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 30, 2015, 1:12 AM EDT
In a bit of an oddity, two World Series contenders made a trade.
Jul 30, 2015, 12:05 AM EDT
Unique situation Wednesday night at Citi Field.
Jul 29, 2015, 11:31 PM EDT
Houston defeated Anaheim 6-3 to jump back into first place in the American League West.
Jul 29, 2015, 10:46 PM EDT
It’s a massive two-team, eight-player blockbuster deal that will net the Phillies a frontline starter for this year and years to come while injecting more young talent into the Phillies’ under-construction minor league system.
Jul 29, 2015, 9:31 PM EDT
It’s now even more imperative that St. Louis general manager John Mozeliak secures a first baseman before the July 31 trade deadline.
Jul 29, 2015, 9:01 PM EDT
What a crazy night.
Jul 29, 2015, 8:58 PM EDT
Troy Tulowitzki struck out swinging in his first Blue Jays at-bat Wednesday night against the Phillies, but he unloaded on this Jerome Williams pitch in his second trip to the plate …
Jul 29, 2015, 8:12 PM EDT
There’s been a lot of speculation that these two could be a fit, and now it may be close to happening …
Jul 29, 2015, 7:44 PM EDT
Andrew McCutchen launched a traditional two-run homer in the top of the fifth inning Wednesday in the Pirates’ 10-4 rout of the Twins and then went Little League style in the top of the sixth …
Jul 29, 2015, 7:01 PM EDT
An MRI taken Tuesday ruled out anything serious, but Trout does have a bit of wrist inflammation.
Jul 29, 2015, 6:17 PM EDT
The very latest on the Cole Hamels trade front …
Jul 29, 2015, 5:21 PM EDT
The trade deadline be crazy.
Jul 29, 2015, 5:10 PM EDT
Jul 29, 2015, 3:56 PM EDT
Bradley gets another chance in Boston.
Jul 29, 2015, 3:44 PM EDT
They’re in fourth place and their best player isn’t coming back for a month. Makes all sorts of sense.
Jul 29, 2015, 3:30 PM EDT
Some real old school mentality being demonstrated there.
Jul 29, 2015, 2:54 PM EDT
It was Verlander’s second straight eight inning, one-run performance.
Jul 29, 2015, 2:15 PM EDT
Capuano failed to make it out of the first inning in Tuesday’s start.
Jul 29, 2015, 1:14 PM EDT
Jul 29, 2015, 12:19 PM EDT
At least to the extent you can have a bidding “war” over a two-month rental.
- Rangers land ace left-hander Cole Hamels from Phillies 75
- Mets, Brewers call off reported Carlos Gomez trade 62
- Dodgers, Marlins, Braves trade involving Mat Latos “simply being held up by paperwork” 66
- The Tigers are going to “reboot;” plan to trade Price and Cespedes 72
- Why do managers wear uniforms anyway? 49
- And That Happened: Tuesday’s scores and highlights 51
- Astros “making a strong effort” for Phillies ace Cole Hamels 32
- Angels acquire outfielders David Murphy and David DeJesus 24
- The MLBPA is considering withholding cooperation with ESPN, Fox over Colin Cowherd’s comments (157)
- The Cubs are in discussions with the Phillies on Cole Hamels (146)
- Colin Cowherd wonders how baseball can be considered “complicated” if Dominicans can understand it (129)
- Major League Baseball rips Colin Cowherd in an official statement (123)
- Settling the Scores: Wednesday’s results (106)