SHOULD EMULATE THE
NATIONAL FOOT BALL
MLB, the NBA and the NHL should all emulate the NFL: the ONLY sport
where a contest between Indianapolis and Boston (or Arizona and Denver for
that matter) can generate significant national interest.
—Mike C, posted at Bats, Tyler Kepner’s New York Times blog, October 11, 2007
It’s a common perception that the National Football League has surpassed Major League Baseball in the eyes of fans over the last three or four decades. It is surely true that the NFL currently generates greater revenues (although we will have more to say on that shortly). Poll results also typically show that football, especially the NFL variety, is the nation’s game. Now, just why it is that the NFL obtained its lofty status and manages to hold on to it remains a mystery to these same observers. Maybe the NFL has better marketing, suggesting that MLB leadership emulate the NFL approach. Maybe American sports fans have simply drifted more toward a faster paced, violent sport, suggesting that MLB needs to speed up their game. Maybe most important, MLB needs to level the playing field for smaller—revenue owners relative to their larger—revenue competition. Whatever the reason, if it is going to stay relevant, attract young fans, and grow its fan base, then (so the conclusion typically goes) MLB should look more like the NFL.
Since marketing is marketing and there is no reason to suspect that the MLB version is somehow dumber or less apt than the NFL version, and since baseball is baseball (the essence is that there is no clock!), one pre-