Posts Tagged ‘football’

It’s time again to talk about the National Pastime. Baseball season is starting this coming week. (I know that there was a quasi-start in Australia on March 22-23 with two Dodger wins; that doesn’t count.)


Back in one of baseball’s Golden Ages, the 1950s, there seemed little debate about what sport was the national pastime. (The picture to the right commemorates the 60th Anniversary of The Catch and the then-New York Giants’ upset sweep of Cleveland in the 1954 World Series.) The NFL was just emerging into the mass market and the NBA was still farther behind. Nowadays, however, everyone assumes that professional football has displaced baseball as the National Pastime. I am here to argue otherwise.

Some point to the television extravaganza of the Superbowl as proof of football’s preeminence. But that spectacle gathers many viewers who are not fans except perhaps of commercials, half-time shlockfests, guacamole dips, and partying. Others point to surveys asking Americans what their “favorite sport” or “favorite sport to watch” is. The data here are clear: Until about the 1960s-70s, baseball led; since then football has taken a wide lead.

Gallup polls [gated] show that baseball was comfortably ahead of football in “favorite to watch” through 1960. By 1972, football had the lead (by 19 points in January, 1972, although by only 8 points in October, 1972). About four decades later, in 2013, 40% of Gallup respondents picked football and only 14% picked baseball as favorite to watch. The Harris Poll started only in 1985 to ask  its respondents who followed sports to name their favorite one; baseball and pro football essentially tied. In December, 2012, football led 34% to 16%.

OK. Football is the more “favorite” sport. That’s not the same thing as pastime.



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