|This essay by Robert R. Prechter, Jr. originally appeared in The Elliott Wave Theorist on dates shown. It was reprinted in:
Prechter, Robert R. (2003). Pioneering Studies in Socionomics. Gainesville, Georgia: New Classics Library, pp. 87-91 (Note: The book is also available for purchase as part of a two-volume set.)
November 1, 1991
Sports can provide a background for extreme emotions socially expressed. Long time readers will remember that in the August 1985 Special Report, “Popular Culture and the Stock Market,” football was listed as flourishing in bear markets, baseball in bull markets. In the early 1980s, at the end of the 16-year bear market pattern and the low for stocks in constant dollars, baseball bottomed in its slump at a low point that saw players on strike. Since then, baseball has been on a powerful “comeback” trend that has continued right through to this year. In fact, baseball players’ salaries constitute one of the few speculative markets that have hit new all time highs this late in the 1987-to-present topping phase. The attention toward baseball this year has been nothing short of tremendous. What makes the story even more interesting is the party atmosphere and intense fan activity of the crowds attending the league playoffs and the World Series. Listen to baseball analyst Don Sutton, being interviewed before Game 3 of the NL playoffs:
Reporter: “You normally see these kinds of crowds at college football games in the Southeast. It’s hard to believe this is baseball and to see this sort of enthusiasm.”
Sutton: “Atlanta has become a very unusual baseball city. You normally see this outflow of emotion in a city like Chicago, negatively in cities like New York and Philadelphia. If you go to ball games in San Francisco or Los Angeles…you don’t see this kind of emotional outpouring. And most of the time when people are really revved up and into it, it is from a negative standpoint, and not from a positive standpoint. In 28 years of being around baseball, it has been the most remarkable phenomenon I’ve seen in baseball.”
“I have never seen anything more dramatic than what’s happening in Atlanta today.”
“It was great, super. We feel good. We feel happy. It’s amazing.”
— Quotes from fans, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
The “tomahawk chop,” the “Indian war chant” and “homer hankies” were continually displayed in unison by tens of thousands of people at a time. 40 year olds acted like 20 year olds. Drums beat for weeks, game or no game. People showed up hours early at the ballpark to soak up the supercharged atmosphere of the crowd. These upbeat social rituals directly involved hundreds of thousands of people. Millions were involved indirectly via television. Victory celebrations in Atlanta and Minneapolis (despite sleet) attracted 760,000 people. The victory parade in Atlanta, with floats and 16 bands, attracted the largest crowd ever to flood downtown for any event.As one observer said on TV prior to a game, “It’s the Woodstock of sports.”
October 30, 1992
A Top in Baseball?
The first World Series game was held in 1903. This year was the Fibonacci 89th World Series. The emotion surrounding the 88th and 89th World Series games was huge. The 1991 series was widely described as “the best World Series ever.” It brought together two “worst-to-first” teams, a battle of underdogs (who are always popular). Fans were chanting and “tomahawk chopping” like college fraternity lunatics. The games attracted a high 24.0 share of TV viewers. The teams were greeted by throngs totaling nearly a million people at post-series hometown parades. The 1992 series was similarly emotional, particularly in Canada, as the Toronto Blue Jays took on the symbolism of national pride. Indeed, the Atlanta Braves were the only team ever to have been magically groomed for such a setting by a decade of billing as “America’s Team.” It was the first nationalistic World Series ever.
Among a list of overpriced items of the 1980s, most have fallen in value. Baseball players’ salaries, as well as baseball cards and other memorabilia, are an exception. There is reason to believe these prices have just made a “spike top” along with fans’ emotions. Here is a list of subtle hints that a major disaffection with baseball is in the offing.
1.) The 1992 World Series had the second lowest U.S. viewership ever. (Experts say that the fact that one team was from out of the country was a minor factor.)
2.) This year following the World Series, the Atlanta Braves were feted by 97% fewer people than last year (24,000 vs. 750,000, according to newspapers).
3.) CBS will have lost half a billion dollars broadcasting the World Series by the time its contract ends in 1993.
