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.
Aug 1, 2014, 11:19 PM EDT
Not bad for a guy who has mostly played second base in pro ball.
Aug 1, 2014, 10:25 PM EDT
Carlos Gonzalez sprained his ankle last Saturday and he aggravated the injury tonight while making a sliding catch.
Aug 1, 2014, 9:27 PM EDT
John Lackey will pitch at the major league minimum next season due to a clause in his contract.
Aug 1, 2014, 8:35 PM EDT
Matt Cain hasn’t made a decision on elbow surgery, but Giants manager Bruce Bochy doesn’t expect him to pitch again this year.
Aug 1, 2014, 7:59 PM EDT
The Brewers have scratched rookie right-hander Jimmy Nelson from Saturday’s start, but it mostly looks like a convenient excuse to manipulate their rotation this weekend.
Aug 1, 2014, 7:05 PM EDT
Brett Lawrie has been sidelined since June 22 due to a broken right index finger.
Aug 1, 2014, 6:29 PM EDT
Mets right-hander Matt Harvey threw off a mound today for this first time since he underwent Tommy John reconstructive surgery on his right elbow last October.
Aug 1, 2014, 5:47 PM EDT
Henderson Alvarez has followed up last year’s no-hitter by being one of the best pitchers in the National League this season, but the Marlins have placed the 24-year-old right-hander on the disabled list with shoulder inflammation.
Aug 1, 2014, 5:19 PM EDT
Earlier this week the Royals became the fourth team to release Joe Saunders this season and the 33-year-old left-hander has already found a fifth organization, signing a minor-league deal with the Orioles.
Aug 1, 2014, 5:03 PM EDT
But the determining factor was likely the Rays’ belief that they can contend in 2015.
Aug 1, 2014, 4:46 PM EDT
James Jones has been the Mariners’ starting center fielder since making his MLB debut in mid-April, logging more than 300 plate appearances, but now the 25-year-old is headed back to Triple-A following yesterday’s trade for Tigers center fielder Austin Jackson.
Aug 1, 2014, 4:32 PM EDT
Apologies if the team you root for got a prequel logo. Braves got Boba Fett, though, so I’m happy.
Aug 1, 2014, 4:16 PM EDT
Carlos Martinez is no longer needed in St. Louis’ rotation following trades for Justin Masterson and John Lackey, but rather than shifting him back to the bullpen the Cardinals have decided to send the 22-year-old right-hander to Triple-A.
Aug 1, 2014, 4:00 PM EDT
Instant Karma’s gonna get you.
Aug 1, 2014, 3:45 PM EDT
Mike Carp reportedly requested a trade from the Red Sox last week, but after failing to find a taker before yesterday’s deadline they’ve designated him for assignment.
Aug 1, 2014, 3:40 PM EDT
We won’t really know for sure for some time, but for now let us offer knee jerk reactions!
Aug 1, 2014, 3:20 PM EDT
Tyler Skaggs exited Thursday’s start in the fifth inning with forearm tightness and now the Angels have placed the 22-year-old left-hander on the disabled list.
Aug 1, 2014, 2:40 PM EDT
Johnson saved 50-plus games in each of the previous two seasons, leading the league both years, but this season he posted a 6.92 ERA in 38 appearances for the A’s while almost immediately being stripped of closing duties.
Jose Bautista, Casey Janssen “frustrated” and “disappointed” by Blue Jays’ lack of trade deadline activity
Aug 1, 2014, 2:14 PM EDT
Toronto was 38-24 and in first place by six games on June 6, but the Blue Jays have gone 22-26 since then and general manager Alex Anthopoulos did nothing at the trade deadline yesterday.
Aug 1, 2014, 1:45 PM EDT
The Royals just had an infuriating trade deadline day.
- And That Happened: Thursday’s scores and highlights 38
- Cliff Lee placed on DL with recurrence of flexor pronator strain 27
- Winners and losers at the trade deadline 46
- 2014 Trade Deadline Tracker 49
- ACES GALORE: The Rays trade David Price to the Tigers 137
- Red Sox trade John Lackey to Cardinals for Allen Craig and Joe Kelly 91
- The Lester trade is a win-win 113
- Jon Lester, Jonny Gomes heading to Oakland for Yoenis Cespedes 165
- “Caucasians” t-shirts are hot sellers on Canadian Indian reservations (201)
- Jon Lester, Jonny Gomes heading to Oakland for Yoenis Cespedes (165)
- ACES GALORE: The Rays trade David Price to the Tigers (137)
- Tampa Bay news station tweets classless Detroit joke following David Price trade (128)
- Rangers’ retirement gifts for Derek Jeter: Yankees cowboy boots, signed George W. Bush photo (126)