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.
Mar 26, 2015, 3:25 PM EDT
Archer will be the first pitcher other than David Price or James Shields to start Opening Day for the Rays since 2007.
Mar 26, 2015, 2:51 PM EDT
The pitching is great and the offense should be better. But is better good enough?
Mar 26, 2015, 2:22 PM EDT
“I’ve had enough of St. Louis.”
Mar 26, 2015, 1:30 PM EDT
The Rays and Marlins have some challenges a lot of teams don’t.
Mar 26, 2015, 12:55 PM EDT
We shouldn’t forget about the 28- and 29-year-olds getting sent down, too.
Mar 26, 2015, 12:33 PM EDT
Baseball America, MLB.com, and Baseball Prospectus all ranked Lindor as a top-10 overall prospect this year.
Mar 26, 2015, 11:50 AM EDT
Buck was trying to win a job with the Braves on a minor-league contract.
Mar 26, 2015, 11:19 AM EDT
Saunders was acquired from the Mariners in exchange for J.A. Happ in December and will be the Blue Jays’ starting left fielder once he’s healthy.
Mar 26, 2015, 11:04 AM EDT
The country with the world’s highest murder rate is no longer a safe offseason home for many Venezuelan natives.
Mar 26, 2015, 10:47 AM EDT
Delabar was an All-Star in 2013 and now he’s headed to the minors.
Shane Victorino lashes out at talk radio guys for blowing his Cole Hamels comments out of proportion
Mar 26, 2015, 10:30 AM EDT
And, from what I can tell, he’s right to do so.
Mar 26, 2015, 10:15 AM EDT
Presumably he’s done enough to get the job.
Mar 26, 2015, 9:32 AM EDT
Bonus: A-Rod talks like a scout, and sounds pretty convincing doing it!
Mar 26, 2015, 8:53 AM EDT
Our second favorite meme rides again!
Mar 26, 2015, 7:59 AM EDT
Alex Gordon still would’ve been out, by the way.
Mar 25, 2015, 11:35 PM EDT
Yankees outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury was diagnosed with an oblique strain early last week, but it’s thought to be a fairly minor injury and he is expected to be ready for the beginning of the 2015 regular season.
Mar 25, 2015, 10:28 PM EDT
Chris Sale would have been Chicago’s Opening Day starter, but he’s expected to miss the first week of the season due to an avulsion fracture in his right foot.
Mar 25, 2015, 9:34 PM EDT
There’s been some controversy about this, but the Cardinals will go ahead with their plan …
Mar 25, 2015, 8:59 PM EDT
The 22-year-old will take over as the Dodgers’ starting center fielder in 2015 after tallying 33 home runs and 30 stolen bases in 121 games last season at Triple-A. The hype machine is rolling.
Mar 25, 2015, 7:48 PM EDT
Can the Bucs make a third consecutive trip to the postseason?
- 2015 Preview: Seattle Mariners 2
- Cardinals add “OT” patch for Oscar Taveras 75
- 2015 Preview: Pittsburgh Pirates 11
- 2015 Preview: San Diego Padres 22
- MLB is looking into some strange gambling tweets involving Marlins pitcher Jarred Cosart 46
- 2015 Preview: New York Yankees 63
- 2015 Preview: Cleveland Indians 10
- Dodgers sign Cuban star Hector Olivera for $62.5 million 55
- College baseball player cut after making offensive tweet about Mo’ne Davis (115)
- Joe West ejects A.J. Pierzynski by calmly telling the Braves’ dugout “you need a new catcher.” (97)
- Mo’ne Davis says college ballplayer who wrote an offensive tweet about her deserves a second chance (87)
- Andrew McCutchen cut his hair for the first time in eight years (75)
- Cardinals add “OT” patch for Oscar Taveras (75)