Popularity In North America! How Did The NFL Become So Popular And When Did It Over Take Baseball? An Examination In the Growing Popularity Of The NFL

Posted: August 12, 2010 in MLB, NFL

It’s hard to describe popularity in North America, sometimes its lightning in a bottle, you get the perfect storm, they have these things for kids called Silly Bands…just nothing, outta the blue, there are zillions of them, a lot of family friends’ kids have them, nobody can really explain it, it’s a creative idea, the marketplace is right, their inexpensive.

I mean who knows why William Hong or Pants on Fire got hot! Stuff happens, it’s hard to explain, there’s no magic popularity, scale or system…I mean, Polyshore was popular for one hour, Dice Clay never had good material….he was popular, who knows! I mean, you can’t explain popularity.

You know a couple of days ago I got into this topic where the hall of fame game of Sunday Night Football, which is a lousy game, starters barely played…it got a 7.6 rating, it’s unbelievable! That is equivalent to a Master’s Sunday rating, that is a Game 2 of a World Series rating, that is the finals of the Eastern or Western Conference finals rating… for an exhibition football game, the first one…sloppy, turnovers, starters don’t play…some of it is the Dallas Cowboys factor, their just really really popular…there’s a big line/big joke over at Fox Sports, it’s called the “star” you put the “star” on television…it takes up 30% of ratings!, that’s just the reality, the Cowboys are ,you know everybody bellyaches about East Coast bias…Dallas is not in the East Coast! Fox and all the major sport networks cover them a lot! Why? They get numbers!

Believe it or not, they do actually care about ratings, just like your local station and local newspaper. So how do you explain the NFL’s popularity you might ask? You know, I’ll argue all day with people and when I was at MLSE working as an intern during the first 4 months of the year, I was able to have a 15min discussion with a major executive there, and this guy he’s been there longer than anybody…and there is a variety of reasons…you know, people say “well America and Canada love violence, that’s the reason why NFL is soo popular!”

Well then why isn’t MMA the # 1 sport? (sorry Tim, it just isn’t). Then why doesn’t violence dominate at the box office? Reservoir Dog gets one tenth of the audience that Harry Potter gets…umm I mean Rugby would be huge! My point being, it’s just NOT violence…although we do like the physical nature of it. “Umm is it because you can bet football?” some might ask…pfft, you can bet everything! You can bet baseball…and by the way you could bet on football 30 years ago! Why wasn’t it as popular 30 years ago? “Well its fantasy sports!” some would say.

Well I got news for you! Fantasy baseball was around before fantasy football, there’s fantasy NASCAR, there’s fantasy NBA, there’s fantasy golf…there’s fantasy everything! In fact I would argue, there is only 1 game a week for football…it should be less popular no? Baseball you get to play pretty much everyday! So if you’re really a fantasy diehard, football should be the least popular!

It’s a combination of things that makes football what is it in both Canada and the United States, particularly in the US. The 2 things that have never been talked about that I’m going to use as argument today. #1 and this goes back to something I rely on heavily because Harris Interactive is a polling service, we use it for politicians and for political races, it’s not solely for sports networks…they don’t have a dog in the fight…they do these every year, Harris Interactive, on one of the most popular sports in America…their independent! And they have no dog, they don’t care, it’s not conservative or liberal based…they just poll! They poll four or five thousand Americans

The first thing that needs to be mentioned, is that in the early 80’s, and nobody ever discusses this….in the early 80’s football surpassed baseball! But the number 1 media tool in the early 80’s was newspapers!! And newspapers have always had a very cozy relationship with baseball, because of the box score element…and people would buy newspapers to read boxscores! Baseball is a day-to-day sport! Newspapers are a day-to-day read, there was always a cozy relationship.

Bob Costeas does not have a hall of fame vote, but some guy for a small newspaper will. Newspapers and baseball have always gone hand in hand! And what your noticing is that #1, Playboy had an interview with Howard Cozale in the 70’s, I’ll write it out to you in this rant, the 1st thing that needs to be said is that the NFL basically passed MLB, if you go see in these Harris Interactive polls, in the late 70’s and early 80’s. This idea that football just got popular, it was always more popular than baseball according to Harris Interactive poll.

Howard Cozale was talking about it in 1972. He said “the Old World Press relates to an era that has passed! Most of these men in the Old World Press began and still are baseball writers…and they can’t deal with the importance of their beloved sport going down! Baseball just doesn’t hold the level of importance it once did in the realm of sports! And whereas the baseball writers beat was once the most prestigious in the sports department, it’s now shifted to the men covering football” He said that in the early 70’s! And Howard Cozale is absolutely backed up by irrefutable polling, which shows the numbers back in the late 70’s and early 80’s of the NFL. When you combine the NFL with college football in the late 70’s…it was blowing out baseball! It was blowing it out!! Umm so that is #1

The 2nd thing that you notice when you look at these Harris Interactive polls it that football started beating baseball in the early 80’s/late 70’s…but it started crushing baseball about 12 years ago…well then everybody goes “well Andrew it was the steroid era” pfft, that’s not true!

