And while that television money looks attractive, baseball executives seem to have forgotten a funny thing about kids: they grow up to be adults. If children grow up with no tradition of watching baseball, they are much less likely to pick it up as adults. Most strong sports team loyalties are born when fans are young. Adults rarely create as strong a bond with a team as do children. That team loyalty can last a lifetime and means years and years of viewership and game attendance. That money comes slower than the television dollars, but over time it adds up.
Historically, baseball was played during the day. People listened to baseball on the radio at work or after school on weekdays. Even playoff and World Series games were played during the day. The Chicago Cubs’ home, Wrigley Field, famously did not have lights at all until 1988, so all their home games were played during the day until then. Even after the lights were installed, the Cubs favored day games at home.
Over time, day games in baseball have declined. This year’s regular season had 34 percent of its games played during the day and 66 percent at night. There has been a ten percent change in favor of night games over the past ten years. Has this long term trend toward night games shown up in a decline in television viewers? Yes it has.
An interesting theory. Certainly, the numbers don’t lie about day versus night games, and it makes sense that television would be the main reason.
What’s sad about this is that baseball is a pretty poor television sport but a great live one.