For decades, America’s favorite pastime has been baseball. Whenever someone thought of baseball, images like a father and son playing catch in the park or a group of friends eating hot dogs at the ballpark would immediately come to mind. Baseball was more than a game; it was a way of life, an activity that provided unity and fun for friends and family alike.
While baseball at times still can act as such, no longer can it rightfully be considered America’s favorite pastime. Football now holds that honor, as its popularity in many aspects of American culture has skyrocketed during the last handful of years. Here are a few reasons why football has replaced baseball as the true American game.
Whenever something becomes a staple of American culture, tradition must take on a major role. For the last quarter of a century, football, not baseball, has become the backbone of many traditions that Americans enjoy. Take Thanksgiving, for example. Whether it’s tossing a football with the cousins or huddling around the TV watching the Dallas Cowboys while eating pecan pie, there’s no question that football has become a staple of Thanksgiving Thursday. Furthermore, the hype surrounding Superbowl Sunday has developed to the point where it is almost considered a national holiday. Even its halftime show has grown out of proportion. In 2012, the Superbowl scored a 47.0 viewer rating, whereas the Giants-Tigers World Series earned a lowly 7.6 rating. In terms of present day traditions, it’s no contest. Football wins by a landslide.
2. Game Entertainment
Football’s entertainment value is really what separates it from baseball. Sunday afternoon football games lend themselves perfectly to large gatherings, where family and friends can get together every week during their day off to root on their team while devouring pizza and guzzling beerand just hanging out. Naturally, the NFL’s 16-game schedule is conducive to such behavior as it is only a once-a-week activity, whereas the MLB’s 162-game, grind-it-out season makes such events unfeasible. Moreover, football players, with their blinding speed, hard hits, other worldly leaping abilities, and entertaining stunts (think about any one of Terrell Owens’s touchdown dances), create a product that is more appealing to today’s viewers. Miguel Cabrera grinding out an eight-pitch at bat and slapping a double off the right field wall no longer fascinates us the way it used to. That isn’t to say it doesn’t require as much talent, because if anything it requires even more skill, but American spectators would prefer to watch Tom Brady complete a 40-yard pass to a diving Rob Gronkowski in the end zone.
Regrettably, baseball has become too slow to keep the attention of the tech-driven, need-to-be multi tasking people that create today’s fan base. Fans crave the hard tackles that impact football games, not the called third strike that paints the outside corner to end a rally.
3. Fantasy Football
Fantasy football has revolutionized what it means to be a football fan. Its popularity has skyrocketed in recent years to the point where even casual NFL fans compete in leagues. No longer do fans watch only their favorite teams; now every game holds meaning as it may impact the performance of your fantasy team. That week 14 matchup between the last-placed Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars means something; people have a vested interest in each game. MLB games? Not so much. If it’s not your home team playing, chances are you aren’t tuning in to watch.
For good or for bad, fantasy football also allows for small time, legal gambling to enter the sports mainstream. No equivalent opportunity exist in baseball; fantasy baseball just hasn’t caught on as much, for various reasons.
4. Performance-Enhancing Drugs
And finally, the icing on the cake. PEDs have undoubtedly played a major role in baseball’s decline. America hates cheaters and almost every MLB star of the past decade has been linked to PEDs. Alex Rodriguez, Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Manny Ramirez … the list goes on. Not only has this made fans question the legitimacy of the game, but it has also ruined the product. Baseball fanatics loved seeing the 500-foot bombs and 60 homerun seasons, not the low scoring games that we are accustomed to seeing now. That is not to say that PED’s are more uncommon in football. They just haven’t disrupted the game and its traditions as much.