Steroids HELPED baseball, it didn’t hurt it. Steroids create more runs….the masses like home runs, not situational baseball…this year the ratings and attendance are down…why? HR’s are down, hitting is down…don’t kid yourself, America doesn’t love newants…if they did, Paul Run would be 10x more popular than Will Ferrall…he’s not! …Okay? We like big!! It’s a busy country, big sells, Big Loser, Fear Factor, big…monsters, mobsters…big! That is what sells here…their super busy. There really big and they are really busy and they are really driven and are really frenetic and really caffeinated…their going at 100 mph…newants doesn’t sell!

So anyways, going back to this topic…what you notice 12 years ago is that the difference between the NFL and MLB, that was when you had this real huge separation…it went from reasonably close, to completely wide…why??? Well my own theory on this, which has never really been discussed.

So the first part of this argument is that football past baseball in the late 70’s…there is irrefutable evidence from Howard Cozale’s interview with Playboy in the early 70’s and he was looking at rating for Monday Night Football to the Harris Interactive poll. The 2nd part is this…newspapers over the last 20 years have died!! Television is bigger than ever!! We’ve got HDTV, it’s getting bigger…television is footballs friend! Newspapers were baseball’s friend…and as newspapers have died, it has not helped the relevance of baseball.

As television has grown, it has absolutely helped football! Because here is what you know….television executives don’t like baseball. CBS lost $500 million, NBC lost hundreds and they ditched it, ABC Sports is outta of it…Fox has it, I’m told their not too happy with it, they are losing networks. Whereas ESPN, ABC, CBS, FOX, their all gaining hundreds of millions on football…because football gives you younger demo’s, live action, I mean tangible…hits, action, athletic, younger demo’s, 3 hour games, once a week, huge numbers, Budweiser loves it, Miller Light loves it, Coors Light loves it, Keystone likes it …everybody likes it! And they all want a piece of it…this is what has happened over the last 12 years!

So to kinda recap, #1 football surpassed baseball in the 70’s, the numbers say it all… that doesn’t get argued, #2 is, in the last 12 years, newspapers have died and have pulled down baseball and as television has grown and is much more football friendly, they love the NFL and they love college because it delivers numbers, television has grown…its pulling up football!

So those are the 2 things that don’t get discussed. Yeah some of it is gambling, we are pretty much a gambling culture and football is the most gambled sport, yeah you can also say fantasy…yeah this, yeah that…yeah violence… but those are all just little things, their tiny things…we are a television culture! We just are…and TV loves football!

And for the record, the NFL…always well run… realizes that they are a television show almost more than a sport. I mean nobody manipulates the broadcast like the NFL. They do such an incredible job of realizing “folks! This isn’t a sport …it’s a television show!” 

It’s hard to describe popularity in North America, sometimes its lightning in a bottle, you get the perfect storm, they have these things for kids called Silly Bands…just nothing, outta the blue, there are zillions of them, a lot of family friends’ kids have them, nobody can really explain it, it’s a creative idea, the marketplace is right, their inexpensive.

I mean who knows why William Hong or Pants on Fire got hot! Stuff happens, it’s hard to explain, there’s no magic popularity, scale or system…I mean, Polyshore was popular for one hour, Dice Clay never had good material….he was popular, who knows! I mean, you can’t explain popularity.

You know a couple of days ago I got into this topic where the hall of fame game of Sunday Night Football, which is a lousy game, starters barely played…it got a 7.6 rating, it’s unbelievable! That is equivalent to a Master’s Sunday rating, that is a Game 2 of a World Series rating, that is the finals of the Eastern or Western Conference finals rating… for an exhibition football game, the first one…sloppy, turnovers, starters don’t play…some of it is the Dallas Cowboys factor, their just really really popular…there’s a big line/big joke over at Fox Sports, it’s called the “star” you put the “star” on television…it takes up 30% of ratings!, that’s just the reality, the Cowboys are ,you know everybody bellyaches about East Coast bias…Dallas is not in the East Coast! Fox and all the major sport networks cover them a lot! Why? They get numbers!

Believe it or not, they do actually care about ratings, just like your local station and local newspaper. So how do you explain the NFL’s popularity you might ask? You know, I’ll argue all day with people and when I was at MLSE working as an intern during the first 4 months of the year, I was able to have a 15min discussion with a major executive there, and this guy he’s been there longer than anybody…and there is a variety of reasons…you know, people say “well America and Canada love violence, that’s the reason why NFL is soo popular!”

Well then why isn’t MMA the # 1 sport? (sorry Tim, it just isn’t). Then why doesn’t violence dominate at the box office? Reservoir Dog gets one tenth of the audience that Harry Potter gets…umm I mean Rugby would be huge! My point being, it’s just NOT violence…although we do like the physical nature of it. “Umm is it because you can bet football?” some might ask…pfft, you can bet everything! You can bet baseball…and by the way you could bet on football 30 years ago! Why wasn’t it as popular 30 years ago? “Well its fantasy sports!” some would say.

Well I got news for you! Fantasy baseball was around before fantasy football, there’s fantasy NASCAR, there’s fantasy NBA, there’s fantasy golf…there’s fantasy everything! In fact I would argue, there is only 1 game a week for football…it should be less popular no? Baseball you get to play pretty much everyday! So if you’re really a fantasy diehard, football should be the least popular!

