Baseball used to be America's pass-time, and in some ways it still is, but it's popularity is slowly waning. If you want proof of this only look as the playoffs are over shadowed by the beginning of the football season.
There is an energy about football that all the other sports cannot match. Basketball sneaks up on most people, baseball's spring training is often a yawn, but football season starts with months of anticipation. Pre-season is even televised! What more sign do you need that people are excited about it, games that don't matter make it on TV!
Here is why I think this is so 1.) television; 2.) hype; 3.) short attention span required; 4.) violence; & 5.) displays of toughness
- Football fits perfectly in the TV screen. I heard Larry King make this point a number of years ago. If you look at baseball it's hard to follow on a TV screen, as you can only see a limited portion of the game; you cannot see the defense switch in the outfield, the screen has to be split in order to see a player steal a base, you can't see the manager in the dugout. Football fits perfectly in the screen though. You can see the blitz coming, you can watch the players in motion, often you can see the coaches on the sideline. It's a perfect game to watch on TV
- Football is all about hype. There is a whole week to talk about big games. This allows analysts to spend hours day after day talking about match-ups, strategy, importance, and of course predict the consequences for winning or losing. In this build-up it seems that every part of the game is discussed and analyzed in preparation for the most important game of the year; this one!
- Each play of an game lasts less than 10 seconds. For the average American this is how long we are conditioned to concentrate on anything. If you don't believe this watch an old TV show, it feels slow to you because the camera shots last a long time. Watch a TV show that has been recently filmed and count how long a particular camera shot is used. Usually the number is under 5 seconds (always under 10). Football plays on our inability to concentrate on something for a long period of time.
- Football centers itself around violence. The harder the hitting the more exciting the game is. There are replays on ESPN of the best hits, called JACKED UP! In this collection of replays the TV hosts play violent, bone jarring hits in slow motion over and over explaining how the victim of the hit 'got jacked up!' Not only are their highlights during pre game and post game shows, but there are also videos of "best hits." Fans can't get enough!
- We not only expect our favorite players to be the most violent, but we also expect them to go out and perform under physical conditions that everybody else would be in the hospital for. Stories are told of players playing games on broken bones. Players who suffer concussions are pushed back onto the field risking severe brain damage. Walking off the field, even though one is barely able to stand up is seen as heroic. All in the name of toughness.
I am not making any statement about whether these qualities are good or not, they are merely observations. I'll let you do that!
Why do you think that football is so popular? Do you agree with my observations or disagree?