Craig Calcaterra of the Hardball Talk blog, a part of the NBA Sports umbrella, proferred an interesting series of questions yesterday: Is football dying? And has baseball become America’s new favorite pastime . . . again?
Calcaterra points to playoff game fan attendance in support of that hypothesis.
While I don’t necessarily agree with the premise that baseball has surpassed football in terms of the American sports fan’s consciousness, the evidence he points to is at least interesting to consider. It’s no secret that the NFL is struggling to sell their playoff tickets this year. Yesterday morning, there were threats of playoff games being blacked out in three markets because the home teams in Green Bay, Cincinnati and Indianapolis had been unable to sell out. Fewer people are actually going to football games.
Excuse makers might attribute that to the prevalence of high definition television and the ever increasing ability to watch games in the comfort of home as opposed to braving the elements in seats featuring worse views than what can be enjoyed in the living room. It’s a valid argument. But it should work the same for baseball, right?
Yet baseball attendance has been on a dramatic surge, and the MLB certainly didn’t struggle to sell out any of its playoff games, not even those in the coldest of markets.
So what is the difference? Why is football, at a time when it should be showcasing the best of its product on the world stage, instead facing controversial decisions like whether to extend the deadline for a sellout to avoid a television blackout in the Cincinnati market?
I’m not ready to say that football is dying. To me, it’s the one beast in the sports world that cannot be killed, and television ratings for the upcoming Wild Card weekend will probably show huge numbers. But perhaps American society is becoming a little less enthusiastic about its gridiron game. And perhaps that’s happening at exactly the same time it is becoming more enthusiastic about baseball.
One thing we do know, baseball seems to already be winning the fan attendance battle. I wouldn’t be upset if that was the first step toward a long-awaited return to pastime prominence again.
If you’ve got any thoughts on what’s happening with football and baseball attendance, I would love to hear about them in the comments section.