Sunday, April 3, 2016
Baseball Is More Popular Than Football
It's Opening Day. Sort of. Major League Baseball and ESPN are trying a "Community Shield" type of thing, where they have last season's World Series opponents start the season off.
In this case, it's the Kansas City Royals and the Mets. Since it's the Mets, we can ignore it.
The Yankees start tomorrow, so that's the real Opening Day.
To hear the conventional wisdom tell it, baseball is in trouble. It has been less popular than football for decades, it hasn't been as popular as basketball for a generation, it's not as popular as NASCAR, and even soccer is catching up.
First of all, NASCAR is not a sport, so toss that nonsense out.
Second of all, no, soccer is not catching up to baseball.
Third of all, basketball is seriously overhyped.
But let's just concentrate on the old comparison: As the late, great George Carlin put it, baseball, the 19th Century pastoral game, vs. football, the 20th Century technological struggle.
And let's put aside the things that make football stupid, like Commissioner Roger Goodell, cheerleaders (this isn't college, let alone high school), $50,000 fines for wearing your uniform slightly different from everybody else, and the existence of the Dallas Cowboys. And let's also put aside the things that make football cruel, like brain damage, permanent damage to other body parts, and fixed games and even fixed seasons. (Suspending Tom Brady for 4 games for essentially cheating his way into a Super Bowl is like giving John Gotti 2 years in prison for using too much hairspray.)
Baseball is still more popular than football.
In the 2015 NFL season, the average per-game attendance was 68,274. In the 2015 MLB season, it was 30,477.
Sounds pretty clear, right? The NFL's average was more than double MLB's.
As Lee Corso would say, "Not so fast, my friend!" NFL teams play once a week. MLB teams play an average of 6 times a week. So multiply that 30,477 times 6, and you get 182,863 people, on the average, paying to see a Major League Baseball game every week -- about 3 times (okay, 2.67 times) what the NFL gets.
What's that, you say? That's not a fair comparison? The NFL can't play more than once a week? Of course it can. All a team has to do is sign enough players. There are 128 colleges playing NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision teams. (What used to be known as Division I-A.) They've got over 100 players on a team. That's between 12,000 and 13,000 men playing college football's equivalent of "the major leagues." Are you telling me that, out of those 13,000 men, only 1,696 (32 teams times 53 men on a roster) will ever be good enough to play in the NFL? Expand the rosters, schedule the games, and play 6 NFL games a week. Certainly, the men in question could use the money. And most NFL owners are rich as hell, and can afford it.
What's that, you say? That's not fair, either? Football is played on the weekend, so that people can go to the games? Balderdash. You've got Monday Night Football and Thursday Night Football. Besides, baseball maintains its 30,477 despite playing every weekday. (Not every time plays every day, but, aside from the All-Star Break, from early April to late September, there's usually a full slate, and at least a half-slate, of MLB games every day.) If the NFL is more popular than baseball, then, sure, you can find enough players to play 6 NFL-quality games every week, and get an average of more than 30,477 fans per game, and maintain that over 6 months.
What's that, you say? That's not fair, either? There's weather to think of? It's too hot to play football in July and August? It's too cold to play football in February? Well, it's too hot to play football in September, too. And it's too cold to play football in December and January. But you do it. It's too cold to play baseball in April, but we still do it, and fans still come to the games.
What's that, you say? The NFL has better TV ratings? That's because people bet on football. Take out the bettors, and you lose half your audience.
Face it: Baseball is more popular than football.
Why? Simple: Baseball is better than football.