Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Mexican Athletics

There's an article on the San Francisco Chronicle website about Mexican baseball in which the author mentions every one of the 16 teams in the majors, with the exception of the Vaqueros Laguna. The oversight is much appreciated.

He also says that in terms of popularity, baseball is a "strong second" to soccer. I think it depends where you are in the country, but I was surprised when I got here about how unpopular baseball is, both at the youth and professional level. Forget about soccer; American football and boxing both have either weekly or near-weekly television deals on network TV, where MLB baseball doesn't appear until the World Series. (Mexican league games in baseball and football remain on cable throughout the year.) The number of kids I know who play football outnumbers those who play baseball by around 20 to one. For boxing, it's probably closer to five to one. From my vantage point, I'd put baseball either fourth or fifth on the list of popular Mexican sports, either just ahead of or right behind basketball.



Noel Maurer said...

Selection bias, my friend. I played baseball in Mexico City, saw kids playing baseball all the time in Mexico City, went to baseball games in Mexico City, talked about baseball in Mexico City, and played baseball with kids in my neighborhood in Mexico City.

Ditto in Veracruz and Oaxaca. Oaxaca surprised me.

Fifth? That's crazy talk. I take it that you're putting it behind soccer, boxing, and American football, right?

Well ... I boxed in Mexico, for fun, but I have serious trouble believing that the number of people donning gloves to hit each other comes anywhere near the number of people donning gloves to catch little white balls.

As for football, people in Torreon do play the game, as I discovered when dating somebody from that city. But Torreon is unrepresentative --- American football has a big fan following in Mexico, but very few people play it, and probably nobody outside the belt of northern states.

As for basketball, please. All those courts in Chiapas are more used for flea markets and lynchings, not the game. It's widely played in Chihuahua, but that's the only place in the country where I've come across it. (Well, not entirely true: the court in the park in Colonia Napoles in the D.F. did get a lot of use on the weekends. Often by me, of course, but it got used.)

So I think the article is right. Apologies.

pc said...

No need to apologize.

It's hard to make generalizations on the whole nation and I concede there's a lot of regional variation, but TV viewership would seem to be a pretty good aggregator of interest. But before we jump to that, I would add that Mexico City has a lot of good football teams, until the rise of Borregos Monterrey a DF team almost always won the national title. The best team here in Torreon was always stocked with DF transplants. There's also good teams in the region around Mexico City, in Jalisco, Hidalgo, Querétero, etc. although I dont think there are any significant teams in the South.

As far as watching the sport, I dont know if Mexico has nielson ratings, but the TV deals that boxing and American football offer both sports to non-cable having Mexicans in far greater quantities than baseball, which I take to be a relatively reliable reflection of interest. It's hard to believe that baseball is the second most popular sport if it doesnt have a network TV deal and other sports do. Although maybe MLB drives a harder bargain on the TV market. But it's not just TV; Mexico City papers cover the NFL season with a level of scrutiny that doesn't exist for baseball until the playoffs. Basketball and baseball are comparable in terms of their TV deals through the regular season, but the World Series moves to network tv, while the NBA championship doesnt.

Noel Maurer said...

You're right about the NFL, but Mexico has its own professional league and several widely-followed international baseball circuits. In addition, U.S. baseball doesn't get a lot of attention in Panama or Venezuela until the postseason either, and you'd have a hard time arguing that the sport isn't number one in those two countries. (And the reason is the same: major amateur competitions in Panama, it's own league in Venezuela.) So I can't agree that the evidence is convincing.

The real way to answer this would be a poll: how many people play baseball/football regularly, played it as a child, and watch it now?

Without that, we're in dueling anecdote land.

pc said...

Fair point. Trading Places style, let's bet a dollar on the outcome of that poll should we ever see it.