Football gets better ratings than baseball. So what?

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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.  

The Red Sox start is ridiculous

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The red-hot Red Sox completed a sweep of the previously red-hot Angels last night, outscoring them 27-3 in their three-game series. Last night’s game was, relatively speaking, a close one, with the Sox winning “only” by six runs. They did manage to strike out Shohei Ohtani three times, though, so some style points help make up for the “squeaker.” Also worth noting that they held Mike Trout of all people to a 3-for-11 line in their three-game series. He did not score a single time and drove in no runs.

That series win puts the Sox at 16-2 on the year. They dropped their Opening Day game to the Rays, but then won their next six games against Tampa Bay, which I’d say makes up for it. In between those two series they swept a two-game series from the Marlins and afterwards they took two of three from the Yankees and three in a row from the Orioles. The only thing that even threatened to slow this juggernaut down is the weather, resulting in a postponement of Monday morning’s Patriot’s Day game. Somewhere in here we should notice that they’re doing this with their starting shortstop and starting second baseman on the disabled list.

As we’ve noted many times, their 16-2 record is the best start in the Red Sox’ 118-year history. It’s also the best start for any team since the 1987 Milwaukee Brewers began 17-1 (let us just forget, for the time being, that those Brewers lost 18 of 20 in May of that year). They are the fourth team since 1961 to win 16 of its first 18 games.

The Sox aren’t simply getting lucky here. They’ve scored 116 runs and have allowed only 50, which is a Pythagorean record of 15-3. They lead all of baseball in offense, scoring 6.44 runs a game, leading individually in average, on-base percentage and slugging. They are only three one hundredths of a run behind the Astros from leading all of baseball in pitching, allowing only 2.78 runs a game. They’re winning all of these games because, in the early going, they’ve simply been that dang much better than everyone they’ve played.

No, the Sox are not going to go 144-18, as they are currently on pace to do. Yes, they are going to find a lot more trouble in their schedule once they play the Orioles, Rays and Marlins less, play a healthier Yankees team more and face off against the Astros, the Blue Jays, the Indians, the Twins and some tougher interleague opponents. This is baseball, obviously, and no one makes it through a season without rough patches, long, short and numerous.

Still: this has been one whale of a start for Boston. Those wins are in the bank. It’s been quite the thing to see.