By Ken Boehlke

The second half of the Major League baseball season is set to begin, yet excitement about the sport seems to be dwindling at a rapid pace. Baseball has always been known as America’s pastime, but it’s abundantly clear that in the summer of 2014, Americans care much more about football, NBA free agency, and even the World Cup. So what happened to baseball? Why all of a sudden does a nation that once called it their game find it stale? Here are five good reasons.

5. Gambling

It’s incredibly difficult to gamble on baseball because there are so many games, so many players, and so much knowledge necessary. But it’s not just the sports books that see the hit. Friendly wagers on random baseball games are few and far between, and fantasy baseball requires so much focus that people who have a job have no chance. Whether major sports leagues like it or not, the gambling aspect is crucial to the popularity of a sport. The game of baseball doesn’t cater to casual gamblers, and therefore, casual fans have to find other reasons to want to watch.

4. Lack of Superstars

Major League Baseball has been starved for a superstar for almost two decades now. Most of the great players of the 90’s and 2000’s are all considered villains after the witch-hunt during the steroid era outed them. The league has seen elite talents, but many of them have either seen their skills diminish quicker than expected or were put on the shelf due to injury. Another key factor is that the game does not allow superstars to come to the forefront. The best hitter only gets to bat four times in a three hour game, and pitchers only throw once every five days. The hoopla surrounding LeBron’s decision was enormous because of the understood effect he would have on whichever team he choose. In baseball the excitement wouldn’t be the same because no single player can have even close to that much impact. Mike Trout, Miguel Cabrera, and Clayton Kershaw are all dominant players in the league, but none of them are household names to those not invested in the sport.

3. Focus on Competition

Because each team plays just about every night, fans only have the opportunity to watch their team and their opponent on any given night. It’s well understood in baseball that as long as a team takes care of its own business, everything will work itself out and they will end up in the postseason. Fans are not interested in what other teams are doing because in the end, it probably won’t matter. When baseball gets hot, in late September, people start focusing on not only their team’s game, but also the other teams that could effect their playoff chances. The NFL does it right, where almost every fan is interested in every game because they all have major effects on the league. Baseball fans have a hard time caring until they can see the clear effect. In turn, fans become so invested in their own team, and the rest of the league fades into the abyss.

2. Importance of Games

Major League Baseball’s 162 game season inherently devalues the importance of each individual game. Every win in baseball is worth half a win in the NBA or NHL, a 16th of win in the NFL, and 1/54th of a win in the World Cup group stage. Fans want to know that the game matters, that this event they are watching right now will have a major impact on the rest of the season. The most popular events in this country are ones in which the outcome of every game is crucial to the team’s future success. In the NCAA Tournament, NFL Playoffs, and to a lesser extent regular season college football games, every game is unbelievably important. We all want to feel like what we are watching matters, that it’s worth our time. One game out of 162 simply doesn’t.

1. Time Constraint

The biggest complaint baseball has heard over the past few years is about the speed of the game. As the only major sport not based off a clock, baseball games can last anywhere from two and a half to five hours. But it’s not the speed or length of each individual game that is the problem. People are willing to sit and watch three hours of a sporting event, heck they’ll watch 12 straight hours of football, but they aren’t willing to do it every single night. Regular season baseball is never appointment viewing. There will never be a night where the game is a “can’t miss.” The focus of baseball minds trying to fix the game are mostly honed in on shortening games, where they really should be looking at shortening the time constraint it takes to follow and enjoy the sport.