Why Football Has Truly Become America’s Pastime

Super Bowl 50 Bill Musgrave
Levi Stadium After The Denver Broncos Won Super Bowl 50 - Under Creative Commons License

What qualifies as America’s pastime? That title is a romantic one after all. When someone calls a sport by this name, they are referring to a sport that is watched by all ages and ethnicities. They are talking about America’s most watched and popular sport. They point to old sports that have been around for a long time. The only sports that come close to filling these criteria are baseball, basketball, and football. Of these three, football is the most watched sport and is America’s true pastime.

How do we gauge the popularity of one sport versus another to determine what is truly is America’s pastime? It comes down to a comparison of the championships of each sport. Between the Super Bowl, the NBA Finals and the World Series, whichever sport draws the most amount of people automatically becomes “America’s pastime”. Each championship is the highest point of the season for each respective sport and has the highest stakes, the most drama and the most entertainment. If you’re going to watch one game all season long, it is going to be for the championship. Therefore, whichever sport plays America’s most popular championship also has America’s most popular sport.

Baseball plays America’s third most popular championship. The World Series averaged 18.9 million viewers during the series this year according to awfulannouncing.com. Basketball had the second most popular championship this year averaging 20.4 million viewers in 2017 according to Variety. Football blew the other sports out of the water by drawing an average of 111.3 million viewers according to USA Today. These numbers alone indicate that football is America’s pastime.

A Brief Lesson In Statistics

Yes the number of average viewers are a “per game” statistic for the NBA Finals and the World Series meaning that the total number of views of the seven-game World Series this year are around 140 million while the total number of views of the NBA Finals’ five-game series hover around 100 million. However, the MLB’s 140 million and the NBA’s 100 million are misleading because most of those views come from repeat viewers.

This means that most of the people watched all of the games of each series or at least more than one. If someone watches all seven games of the World Series then they have contributed seven views, not one. Therefore, in order for the 140 million to beat the Super Bowl’s 111.3 million viewers, over 111 million of the 140 million viewers had to watch only one game and not watch another. The odds that that happened are so close to zero it is not even funny. Just to be clear, all of the Super Bowl’s 111.3 viewers are unique because they have to be because there is only one Super Bowl.

Since more people watched the most recent Super Bowl than the most recent Finals and World Series, football is America’s true pastime. Does this mean that if another sport draws more viewers than the Super Bowl this year then that sport is the new America’s pastime? Yes.

Baseball used to blow football out of the water for much of the 20th century but baseball’s time as America’s pastime has become a thing of the past. One day it is entirely possible, if not probable, that football will go the way of baseball. However, that day is not today and for now football is truly America’s pastime.