What Baseball’s Decline says about our Attention Spans

Is baseball no longer America’s pastime?  Why does it seem that this traditional American sport is losing more and more popularity by the year?  The sport originated before the Civil War, and the first league was created in 1876. It is a classic.  I have certainly loved every second of playing baseball when I was younger and I know many feel the same way.  It is a sad reality to see a possible decline of the sport but why is this in the first place? Why does it seem like this respectable sport cannot keep up with professional football, basketball or even hockey in regard to television ratings?  Attendance is down for 18 ball clubs, and television ratings for several networks like Fox and ESPN are at lows.  Can this correlation be explained using science?


Attendance decline since 2007 around the same time the first iPhone was released

The Question?

We live in a fast-paced internet world.  Information and highlights are viewed and shared at the click of the mouse, or touch of a screen.  It seems logical that a faced-paced internet generation led by video games and twitter would more likely enjoy faced paced action packed sports like football and basketball, right?  Attention spans are rapidly decreasing and this is not fairing to the slow, more thought out game of baseball.  This definitely seems to be showing as ratings and attendance take a hit for the sport.  The Huffington Post shared an eye-opening statistic about the MLB, 50 percent of baseball viewers are 50 or older.  This speaks volumes to the younger generation maybe giving a hint into the attention span claim.


Attention Span Study

Perhaps the most talked about and impressive study on attention span was done by Microsoft which stated human attention spans had dropped from 12 seconds in 2000, to 8 seconds.  The news grabbing headline for this study was that this proclaimed the human attention span is less than that of a goldfish.  The trial surveyed 2,000 Canadian participants in an observational study, and scanned the brains of 112 of them to conclude the attention span decline over the decade.  The recent excessive smart phone use seemed to be the clear culprit.  The survey showed signs of constantly checking social media created a lack of focus as 19% of tech users switch to the next task or new thing within 10 seconds.  According to the study, since there is so many opportunities to find rewarding information on the internet or on a social media site, the users are constantly searching for that release of dopamine which is a neurotransmitter for a good feeling in the brain.  Something Is definitely going on here but does it relate to our initial question?

Does this correlate? It’s no wonder the slow-moving strategic sport of baseball is losing interest.  How can a game of waiting and long observation, connect to a generation raised on information given to them in an instant?  It seems for the ones who aren’t patient enough there will never be a solution.  It is highly unlikely for baseball to tweak its rules or play style to accommodate a new generation.  Will the sport survive?

Will it Survive?

Even though it seems like the attention span is a direct correlation to the recent lessened popularity of baseball, there are so many third variables needing to be considered in this observation.  Correlation does not always equal causation, and while it is very probable that the lowered attention spans due to social media and technology (courtesy of the Microsoft Study) contribute to the decrease ratings, youth involvement in the sport, etc., it’s not the only thing to blame.   Many things like a select few MLB power houses, bad televised matchups, and the rise of other new televised events all can create a seeming decline.  We also have to take into account that all professional sports experience high and lows (the baseball ratings now are beating those from the 80s).  Even though it seems like baseball is in worse shape, I think the sport will definitely have a place even with this new more distracted generation.

MLB’s Best Playoff Moments


The Telegraph

Microsoft Study

Huffington Post

SB Nation

History Channel

Another SB Nation Article

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2 thoughts on “What Baseball’s Decline says about our Attention Spans

  1. Justin Passaro

    Alex, as a baseball fan, I found this to be a pretty cool post. Even as a fan, I was unaware of the fact the many clubs are seeing decreases in their attendance numbers. Are the younger generations less patient and more hungry for a fast-paced sport? Baseball, especially at this time of the year, seems to be a hot topic in the sports world. Playoff games are insane. I will always remember the infamous 2004 series where the Red Sox came back to defeat the Yankees and ultimately win the World Series. On the other hand, I have been to many regular season games where we left our seats by the 7th or 8th inning to beat the rush out of the stadium. Overall, the game is slow. Many who attend games of teams who have had a long drought of success, are more fixated on drinking, eating and spending time with family and friends. Not being emotionally invested in your team can cause one to contemplate the opportunity cost of attending the game. Also, factoring in the high price of a good seat. I found this article on attendance trends that you might want to check out.

  2. Griffin Lambert Brooks

    The reason why I think baseball has been in on a decline these past few years is due to the fact lacrosse has been picked up by so many young kids and young adults. Lacrosse has been on the rise for these last few years because all the kids in my generation who didn’t like tee-ball or baseball during the years their family made them play, are switching over to lacrosse. Back home where I live lacrosse has been on the most popular and competitive sports in the area. Another reason why baseball might be slowing down and loosing attention is because of how slow the game is. Baseball can be fun to watch and play when somethings happening or theres a crucial play that needs to be made. Unfortunately the majority of the time its just a pitcher throwing to a catcher and a batter trying to hit the ball. A 9 inning ball games last about 3 hours or more and there might be only one or two really exciting plays to watch.

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