By Ken Reed
As a game and entertainment product, Major League Baseball (MLB) has plenty of problems right now. Just for starters: the pace of play is dreadful, strikeouts and walks are up and action is down, stolen base attempts are becoming extinct, a ball is only put in play every four minutes, and just 20% of GenZers consider themselves fans of the game.
Yet, instead of spending the offseason trying to fix these problems, owners and players have spent it whining about how to split hundreds of millions of dollars.
A great game is slowly dying and owners and players have put that fact on the back burner in order to fight for a few more greenbacks in their wallets today.
I think the satisfaction of any short-term financial win — for either side — will be overshadowed by significant damage to the game if Opening Day is wiped out and regular season games are lost.
The age of baseball’s average fan is getting older and older. Youngsters that typically played baseball are now turning to sports like lacrosse, soccer and skateboarding. And research from every sport reveals that the chances of a young person becoming a lifelong fan of a given sport are significantly less if that youngster doesn’t play that sport as a child. When it comes to baseball, young people are checking out, and without spring training and the excitement of Opening Day that exodus will increase.
In addition, older fans are also checking out because the game they love has become little more than the “three true outcomes” (strikeouts, walks and home runs). They don’t have time for financial squabbles, and they don’t like the product they’ve seen on the field the last 5-10 years. They are ready to move on and figure they can get their baseball fix by watching, college, high school and summer American Legion games.
I fully understand the importance of getting a CBA that provides financial stability for all stakeholders. I also understand that from a fandom perspective, baseball is losing ground to the other major professional sports, due to all the reasons mentioned above — reasons that have frankly made baseball more boring, and thus, less enticing as an entertainment product.
Everyone knows this labor dispute will eventually get settled. The owners will be happy with some things and not others. Same with the players. But the reality is, owners and players alike will be losers — as will the game itself — if the regular season doesn’t start on time and another shortened season results.
The saddest part is, players and owners aren’t even talking about ways to address the game’s problems during these “negotiations.”
They’d rather spend their time in a battle to the death to see who can be the greediest.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #32 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Prolific Author Joe Posnanski Joins the Show – Posnanski is one of America’s best sportswriters and has twice been named the best sports columnist in America by the Associated Press Sports Editors. We chat about his new book, “Why We Love Baseball,” his new Substack newsletter called Joe Blogs, and we cover topics including how baseball treats its fans, MLB’s numerous rule changes this past season, how the sport can become more fan-friendly, the greatness of Negro Leagues champion Buck O’Neil, and much more.
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Episode #31 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Foul Ball Safety Is Still an Important Issue at Ballparks – Our guests are Jordan Skopp, founder of FoulBallSafety.com and Greg Wilkowski, a Chicago based attorney. We discuss the historical problem of foul balls injuring fans and why some teams are still hesitant to put up protective netting in some minor league and college baseball parks.
Episode #30 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The State of College Athletics with Dr. David Ridpath: Problems and Potential Solutions – Ridpath is a sports administration professor at Ohio University and a member of The Drake Group, a college sports reform think tank.
Episode #29 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Honorable Tom McMillen Visits League of Fans’ Sports Forum – McMillen is a former All-American basketball player, Olympian, Rhodes Scholar and U.S. Congressman. We discuss the state of college athletics today.
Episode #28 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Chat With Mano Watsa, a Leading Basketball and Life Educator – Watsa is President of PGC Basketball, the largest education basketball camp in the world. We discuss problems in youth sports today.
Episode #27 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Kids’ Sports: How We Can Take Back the Game and Restore Quality Family Time In the Process – Linda Flanagan is author of “Take Back the Game: How Money and Mania Are Ruining Kids’ Sports and Why It Matters.” We discuss how commercialized and professionalized youth sports are hurting kids and their families.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- Reed Appears on Ralph Nader Radio Hour League of Fans’ sports policy director, Ken Reed, Ralph Nader and the New York Times’ Tyler Kepner discussed a variety of sports issues on Nader’s radio show as well as Reed’s updated book, How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan. Reed's book was released in paperback in February, and has a new introduction and several updated sections.
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Vanderbilt Sport & Society - On The Ball with Andrew Maraniss with guest Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director for League of Fans and author of How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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