't know, where fewer people are watching baseball, and more people are watching football, Desperate Housewives, reruns of The Simpsons, Terra Nova, or Jimmy Fallon commercials. The baseball sky is falling, according to sports media gurus.

So most of you know that I (your Constable) make my home in Nashville, Tennessee. Afternoon sports talk radio host Clay Travis tweeted earlier that:
15 years of Nashville TV ratings demonstrate death of baseball, triumph of NFL, and then provided a link to a column on his Outkick the Coverage website showing just how baseball has fallen off among Nashvillians, and how this is a microcosm of the rest of the country, nay, THE WORLD.

[Baseball is] dying off and shrinking. The more sobering fact for baseball: it lost much of my generation to disinterest. The scariest fact? Most members of the current generation don't care about baseball at all. They aren't even going to be there to be lost.

Good riddance. If you can't be bothered to watch this postseason, you're missing out, because it's been the best postseason since 2001. Do you want more baseball fans, or smarter baseball fans? I'll take watching a baseball game with the buddies I have who care about baseball, than a douchebag bar full of people wearing Yankees/Red Sox hats because "when they play against each other, the World Series is always better."

Baseball is now apparently an indie band. And we, as fans, have our favorite local band. And it's better for us if nobody else likes our favorite band. In fact, we prefer it to be so. If the band we like blows up and becomes huge, we stop liking them, amirite? All you Beta Band fans who stopped listening once they were featured on High Fidelity, because they invited a larger audience? You can all move along.

How someone can look at a sport that is played day after day (matching the ebb and flow of life, if you ask me, and probably George Will and countless other sentimentalists), and compare it to a sport played - at the most - 20 times a year, is completely ridiculous. Baseball is not football. It doesn't feature high-impact collisions, convenient viewing (weekends, or Monday nights), easy gambling (see "The Betting Man" for why you shouldn't bet on baseball), or 19 hours of ESPN coverage every day (they're currently doing pre-game of Terrell Owens' workout. This is not a joke).

Ratings only matter to advertisers, people who have to report on sports ratings, and bloggers who rail against using ratings to determine popularity. I don't believe this is an original thought, but I did make this analogy independently: If you're looking at ratings for the popularity of baseball, then it's akin to looking at record sales to determine which band is best. And I don't think anyone believes the Black Eyed Peas are the best band in the world.

Anyone looking at ratings to determine the popularity of baseball, particularly baseball in Nashville, which has no major league team, is split geographically between the Reds and Braves, and has a Triple-A team belonging to the Brewers - of all teams - is misguided, completely missing the point. If you don't want to watch baseball, good. We don't want you.