A recent study indicated there has been a major uptick in the number of car accidents credited to distracted drivers via electronic devices. The FTA has requested phone makers create apps which disable phones when the car is moving 10 MHP or faster. Phone distractions, as well all know, can kill someone.
I’ve asserted more times than I recall that fans simply aren’t paying attention to baseball games as they should be. This new finding adds credibility to my assertions, and greatly weakens the argument of those who repeatedly claim MLB and MiLB have a responsibility to keep their fans safe, even if the fans are looking at their phones.
With the help of a few fans and after watching a number of MLB games on MLB.tv (not the ideal way to study this, I know, but this is only a preliminary study, the data indicates that at least 7% of fans are on their phone at any given time.
Research by a Twitter follower, Mike Dies, who also has an interview on FoulBallz.com HERE, counted 163 fans on their phones over 5 innings of play at the 2016 Angels-Indians game. With roughly 400 fans visible from his seats, this came out to be roughly 7.5% on their phones during live action, which means they weren’t paying attention. There were 16652 in attendance.
Another fan, rj / @rjmlb43 (via Twitter), counted 24 fans for 100 fans (one on laptop). This indicates a whopping 24% of fans at the 9/8/2016 Diamondbacks-Mets game were on the phone. There were 31844 attending that game.
For my in-person contribution, I counted out the fans at the 7/8/2016 Tigers-Blue Jays game. Of the 100 or so (conservative guess) fans around me, I counted 11 or 11%. This comes out to 4700 or so of the 43228 fans at the game were buried in their phones while live play was going on. While we sat in the outfield seats near the right field foul pole, we weren’t out of reach of danger at all. A double ended up bouncing up into the stands being deflected away only 2 rows to our left, which is about 3 seats from where we sat.
These three live counts equal 14.2% of fans are on their phones at any given time during live play at MLB games.
In my research watching various games on TV, I counted 10% on their phones. However, there is an honest caveat: Most of the fans I could see, due to camera angles, were behind the nets right behind and to either side of the plate. But, assuming the live game numbers are accurate and that the 10% would hold fairly steady in the seats not covered by netting, the rough percentage of fans who are on their phones, distracted by their Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, or Pokemon Go, is at least—and I’m intentionally going ultra-conservative here—is 5%.
Assuming this 5% is reasonable, when figured into the average league-wide attendance of 30,131, there were an average of 1500 fans per game on their phones consistently not paying attention.
1500 fans per game on average, then, are distracted. They are endangering themselves by choosing to be on their phones.
Too often I hear the argument that MLB is promoting phone use with their hashtags and photo requests. However, these challenges and fun interactive games are NEVER done during live play. And nobody is forcing fans to engage in the games. Fans are choosing to participate and then to continue using their phones, ignoring the potential dangers around them.
This all falls on the fan using common sense. The conservative estimate of 1500 fans is 1501 too many. Accidents will happen; it’s part of the game. We can’t always react quickly enough to snag the ball, especially when we have other fans jumping over us to get to the ball, but being diligent is the key, not netting which obstructs the view.
Let common sense prevail again.