Jim Donaldson of the Providence Journal thinks he’s throwing bombs when he compares baseball television ratings to football ratings:
Baseball likes to think of itself – indeed, likes to bill itself — as the “National Pastime.” But that time is long gone, a distant memory . . . But, give your average sports fan a choice between watching baseball and watching football and, well, it’s as predictable as asking your average, 18-to-35-year-old, prime-demographic, prime-time sports-watching male whether he’d prefer a night out with Ugly Betty, or with Jessica Simpson.
Setting aside the fact that Jessica Simpson isn’t on any right-thinking 18-to-35 year-old’s top ten list anymore, Donaldson is right. As he notes, the ratings for the end of the Packers-Vikings game this past weekend were higher than any World Series game in even this highly-rated Series. And yes, the Hall of Fame Game got more viewers than did a Red Sox-Yankees game in August.
But who cares? The notion that football has surpassed baseball as the most popular sport in America is at least a decade old. Maybe older. Football draws better ratings because it’s, in essence, an exclusively nationally-televised sport whereas the vast majority of baseball viewership takes place via regional sports networks. And there are 10 times the number of baseball games as there are football games, so catching any one baseball game is nowhere near as important to the average fan of catching one must-see football game. They’re different beasts, and I would be shocked if baseball ever outdraws football in the television ratings again.
And I’m totally fine with that. Because Donaldson’s apparent point — that football trumps baseball as the National Pasttime because of the ratings — is an empty one. Have you seen what else leads the television ratings? Or the box office? Or the album charts? I’m not even going to mention beer sales in all of this.
Popularity only measures what’s popular. It’s almost always completely divorced from what’s good. Pro Football can be the National Pasttime. I prefer to enjoy a more exclusive, higher quality product, thank you.