One argument that fans are not losing interest in baseball

According to a Harris Poll, pro football is the most popular sport in the United States.

Among people that follow at least one sport, 31 percent say football is their favorite sport while baseball is second at 17 percent.

In 1985, 23 percent in the same poll listed baseball as No. 1, so the sport is losing ground since then.

There are some that think baseball is completely dwarfed by interest in the NFL and some that say the sport just doesn't generate the interest it once did.

Oh, really.

At a time where every game is televised and the economy is shaky and fans have video games and the Internet to distract them, 21 major league teams drew 2 million fans last year and nine attracted over three million in home attendance.

In 2009, the majors attracted 73.42 million total attendance, fifth most ever. In 2010, that dropped slightly, but was still at 73.06 million. The average crowd at a big league game last season was 30,141.

This comes at a time when tickets and parking and concession prices are pretty much higher than ever and fans can sit home and watch the game and not come out in 90 degree heat.

In addition to those numbers, minor league baseball games attracted 41.4 million fans in 2010, an average of 3,992 per game over 15 affiliated leagues. That does not cover independent leagues and college baseball which, on many campuses, also packs in the crowds, especially in the south.

At a time when some people think interest in baseball is rapidly declining, I would contend those numbers tell a different story.

I won't dispute the power of the NFL, but as I have said before, I feel that the combination of fantasy leagues and gambling contributes in a big way to ratings and interest in the sport. It is not the sole reason for the NFL's popularity, not by a long shot, but it is a sizable one.

Baseball has its share of problems. Many kids seem to have little interest in the sport, there is a large economic disparity among some franchises and the steroid era has cast a dark cloud over the sport at times.

But fans are still pouring into big league and minor league parks every summer and the game is still great I think. Baseball is a marathon, not a sprint and it seems it has many fans around at the beginning, middle and end of the race.

What is your take on the Harris poll and the state of the game?

FanFest update: Jim Palmer and Brandon Erbe have been added to autograph sessions for FanFest. Palmer has been added to Station 3 at 3:20 p.m. and Erbe has been added to Station 1 at 4:40 p.m. Fans should visit www.orioles.com/fanfest for an updated list of autograph session availability.

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