Series offers hope to expand fan base


Modern sports are about more than competition, strength and skill: Since so many millions of people follow and watch them, sports are more like business than a friendly game. The sport, team or player who can attract viewers and bring in advertising revenue is the victor.

The dominant sport in such a category is football. The National Football League is so popular that fans spend two full days watching the draft during the offseason, and Super Bowl Sunday has become a national holiday.

Basketball has the advantage of unmasked players, so fans are able to pay more attention to individuals. Fans relate to the players and a good personality can make a great player greater and richer.

These two sports have a major advantage over other sports when young kids imagine themselves as the MVP quarterback or the high-flying point guard. And like a business, sports must market themselves to all demographics.

When more groups of young people participate in these sports, the sport’s well-being is ensured for at least another couple of years. Fans of all ages, sexes, races and nationalities should be recruited.

Unfortunately, baseball has struggled to match the young fan base of its American sports league counterparts. Baseball has failed to gain the attention of young black fans in recent years, and the number of elite, American-born black players has gone down. Baseball’s struggles show how the business aspect of sports is very real and potentially very devastating.

But baseball is starting to show more signs of life. The 2008 World Series wasn’t the blockbuster that was expected between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Boston Red Sox, but the Philadelphia Phillies and Tampa Bay Rays have offered something better to baseball than just air time.

Many of the superstars on both teams are African-American, which has been rare in the last couple of years. Most elite players were either white, Hispanic or Caribbean-born black players. But players like Philadelphia’s Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard, and Tampa’s B.J. Upton and David Price have given baseball some marketing tools. Baseball can showcase these players to young fans, and they can help attract young black fans. Baseball must show fans that football and basketball aren’t the only options.

Baseball’s ticket sales have been increasing, and if those responsible for expanding the sport want to continue the trend, the sport has to compete with basketball and football. More fans will mean more money and more advertisers, and that is never a bad thing in the business world.

Baseball’s history of integration and tradition are great selling points when attracting new fans, and the World Series is the best time to combine all the talents the sport has and showcase them. A sport that has a small niche fan base cannot be a major American sport.




Owen Kennedy is a senior in business management. Please send comments to