I do think about one other factor, one I don’t hear too many people talking about. It seems that as a country we now demand EVENT television. We want one show, one night, everything at stake. The Super Bowl. The Academy Awards. Game sevens. Even the television series we generally watch like Scandal or Game of Thrones often have that “if you miss tonight’s show, you will regret it for the rest of your life” vibe. Heck, if you miss a Game of Thrones, seven of your favorite characters might have been killed off.
Sunday’s World Cup game had that now-or-never energy — if the U.S. had lost to Portugal their chances to advance would have been pretty slim. It really fit perfectly into the American mood.
Baseball almost never has that one game. The sport just isn’t geared that way. I can come up with dozens of scenarios where a World Series game would draw 35 or 40 million people, but they probably won’t ever happen. Say it’s a Game 7 between the Dodgers and Orioles. Say Yasiel Puig had done some sort of crazy Puig thing in Game 6 — he hit a 500-foot homer and danced the Mambo around the bases while glaring at Buck Showalter. Say Showalter after the game said the Orioles had something special lined up for Puig. Yeah, the ratings for that game would be INSANE, they would lap the World Cup game. Or say Clayton Kershaw is going for his third straight no-hitter. Or say that Nelson Cruz has homered in seven straight at-bats.
But baseball just doesn’t have that sort of one game drama very often. The game isn’t built for one-game drama. It’s not really built for playoff drama — something that I think Bud Selig and others have missed. Baseball is about 162 games. Baseball is about seeing the game in person. Baseball is drawing SEVENTY-FIVE million fans over its very long season — compared to 16 million NFL fans per season, 22 or so million NHL and NBA fans, Minor league baseball as a whole draws 40 or so million people too.