I watched highlights for an NFL game the other day, and that was a mistake. I was going to embed the video, but I can't find it any more, so you've dodged the bullet.
It was mostly yelling. The Rams' first touchdown passed in a hail of shouted inside jokes that didn't seem to include the audience, and then one of the former players shouted something four or five times, and then the guy who was clearly the token j-school grad quietly read Austin Davis's name off a cue-card.
That was when I checked to see if I had some other video auto-playing in a different tab.
Football is the national sport in America. People follow the entire league, for fantasy purposes, and the Super Bowl is one of the last remaining sporting events people feel obligated to think about.
This is often used—by people who have watched these highlights, and should know better—to weep over the decline of Major League Baseball. The Royals playing the Giants was the worst-rated World Series game ever.
I'm as charmed as the next Fibber McGee and Molly fan by great-grandparent stories about World Series scores being passed around in school by indulgent teachers—by the sport enrapturing people who had no means of watching or listening to it while it was happening—but at this point it should be clear to everyone who's watched a football game on TV and a baseball game on TV that baseball fans could not be any luckier that it is not a ratings powerhouse.
It is our enormous privilege that baseball is simultaneously popular enough to max out its production values and pay for the best athletes and local enough to leave a layer of regional sensibilities between us and the gigantic network that spends its Sundays shouting though a megaphone to the back of the house.
As a reformed jackass who has only recently learned to be quiet while people say things about Ray Lankford that are incorrect I should say that this is not about feeling better than the Common Sports Fan—it's about the way gigantic sports-funneling institutions do not and cannot respect individual sports fans as humans. They are too busy trying to make everyone love the same funny commercial about dogs eating chips.
Our only protection is that nobody outside Fox Sports Midwest's viewing territory cares about our Mike Matheny memes; the regional nature of baseball fandom is all that's keeping us from Budweiser commercials about Mike Trout's bitchin' man-cave. Local radio stations and regional sports networks and going to a no-account June afternoon game with your whole family are not signs of the sport's sickness, they're what allow us to enjoy it on its merit, with people we're close to, for reasons that might not (and should not) resonate with every other baseball fan in the United States.
Huge ratings break those relationships apart; they pull everyone closer to the enormous fireball of monetizable attention that blows out a sport's highlights and reduces every individual fanbase and team and game to its blandest narrative outlines. If you're tired of Derek Jeter, remember that the only thing unusual about the treatment he got was that he was a baseball player. If you don't like the way St. Louis media handled Oscar Taveras, imagine a hot take stomping on Russell Wilson's face forever.