America’s New Pastime


Is there any doubt that NFL Football is now the most popular sport in the USA? The top rated show in any given week on broadcast or cable is a NFL football game. Just a few weeks ago the baseball ACLS was played and the playoff baseball games were not the highest ranked shows. They were ranked 7 and 8 in the top 10. Two NFL games were in the top 5 (1 and 5) and a regular season football game also outranked a presidential debate. In fact the top 12 most watched shows this fall are all NFL games. Think about that – the top 12 most watched shows in all of TV this fall are regular season football games. All 12 spots.

There can be no debate about what is the most popular sport and entertainment spectacle in the USA – it is NFL Football.

Why did this happen? Both sports have millionaire players playing for billionaire owners in expensive stadiums and a long history of sports entertainment. I can only speak for myself, but when did baseball become so boring? Is my attention span so much shorter? All I know is that football seems interesting and baseball is about as exciting as watching web pages load on a flip phone with lousy reception.

Is it all just better marketing on the part of the NFL? It might be as the NFL is a marketing juggernaut. The direct TV contract virtually pays all the salaries of the players and allows for all 32 teams to compete with an effective albeit confusing salary cap. Add up the ticket sales, merchandising, parking, beer, food and other events, other TV contracts and you have a massive amount of money to work with in promoting the product. Having and spending a lot of money on marketing does not mean your product will succeed (see Microsoft Zune, PlaysForSure, Vista and possibly Surface), but it sure helps when you have a killer product. (See iPod, iPhone, iPad.)

George Carlin had a great routine where he compared baseball to football. He would say that in football, one team wearing helmets marched down the gridiron, tossing bombs and pounding the rock until they penetrated the end zone and scored a touchdown. In baseball, players wear caps and run around bases until they come back home and declare themselves “safe”. It is very funny and worth a look.


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