Misleading Statistics

In my preliminary research for project two, I discovered an article from NBC Sports that discusses a lot of the information I was hoping to find. The article is called “Baseball is dying? Nonsense: The Case for Baseball’s Vitality” by Craig Calcaterra. I stumbled upon the article while I was searching for information about baseball’s popularity in comparison to football because my initial piece of writing was a form of comparative analysis between these two sports. This article helped me understand a major problem with some of the research I could encounter, which is simply that statistics regarding baseball’s popularity have commonly been used to make it look like baseball is significantly declining in popularity. As a result, it is very easy to make it look like football is constantly growing in popularity while baseball crumbles, but it is not quite that simple.

For example, the World Series used to receive a Nielsen rating (a measure of how many viewers watched on TV) around 30 nationally in the 1970s and 1980s. However, game 2 of the 2013 World Series between the Red Sox and Cardinals received a 7.3. These numbers certainly make it look like a simple argument, but perhaps this isn’t the best way to evaluate baseball’s popularity. The article goes on to show that baseball is truly a local game and while the 2013 World Series featured very low TV ratings nationally, in Boston and St. Louis, the Nielsen ratings for the game were 32.4 and a 37.2 respectively. With a subtle change in the approach of how we analyze baseball’s popularity, it suddenly looks like baseball is just as popular as ever, but in a different capacity.

Unfortunately, it seems that statistics can be made to fit both sides of this argument, which is going to prove to be a challenge for me with this project. However, I am excited to continue to dive further into my research to learn more about the current state of baseball.

The NBC Sports article can be found here.

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