Keith Olbermann has returned to ESPN after his hiatus to host MLB postseason coverage on TBS, but upon his return he went on a rant about the lack of interest in his favorite game and America’s supposed national pastime — baseball.
It’s not breaking news that people are paying less and less attention to baseball but for a baseball nut like Olbermann the pain is personal. Over the years, Olbermann has wowed people with his random and well versed knowledge of baseball and his opening essays for his new ESPN show typically rattle off baseball references he’s like Rain Man.
But baseball is a pastime in the most literal sense of the word — it’s past it’s time. That’ evident in the television ratings for the World Series this year, an event that used to be the biggest sporting event in the world. It’s only trophy in sports that claims to be the trophy of the world as the Super Bowl, Stanley Cup and NBA Championship trophy don’t even acknowledge the country the teams play in.
But the World Series is the trophy of the world — or at least it used to be. As Olbremann pointed out, the ratings for the World Series used to be astronomically high and if you go back to 1980 when the Phillies and Royals played the World Series, it was watched by 42 million people.
Game 1 of the 2013 World Series drew just over 14 million people. Olbermann points his finger at baseball for mucking up the chance to explode with television but he also points to competition on major networks as a reason for the decline as well. Last night The Big Bang Theory, Modern Family, The Crazy Ones and a number of highly rated primetime shows took viewers away from the World Series.
So Olbermann’s frustration is justified as baseball is a dying sport and we can thank — among other things — network television and the fall schedule for the decline.