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The Major League Baseball season is back in full swing. With the NFL season months away and the NBA and NHL playoffs just wrapped, MLB is dominating the summer calendar for fans of the “Big Four” professional sports leagues.
While baseball has the summer months to itself, sports pundits have noticed signs in recent years that general interest in the game is waning. These commentators often cite declining television ratings for national programs as a signal of baseball’s declining position in American life. This action pales in comparison to the dominance of NFL ratings and the growing popularity of the NBA among younger viewers.
But concerns about baseball’s status as a national pastime overlook the fact that baseball remains hugely popular in local markets. MLB has a far higher exposure than any other sports league due to its longer season, regularly attracting more than 70 million fans a year, and it remains a strong magnet for regional television broadcasts. Perhaps more importantly, baseball’s long history as the oldest professional sport in the United States has made MLB franchises an important part of the social and cultural life of many US cities. In baseball-obsessed places like Boston or St. Louis, the local team and the city can feel almost synonymous.