Two warnings before reading today’s offering: No. 1, be aware that at some point in the next paragraph or two you’re going to read some “grumpy old guy” statements about not just the decay of American society but, more precisely, the decay of America’s attention span.
And, No. 2 – if you’re still with me here – you’ll read some stuff that may or may not raise the eyebrows of my bosses here at the newspaper (that’s called a tease, folks, and I really hope it works).
OK, here we go …
Did any of you happen to catch this year’s World Series?
Judging by the ratings, many of you didn’t. What a shame because it was a darn fine series, well played, complete with great defense, timely hitting, excellent bullpen work from the Kansas City Royals and highlighted by a truly historic pitching performance from San Francisco lefty Madison Bumgarner, the series MVP.
There were plenty of storylines to be followed, namely that the Giants – who captured it all with a Game 7 victory Wednesday night – were going for their third World Series title in five years and that the Royals, a once proud franchise that had fallen on hard times, were making their first postseason appearance in 29 years.
From there the drama branched out, delving into the personalities of the players, each team’s similar strengths and weaknesses and, as always, the strategies by the managers.
The problem, I’m convinced, is that storylines alone weren’t enough to move the needle, as they say. They weren’t enough to drive the ratings, at least not for the World Series as a whole. Indeed, Wednesday’s Game 7 did well in the ratings but before that folks didn’t tune in.
Game 1 drew a terrible rating, only 7.33 percent of TV households, an audience of only a little more than 12 million viewers.
Game 5 Sunday in San Francisco, with Bumgarner on the mound, was clobbered by the NFL’s Sunday Night Football.
So, the analytics say the World Series, outside of Game 7, was a flop. By extension, they say baseball isn’t that interesting anymore, that it’s not fast enough and that the strategy involved is perhaps a bit too complex for today’s gotta-have-it-now world.
The Series was brilliant because of everything you just read. Good storylines, good baseball; my goodness it was good.
Unfortunately, analytics are killing baseball. Not the analytics that reveal the statistical science behind the game – not the Moneyball analytics – but the analytics that show dwindling viewership, which therefore equates to death by disinterest.
Here’s where I go into full “old guy” mode and complain that I don’t care what you’re analytics say, that baseball is still relevant at the very least because it’s Americana … it’s who we are. The Statue of Liberty isn’t the big deal it once was, but it’s still significant and nobody’s talking about tearing her down in favor of a really cool floating Starbucks.
And speaking of American institutions dying the death of disinterest, I’m guessing at least some of you are reading this column on actual newsprint, which you picked up off your doorstep or your driveway or the rose bushes in your yard (hopefully not that).
Understand, I fully understand the importance of keeping up before getting run over. If you’re reading my column today on your smartphone or your tablet or, gulp, even a silly old laptop (much less a PC!), I’m glad you’re with us. Thanks for clicking, I truly appreciate it and, please, tell your friends to click, too.
The analytics indicate people who like to hold actual newsprint in their hands – like to pour over the box scores – live in an increasingly less significant demographic. Chances are those of you who are reading this electronically fit into the money demographic, the one coveted by advertisers.
Look, I’m not trying to demonize demographics or argue against analytics. My only hope is that we never, ever forget the value and the real importance of institutions like baseball and printed journalism.
Jim Burton is the Standard-Examiner’s sports columnist. He can be reached at 801-625-4265 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @StandardExJimbo