Jan 2, 2014, 3:32 PM EDT
As baseball news is at its offseason nadir, it’s time to take note of something everyone is noticing but no one is willing to discuss openly: professional football, which used to be America’s most popular sport, no longer has a hold on the nation’s consciousness.
Over the years, you have heard myriad explanations for football’s declining popularity. High-definition television making people less likely to go to stadiums. The increasing sophistication of video game consoles creating a more appealing form of home entertainment. People’s increasing love of Sunday marathons of “Top Gear” on BBC America. All are valid explanations. But they have not seemed to detract from America’s new favorite pastime: baseball.
Look no further than this past season’s playoffs. Sellouts in Boston, St. Louis, Detroit, Los Angeles. Everyone from the cop on the corner to the man on the street enjoyed the baseball playoffs and Fall Classic. It really brought our nation together.
But the NFL? Costs are skyrocketing, pricing out the common fan. Playoff teams struggle to sell tickets. When the league should be celebrating its moment in the spotlight it finds itself enmeshed in controversy. A mere five years ago no one would have predicted that baseball would trump football in a popularity (non)contest like it does now. But they probably should have.
And to be clear: football’s declining allure has nothing to do with costs, the prevalence of social issues in the discourse or even the natural ebb and flow of popular entertainment. It has to do with the sport itself. There’s too broad a canvass on which to paint needed progressive change in football. Literally. There’s too much space.
Including end zones, a football field is 120 yards long and 53 yards wide, giving it a playing-surface area of 8,242,560 square inches. Eight million-plus square inches is far too much space for its participants to cover, both literally and thematically. It’s strategic schemes are simultaneously far too broad and far too intricate, and thus there is far too much required of the fan to accommodate the sport’s advancements.
Baseball, on the other hand, has a relevant playing surface area of a mere 216 square inches. That’s the area of home plate. Yes, baseball fields are about the same overall size as football fields, but the field does not become relevant until someone hits one of the pitches thrown to home plate. The sport hinges on what takes place near those 216 square inches. There are only so many things an athlete can do when confined to such tight parameters. There are only four things, really: throw a strike or a ball and swing the bat or don’t. Fans can handle something as simple as that. The entire game’s perfection is confined to a reasonable area, clearly seen by the home viewer and the fan in the overflowing stands alike. Granted, this is an oversimplification of a long-lived sport like football, but it is a clear explanation for why football’s best days are behind it.
Is football dying? The playoff game ticket sales, the sport’s own natural evolutionary limitations and the history of similar sports say yes. It’s just a matter of how quickly. The rate of football’s demise can easily turn into something of a mathematical argument based on presumption and perspective (two things that do not mix well with numbers). The National Football League came about in 1920. The sport’s golden age – its teenage years, if you will – was the 1960s through, oh, let’s call it early 2013. So perhaps football hasn’t even reached its midlife crisis yet. And yes, football’s TV ratings for the upcoming playoffs may show the sport to be back in full swing.
Bt in the big scheme of things, fewer people are going to playoff games. Meanwhile, the Spring Training is a little less than a month and a half away, and new records for attendance will probably be set.
Evolution at work.
Jul 1, 2015, 3:30 PM EDT
Silent Cal chooses to run.
Jul 1, 2015, 3:13 PM EDT
For better or worse, owner Arte Moreno is standing with Scioscia.
Jul 1, 2015, 1:30 PM EDT
“The most ridiculous no-hitter in baseball history”
Jul 1, 2015, 1:15 PM EDT
Santana has been “rehabbing” in the minors.
Jul 1, 2015, 12:32 PM EDT
Bruce Sutter retired when Ronald Reagan was still president. He’s still being paid by the Braves.
Jul 1, 2015, 10:47 AM EDT
Jul 1, 2015, 10:42 AM EDT
A book is coming out which is telling us just how bad a teammate Yasiel Puig has been. Should we care?
Jul 1, 2015, 10:15 AM EDT
He was runner-up in 2009.
Jul 1, 2015, 9:12 AM EDT
Which, in reality, is a really dumb thing to mock the Mets for.
Jul 1, 2015, 8:07 AM EDT
It seems that if you battle with Mike Scioscia, you’re going to lose.
Jul 1, 2015, 7:31 AM EDT
Shutouts are rare in baseball these days. M’s rookie Mike Montgomery has two in a row.
Jun 30, 2015, 10:05 PM EDT
Banuelos has rebuilt some of his early-career hype this summer with the Braves’ Triple-A affiliate in Gwinnett, Georgia, posting 2.29 ERA and 1.22 WHIP across 82 2/3 innings (15 starts).
Jun 30, 2015, 8:26 PM EDT
Watch as Dee Gordon belts a ball into the right-center field gap and turns on the jets …
Jun 30, 2015, 7:41 PM EDT
Gyorko was optioned to the minors on June 10 after batting .210/.282/.311 over his first 131 plate appearances …
Jun 30, 2015, 6:35 PM EDT
Tim Lincecum will be placed on the disabled list with a forearm bruise to open a rotation spot.
Jun 30, 2015, 5:23 PM EDT
Like pretty much everyone else, actually.
Jun 30, 2015, 4:29 PM EDT
Which was pretty much the only choice they had, yes?
Jun 30, 2015, 3:58 PM EDT
Let us use this column to talk a bit about how rumors got started back in the day and how they get started now.
Jun 30, 2015, 3:20 PM EDT
Gallo played 25 games in his first taste of the big leagues.
Jun 30, 2015, 2:46 PM EDT
Chris Bassitt will start in his place.
- Jerry Dipoto loses power struggle with Mike Scioscia, steps down as Angels general manager 2
- Bobby Bonilla’s isn’t the only deferred money deal in the game. And isn’t even the worst. 38
- What Yasiel Puig being a pain in the butt means. And what it doesn’t mean. 59
- Report: Jerry Dipoto “definitely out” as Angels GM 70
- And That Happened: Tuesday’s scores and highlights 44
- Rangers activate Josh Hamilton from disabled list, send prospect Joey Gallo to Triple-A 12
- Huston Street says he’d retire if he was used like a 1970s-style fireman 48
- CC Sabathia looks like a reliever 30
- With the same-sex marriage decision, the San Francisco Giants get another big win (276)
- Joe Maddon is the latest manager to rip instant replay. He’s got a point. (110)
- Settling the Scores: Sunday’s results (99)
- And That Happened: Wednesday’s scores and highlights (75)
- There was a super ump show in Chicago yesterday (75)