When it comes to being a sports fan, October may be the best month of them all.
The NBA and NHL seasons are just beginning, the NFL and NCAA football seasons are in full swing, NCAA basketball is just around the corner and the MLS playoffs are well underway.
However, a sports fan cannot breathe in October without getting excited about postseason baseball. The MLB playoffs are what defines October sports. Its aura and the excitement that surrounds it are like no other sports’ playoffs. The competition, drive, and intensity from the players, organizations and fanbases are all amped up come October.
When it comes to baseball, there’s no better time than October. When it’s October, there’s no better time to be a fan of Major League Baseball. There’s no basketball, football or even hockey player who is referred to as Mr. October; that title belongs to Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson.
However, as all these sports go on at once, baseball seems to get lost in the midst of football and basketball, among other sports. The latter two tend to receive more national coverage on major networks, and the fast-paced games tend to earn higher ratings and viewerships than baseball games, which move slower despite lasting nearly the same amount of time as a football game.
The question is whether or not baseball is receiving the credit it deserves. Have we started to care less about baseball? Is it no longer as popular a sport as it once was? Is football claiming the top spot among American sports?
When examining these questions, it’s important to consider the way in which we view sports. We tend to have shorter attention spans nowadays, and need to have a lot of action and movement across the screen to keep us focused on what is at hand. All three of the “Big 4” sports besides baseball have almost constant movement up and down the field, court or ice, with the exception of football breaking after each play. Even then, it continues to move at a fast pace.
Baseball, however, is quite the opposite. A slow-paced game that can feature one inning taking upwards of 20 minutes at times tends to lose viewership where fans are always waiting for something to happen. Sure, there’s nothing like going to the ballpark and celebrating America’s pastime like no other, but if you’re not at the game, many feel that watching on television is simply just too boring.
Not to mention that this year’s coverage of the MLB playoffs do not reach major cable channels until the World Series, which will appear on FOX. With TBS, Fox Sports 1 and MLB Network accounting for most of the postseason coverage, not all people can view the games on television. However, viewership has been on the up, especially this postseason. Ratings in 2016 increased 32 percent from last year on FS1. Game 5 of the Dodgers-Nationals NLCS was the highest viewed FS1 event in both D.C. and L.A. The Toronto Blue Jays games peaked at over 5 million viewers in a country of 35 million. While viewership has increased, it seems to have gone unnoticed.
Baseball has tried to speed up the game, and with more and more likable figures and flashy moments and rivalries, there have been strides to make baseball become the dominant sport in October once again. While it will always be revered as the sport that is associated with the United States and the month of October, it seems like it could one day fade out of relevance.
We can only hope that that day never comes.
Matt Lamb is a broadcasting and visual media major from Howell, N.J. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @MattS_Lamb.