4.) On October 17, a 1937 jersey owned by the famed Lou Gehrig failed to sell at a Christie’s auction. A Mickey Mantle card sold below expectations.
5.) Veteran announcers and writers are griping on the air and in print about baseball’s “selling out” to commercialism, evidenced by the World Series’ nighttime TV scheduling, inflated salaries and players team-hopping for extra money. As one writer put it, “a unique event in our national life has been reduced to just another prime time special,” too late for kids to watch, too late for dads to take them to the game and forty minutes longer due to commercials. “A leisurely and timeless event…is now about ratings and money.” The national pastime is suddenly not perceived the same as it was.This is a major change in the fans’ emotional orientation toward baseball, from the euphoric to the cynical.
6.) While making money is certainly a virtue, baseball may be earning big dollars partly because today’s adults enjoyed it as kids. If today’s kids grow up without baseball, the money will disappear. In other words, baseball may be short sightedly living high off its capital base and not replacing it.
7.) You may recall that our “Popular Culture” Special Report of 1985 concluded that baseball is a bull market sport (good guys are the good guys) and football a bear market sport (bad guys are the good guys). When the first World Series was played in October 1903, the Dow was making a low at 43. It was never lower during another World Series, enjoying an 89-year net uptrend. If stocks are topping in a major way as the Wave Principle argues, so is the uptrend in baseball’s popularity. Here is corroborating evidence of a top. Atlanta acquired the Braves when it felt rich in 1966, the exact year of the top of Supercycle wave III (and the all time inflation-adjusted peak) in stocks. After all this time, the city has now decided that it can afford a new $207 million state-of-the-art stadium, to begin construction in 1993. This decision qualifies as further evidence that the top of Supercycle wave V is upon us.
8.) In the past few years, Hollywood has idolized baseball in Field of Dreams, The Babe and A League of Their Own. The widespread popularity of such sentiment toward a subject often coincides with a peak in interest among the population.
Could baseball be in for a 55-year period of decline in public favor? Signs of a turn are there. If you’re an investor, take profits on baseball cards. If you’re a player, sign a long term contract. If you’re an owner, sell your club. Kids will soon be trading in their bats for helmets (or hockey pucks, soccer balls, or equipment for a more violent sport yet to come). If you’re a real fan, you’ll still find yourself griping about baseball some time in the 1990s.
January 29, 1993
The Elliott Wave Theorist presented a full page of detailed discussion in the October 30 issue arguing that after 89 years, the trend of increasing popularity of baseball had given eight major signs of topping. (Immediately thereafter in the post-season, team owners signed 34 players to contracts guaranteeing $258 million. Barry Bonds will make over $45,000 a game, more than former top heroes made in a year; talk about locking in “Bond” yield….) That write-up apparently came at the top of a spike, just before a dramatic reversal. Here’s a hot-off-the-press assessment of what’s happened since.
Baseball-card stocks were hit by news that market leader Topps Co. will report its first quarterly loss in more than a decade.
Topps – which experienced strong insider selling last year – sank 31% to $8.50 from $12.25, on seven times its usual volume.
The announcement sent shares of several other companies in the sports-memorabilia business south yesterday. Among them was Marvel Entertainment group, the comic-book giant that purchased card manufacturer Fleer Corp. last September. Shares of Marvel, which according to analysts get roughly half its revenue from Fleer, slid $3.25, or 11.5%, to $24.875.
“The speculative bubble has burst in the new cards,” said….
—The Wall Street Journal, January 27, 1993
Pete Kendall has just obtained the data on baseball attendance during this century. As you can see by the chart, the figures appear to have traced out an exceptional Elliott wave, ending with the 1991 season. Notice that the 1981 strike brought attendance back to the preceding fourth wave, just as it was scheduled to do. When the data is plotted on semilog scale (not shown), the entire rise from the World War I low in 1916 forms a wedge, which has bearish implications. At minimum, then, baseball faces its largest percentage drop in attendance since it became the national sport. At junctures such as this, it is even appropriate to consider that it may fall far enough out of favor in coming years to cease being the premier national sport.■
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