February is an unusual time on the United States on the sports calendar. Football says goodbye with the ultimate showdown and the country’s most watched sports event, the Super Bowl. But February also features the NBA and college basketball, the National Hockey League, MLS pre-season games, tennis and golf and the beginning of spring training in baseball. If a Gallup poll released in January is to be believed, there is not much interest anymore in baseball as the game has slipped behind football and basketball as the sport people follow the most. The poll was conducted in December at the height of the football season and sampled 1,049 adults of all ages. Baseball received a nine percent share as the most popular sport. It is a stunning downfall. In the post-World War II days, baseball grabbed 39 percent of support in a Gallup poll. Baseball had been the absolute king of American sports through the 1950s with boxing and horse racing trailing in popularity. But football and TV were made for one another, the game was easy to follow on a small screen and football between 1958 and 1965 caught fire. The fact that basketball now has surpassed baseball is surprising and what is somewhat startling is the soccer is not far behind baseball.
A look at Gallup’s numbers show two negative trends for baseball. It is most popular with people over 55 years and is not getting good numbers in the 18 to 34 year old and the 35 to 54 year old categories trailing football, basketball and soccer by a substantial margin. Major League Baseball officials have been looking for ways of tweaking the game for the next generation that is accustomed to quick action from video games to sports. There is another Gallup statistic that should cause alarm. Fifteen percent of those polled have no favorite sport.