Bud Selig, the MLB’s commissioner and a man whose livelihood depends on the health of baseball, went back on the PR path to say that, in his opinion, baseball “is more popular than ever before by any criteria one uses. Any criteria.” Sound familiar? That’s because Selig has been riffing on variations of this theme for almost a decade.
In 2006, it was: ” The sport has never been more popular. And, in any criteria you use, the sport has never been more popular,” per Maury Brown’s 60 Cycle Hum. A year after that, Selig said that, “There’s no question by any criteria used, this sport is more popular today than it’s ever been.” This is, as the expression goes, well-trodden territory, a tradition for a sport that values history more than almost anything else. The thing is, Selig’s probably not wrong to repeat himself so often. This January, Forbes highlighted how the league had seen its centralized revenue (and individual team media rights) continue its consistent uptick, in no small part because live sporting events are the biggest thing keeping television as we know it afloat. You can’t Netflix a World Series, after all.
After the increased success of the World Cup, as well as all the insipid controversy around what watching soccer might say about someone’s “true American” bona fides, the idea that no one watches baseball is an attractive one — because, you know, nothing speaks to essential Americana like our national pastime. Reality just doesn’t square with that notion though, so when Selig says ‘baseball is bigger than ever’ year in and year out, it’s important to remember that he’s probably right.