Baseball is Dying Alert: World Cup Ratings Edition

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Geographic areas are measured in Units of Rhode Islands. Sports TV ratings are measured in Units of World Series.

Note: in these comparisons, both Rhode Island and the World Series are used because they are putatively “big” things — a whole state and the crowning jewel of the National Pastime — but they are really intended to end up looking small compared to what is being measured. That’s the joke!

The latest example of this comes from people talking about the ratings of Sunday’s USA-Portugal World Cup match. A lot of people watched. How many?

While not near the totals scored by the NFL, even for many regular-season games, the U.S. audience for the World Cup game on Sunday easily eclipsed the NBA Finals this year, which averaged 15.5 million viewers, as well as the 2013 World Series, which averaged 14.9 million viewers. The NHL playoffs are not even remotely as popular as the World Cup, having averaged only 5 million viewers this season.

Go do a search for “World Cup World Series” or something like it on Twitter and see how many people are just giddy about that.

And, to the extent they are excited about soccer, they should be giddy. Those are great ratings. They’re likely significantly inflated over what typical league play soccer, be it MLS or Premier or whatever, can obtain due to the World Cup being a one-game, every four years event, but they’re still great. Soccer truly has arrived in the United States and it’s cool to see that happening. Let a hundred flowers blossom, and all.

To the extent they are citing this as a means of slamming baseball, however, they really do need to chill out, of course. This is nothing new if you’re a regular HBT reader, but we’re back in apples-oranges territory again when ratings like these are discussed. Let’s cover the bases quickly:

  • The majority of people in this country who call themselves soccer fans are USA fans and their team was in the game in question.
  • Baseball fans divide their loyalties among 30 teams and thus 93% of baseball fans’ teams are not in the World Series each year.
  • The USA-Portugal game was one game — an event — at an ideal time on a Sunday evening with no other major sporting event competing with it.
  • The World Series is seven games, played in the middle of football season and often going head-to-head with college and pro games.
  • For both sports and entertainment, our TV watching habits are not geared toward series and long-builds anymore. They’re geared toward big events which serve as shared experiences across multiple platforms at a single time. Think the Super Bowl. Think the Olympics. Think episodes of whatever Sunday night prestige TV show all the cool kids are raving about at a given time.

So great on soccer. I in no way wish to rain on its parade here, because it really is cool that we, as a nation, are increasingly stopping to watch this stuff. It makes me feel like we’re more in tune with the world in some weird way and in an increasingly fragmented time, any shared experience is uplifting, even if it ends with our hearts being ripped out in stoppage time.

But pooh on anyone who uses this as a means of making baseball look insignificant this way. And for that matter, pooh on all of those people who do it to Rhode Island all the time. Rhode Island is a totally fine state and it deserves better treatment than you’re giving it, buddy.

Race and Sports in America: Jimmy Rollins on impact of George Floyd’s death and BLM

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Former major league shortstop Jimmy Rollins was among a handful of professional athletes to sit down and talk with NBCSN about the intersection of race and sports in America. The nation hit a flashpoint on May 25 when George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. Chauvin kneeled on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes. The event sparked worldwide protests, including all across the U.S.

In the excerpt below, Rollins discusses gun culture as a Black man as well as what it was like to watch the video of Floyd’s death.

Race and Sports in America: Conversations is a one-hour show with two segments that debuts on NBCSN on Monday, July 13 at 8 pm ET. It will be simulcast on Golf Channel, Olympic Channel, and the regional sports networks. Along with Rollins, Kyle Rudolph, Anthony Lynn, Troy Mullins, James Blake, Steph Curry, Charles Barkley, Ozzie Smith, and Jerome Bettis participated in the discussions.


DAMON HACK:  Is it exhausting, Jimmy?  How exhausting is it?  Chuck talked about it; it’s not new for a lot of people, but it’s new for maybe the majority of Americans.  But this is nothing new for the Black community.

JIMMY ROLLINS:  Nothing new at all.  We’ve seen video after video after video, usually resulting in someone getting shot for doing something they’re asked, because their color is their gun.  Being the wrong color in the wrong neighborhood means you’re an automatic threat.

But when you look at the majority of gun owners they aren’t Black men or Black people in general.  We shy away from gun stores.  We shy away from getting permits and licenses to carry because we’re not comfortable even when we walk in.

So going to a gun store, am I a criminal?  That’s the first thing you’re thinking they’re thinking.  Well, what do you need the gun for?  Who are you planning to go kill?

Yet, when we get pulled over or when we’re just walking down a street or doing just the normal things that any American or any person in this world is doing, we’re already a threat for doing it.  And if you’re in a wrong neighborhood, what are you doing here?  You have to be up to no good.

So it’s something that isn’t new.  George Floyd’s situation, watching a man being suffocated and choked out like that for eight minutes and 46 seconds, that was new.  We’ve seen people get shot.  It’s, like, okay, he’s going to get shot again.

When I was watching the video, not knowing the full story prior to it, I just pulled it up and it was there, I’m thinking, okay, he got up and he got shot.  But as it gets going, this man really is kneeling on his neck with no remorse.  It was kind of like, I don’t want to listen to you because I don’t have to.  So that part was new.

Here’s a guy actually being choked out with a man on top of him making a decision:  I am taking your life because I can ‑‑ over a $20 or a counterfeit $20 bill?  You don’t die over that.