It’s a combination of things that makes football what is it in both Canada and the United States, particularly in the US. The 2 things that have never been talked about that I’m going to use as argument today. #1 and this goes back to something I rely on heavily because Harris Interactive is a polling service, we use it for politicians and for political races, it’s not solely for sports networks…they don’t have a dog in the fight…they do these every year, Harris Interactive, on one of the most popular sports in America…their independent! And they have no dog, they don’t care, it’s not conservative or liberal based…they just poll! They poll four or five thousand Americans

The first thing that needs to be mentioned, is that in the early 80’s, and nobody ever discusses this….in the early 80’s football surpassed baseball! But the number 1 media tool in the early 80’s was newspapers!! And newspapers have always had a very cozy relationship with baseball, because of the box score element…and people would buy newspapers to read boxscores! Baseball is a day-to-day sport! Newspapers are a day-to-day read, there was always a cozy relationship.

Bob Costeas does not have a hall of fame vote, but some guy for a small newspaper will. Newspapers and baseball have always gone hand in hand! And what your noticing is that #1, Playboy had an interview with Howard Cozale in the 70’s, I’ll write it out to you in this rant, the 1st thing that needs to be said is that the NFL basically passed MLB, if you go see in these Harris Interactive polls, in the late 70’s and early 80’s. This idea that football just got popular, it was always more popular than baseball according to Harris Interactive poll.

Howard Cozale was talking about it in 1972. He said “the Old World Press relates to an era that has passed! Most of these men in the Old World Press began and still are baseball writers…and they can’t deal with the importance of their beloved sport going down! Baseball just doesn’t hold the level of importance it once did in the realm of sports! And whereas the baseball writers beat was once the most prestigious in the sports department, it’s now shifted to the men covering football” He said that in the early 70’s! And Howard Cozale is absolutely backed up by irrefutable polling, which shows the numbers back in the late 70’s and early 80’s of the NFL. When you combine the NFL with college football in the late 70’s…it was blowing out baseball! It was blowing it out!! Umm so that is #1

The 2nd thing that you notice when you look at these Harris Interactive polls it that football started beating baseball in the early 80’s/late 70’s…but it started crushing baseball about 12 years ago…well then everybody goes “well Andrew it was the steroid era” pfft, that’s not true!

Steroids HELPED baseball, it didn’t hurt it. Steroids create more runs….the masses like home runs, not situational baseball…this year the ratings and attendance are down…why? HR’s are down, hitting is down…don’t kid yourself, America doesn’t love newants…if they did, Paul Run would be 10x more popular than Will Ferrall…he’s not! …Okay? We like big!! It’s a busy country, big sells, Big Loser, Fear Factor, big…monsters, mobsters…big! That is what sells here…their super busy. There really big and they are really busy and they are really driven and are really frenetic and really caffeinated…their going at 100 mph…newants doesn’t sell!

So anyways, going back to this topic…what you notice 12 years ago is that the difference between the NFL and MLB, that was when you had this real huge separation…it went from reasonably close, to completely wide…why??? Well my own theory on this, which has never really been discussed.

So the first part of this argument is that football past baseball in the late 70’s…there is irrefutable evidence from Howard Cozale’s interview with Playboy in the early 70’s and he was looking at rating for Monday Night Football to the Harris Interactive poll. The 2nd part is this…newspapers over the last 20 years have died!! Television is bigger than ever!! We’ve got HDTV, it’s getting bigger…television is footballs friend! Newspapers were baseball’s friend…and as newspapers have died, it has not helped the relevance of baseball.

As television has grown, it has absolutely helped football! Because here is what you know….television executives don’t like baseball. CBS lost $500 million, NBC lost hundreds and they ditched it, ABC Sports is outta of it…Fox has it, I’m told their not too happy with it, they are losing networks. Whereas ESPN, ABC, CBS, FOX, their all gaining hundreds of millions on football…because football gives you younger demo’s, live action, I mean tangible…hits, action, athletic, younger demo’s, 3 hour games, once a week, huge numbers, Budweiser loves it, Miller Light loves it, Coors Light loves it, Keystone likes it …everybody likes it! And they all want a piece of it…this is what has happened over the last 12 years!

So to kinda recap, #1 football surpassed baseball in the 70’s, the numbers say it all… that doesn’t get argued, #2 is, in the last 12 years, newspapers have died and have pulled down baseball and as television has grown and is much more football friendly, they love the NFL and they love college because it delivers numbers, television has grown…its pulling up football!

So those are the 2 things that don’t get discussed. Yeah some of it is gambling, we are pretty much a gambling culture and football is the most gambled sport, yeah you can also say fantasy…yeah this, yeah that…yeah violence… but those are all just little things, their tiny things…we are a television culture! We just are…and TV loves football!

And for the record, the NFL…always well run… realizes that they are a television show almost more than a sport. I mean nobody manipulates the broadcast like the NFL. They do such an incredible job of realizing “folks! This isn’t a sport …it’s a television show!”

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