We can debate the reasons why football is the most popular sport in America. But what is not up for debate is the fact that football is, far and away, the most popular sport in America, and has been for at least 30 years running. In second place is baseball. But it’s not even close.
That’s funny, because baseball has been branded America’s game for a very long time. Nothing is more American than baseball and apple pie, right?
But when you look at the numbers, the baseball marketing myth becomes apparent. Game 5 of the World Series ratings was dominated by a regular season Sunday night football game. This is not the first time this sort of thing has happened. Sunday night football, Monday night football: it doesn’t matter. Given the choice between football and the biggest game in the No. 2 sport, Americans prefer to watch a regular season game of football. As competition goes, that is an impressive, and embarrassing, beat down.
Here are three reasons why football wins in America:
Every game of football is important
As every baseball aficionado already knows, no matter how good a team is, they are going to lose a third of their games. No matter how bad a team is, they are going to win a third of their games. It all comes down to the other third. Or, as it is more commonly said, every team wins 60 games. Every team loses 60 games. It all comes down to the other 42. No matter how you say it, baseball simply has too many games that don’t feel like they matter.
Football has no such luxury. In a 16 game season, every snap of the ball is make or break. Fans have a lot to cheer for every time a point is scored, and every time a drive is stopped without scoring. It all matters and the numbers don’t lie. Teams starting as poor as 0-2 or worse to start a season BARELY make the playoffs.
Because the football season is so compressed, a fan can actually watch every game of football in a season. Of course, they will need a package like Sunday Ticket that shows out-of-market games. The local networks show the others. You will have to check for DirecTV local channels and availability in your area.
No matter what kind of package you have, it is tough to watch 162 regular season baseball games. When it comes to watchability, football has a definite advantage.
Football is a rough and tumble sport
There is something genteel and almost polite about a friendly game of baseball. We teach our kids manners at the same time as we teach them how to catch. It’s a beautiful thing. But it also satisfies only one aspect of the human animal. And let’s face it: we are animals. We even name our teams after the most violent of creatures such as lions, tigers, and bears.
Perhaps more than girls, boys need to constantly test themselves physically against other boys. It is the only real standard by which we can judge ourselves. Whether it is boxing or football, we will always need some kind of smash-mouth outlet for release. Society has possibly overcorrected in the direction of genteel activities. Football satisfies something visceral within us that is not touched by baseball.
Football is exclusive
At the amateur level, almost anyone can get out there and play a game of baseball. Even at the amateur level, football is only played to its fullest by the best of the best. Only the fittest, most dexterous, bravest of the gridiron soldiers suit up for combat on the football field. That makes it kind of special.
But it is not just the players who are special. There are only 32 professional football teams that play only 16 games each. That gets you 512 regular season games. MLB plays about 10 times that number. Football is more expensive. And fewer people get to see a live game. Despite the outliers, the players only play, on average, 3.5 years. A baseball career is longer.
Every game of football matters. It satisfies our need for physical sport. And it is an exclusive treat that is worth cheering for.
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