Thursday, October 28, 2010

Why football won't decline in popularity like boxing

Shutdown Corner today sheds light on three columnists who think football could some day fade out of popularity much like boxing has. (Here, here, and here.)

The articles surmise that since the dangers of football are becoming more apparent and concussions are on the rise, parents won't let their children play the sport at all, which will eventually lead to a downturn in the quality of the competition. That would, as a result, decrease interest in the game.

I understand the idea and it's not far fetched to think that someday the NFL won't be as popular as it is today. Baseball was once America's Pastime and that has been overshadowed by the NFL. But there are so many other factors that make the NFL as popular as it is.

Football Sunday is an event. People gather to drink, eat copious amounts of unhealthy food and watch a whole day's worth of action on the gridiron. Baseball, on the other hand, is a marathon of a season, with games played every night for seven months. There are few groups of friends who say, "Let's all get together and watch the Pirates-Cubs game" in mid-June. Every game means something in the NFL and whether you're a fan of an always-good team like the Patriots or a perennial loser like the Lions, there is that "anything can happen" factor that makes pro football so great.

The main reason boxing has fallen so hard is because of a lack of superstars. Sure, if the NFL didn't have Peyton Manning, Chris Johnson and the like, it might not be as interesting but people are faithful to their teams and not individuals. Boxing, though, is an individual sport and relies more heavily on its stars.

There are no marquee fights anymore. The last hope of reviving the sweet science was a fight between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquaio and that was totally botched. Besides those two, there are few others that could be considered "household" names.

And let's not dismiss the impact of MMA. UFC has clearly surpassed boxing as the prime fighting sport in America and I doubt the UFL will be overtaking the NFL in ten years.

The idea is probably correct - if people stop wanting to play football, the quality of the sport will diminish - but it doesn't seem like we'll see a decline in America's favorite game any time soon.

(Photo courtesy AP)


Bob Farrigan said...

Plus there are not a half dozen football leagues with vaguely similar sounding names that have guys jumping back and forth between them as well as not bothering to defend a championship in one they have issues with. I think the dilution of boxing has done as much as no marquee names. Plus very few guys make the big money in boxing.

Tony said...

Very true, Bob. Everything has become so watered down. There are so many titles that keeping track of the champions is impossible for the average fan.