Could Golf Overtake The MLB?

It’s not often we get the Master’s and Opening Day weekends coinciding (thanks Manfred), but in the year of our lord 2022, we do. So what better way to celebrate this weekend than to ponder the demise of professional sports organizations?

My friend, esteemed colleague, and part-time dictator, Maki, has been floating the idea for a while now that the PGA will overtake the MLB in ratings sometime soon. Yes, he is of sound mind, and no, he does not have any evidence that could lead to the arrest of Hillary Clinton; so as far as I am aware, this is not a statement made in distress. However, anyone who knows shit about shit knows that the MLB, and three of the big four sports in general (sans football), have been taking ratings hits the last decade due to cord cutting. Baseball in particular has been hit hard, as the slow-paced sport that dominated in the days of radio has been unable to keep up with a world brainwashed into watching teens with Bert and Ernie haircuts dance for thirty seconds on Tik Tok.

I will admit that the pandemic created a surge in the popularity of golf, with nearly as many people picking up the game as when  Tiger had his first run (I was one of those people). This should obviously translate into higher viewership, I hear you yell at your phone in your luxury, white/protestant only country club. Well, apparently not tubs, as seen in ratings for golf’s biggest tournaments.

Now compare this to stats from the previous year’s Masters:

Sunday’s final round of the Masters (2021) averaged a 5.5 rating and 9.45 million viewers on CBS, up 62% in ratings and 69% in viewership from last year (2020), when the tournament set all-time lows airing seven months later than scheduled in November (3.4, 5.59M), but down 20% and 13% respectively from the previous April edition in 2019, won by Tiger Woods (6.9, 10.81M).

So yes, the Master’s did receive a massive viewership boost in 2021, but the decline in viewers for 2020 doesn’t exactly line up with the surge in players playing the game, even when adjusted for a delayed tournament. I think we can ignore the Tiger bump from 2019.

The World Series, however, outperformed the Masters in both 2020 and 2021.

Arguments can be made that this isn’t a good comparison because the Masters is just one of four major tournaments, and the World Series is played only once a year, but let’s be real; the Masters is absolutely the World Series of golf.

Other arguments can be made that the decline of baseball’s viewership, as seen in the chart, is accelerating faster than golf’s. My rebuttal to that is that every city/state has a home team, ingrained in the spirit and Americana of those people, while not everyone has a favorite golfer, and most just want to watch a close last day. The MLB’s viewership on a national scale is declining, but baseball fans love their hometown announcers maybe more than anyone else, and especially hate national broadcasters. 

The comparisons people make with the NFL are also trite, as 17 games a year builds a lot more hype than 162. Personally, I would rather put bleach in my eyes than watch a Fox televised Orioles game in mid-July, but will happily tune into a September Sunday broadcast to see the Jaguars get the piss beaten out of them. 

People say baseball needs to change and adapt to survive, but one of the most endearing things about baseball is the fact that it has remained so unchanged for the last 150 years. 

I love the fact that I can talk about the Mets with my 90 and 87 year old grandparents without having any information gap. I love that my grandfather can tell me stories of watching the Brooklyn Dodgers play at Ebbets Field, and talk about how good Roy Campanella was behind home plate, and remind me that his dad could only afford one ticket so he sent his nine year old son into the stadium alone to see his heroes; and I can actually imagine it because the game hasn’t become something entirely different than what it was originally. Baseball is a game of history, where the guy with the most home runs held that title until nearly thirty years after his death. That history shouldn’t be discarded to appease the low-attention span of the youngest, most marketable current generation. 

So can golf overtake baseball as one of America’s most watched sports?

I don’t believe so, personally. Without a set league of home-field players, it would be difficult. Although, who knows, maybe one day it will. But I don’t see any reason as to why that means baseball should change one goddamn thing. 

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