Baseball Vs. Football Baseball vs. Football: Which Is The True American Pastime? In today’s world of big time professional sports there are the two major players and they are football represented by the National Football League (NFL) and baseball represented by Major League Baseball (MLB). Now there are other sports that the American public enjoys watching, however the argument generally boils down to which sport is the true favorite of the American people: baseball or football. In this paper I will attempt to examine both sports from several different angles to include attendance, television revenue, ticket costs, venues, salaries, entertainment value, and athlete perception.
The goal of this exercise will be to determine, once and for all, which sport is the American favorite and can truly be called the “American Pastime”. One of the single greatest measurable facets of professional sports is attendance. A sport’s popularity is in direct correlation to the number of people that will show up to watch that sport. Overall 2000 regular season attendance in Major League Baseball was a record 72,782,013 in 2,416 games for an average per game crowd of 30,125 whereas official overall paid attendance in the National Football League for the 2000 season was 16,387,289 in 248 games for an average per game crowd of 66,077. The average per game crowd is the measurable statistic due to the fact that the number of games in a regular season for baseball and football are very different.
A NFL team plays a regular season schedule of 16 game however a MLB team plays a regular season schedule of 162 games so average attendance per game presents an accurate picture of popularity. Therefore, football appears to be more than twice as popular as baseball when measured by attendance. Ever since the introduction of television into American pop culture professional sports organization have looked to maximize this medium. Television revenue is now big business in sports today with television networks paying large amounts of money to secure the right to broadcast sporting events. The Super Bowl (which is the championship game in the NFL) is consistently the highest rated broadcast every year, which allows the lucky network to charge ungodly amounts of money in advertising. The NFL and MLB both enjoy large television contracts although their revenue sharing plans are quite different.
The NFL currently receives 2.2 billion dollars a year in television revenue, which amounts to 73 million per year per team. MLB currently receives 340 million dollars per year in television revenue, which is divided up among the teams in a formula so complicated that you need understand quantum-physics and theoretical mathematics just to gain a rudimentary understanding of the distribution structure. These numbers are interesting in that there are less football teams to televise which means that the NFL must garner obscene ratings to demand that much money. Baseball games are on almost every night on a variety of different channels and ratings can be considered dismal when placed in comparison to the NFL. I believe the main reason for the ratings difference is season length. The NFL season is so short and every game means so much that the drama level is much higher when compared to the daily rhythm of 162 baseball games where losing one or two games a week is not considered disastrous.
If a NFL team were to lose 5 games in a row chances are they would not make the playoffs however if a MLB team loses 5 games in a row they may still win it all. How much does it cost to see a professional football or baseball game? Ticket prices vary but the average ticket price in 200 for a NFL contest was $54.14 with the highest average ticket price being $74.28 to see the Washington Redskins (Washington, D.C.) and the lowest average ticket price being $33.99 to see the St. Louis Rams (St. Louis, MO). The average ticket price in 200 for a MLB contest $20.02 with the highest average ticket price being $28.33 to see the Boston Red Sox (Boston, MA) and the lowest average ticket price being $11.72 to see the Milwaukee Brewers (Milwaukee, WI).
Once again the season length and game importance being the most important factors in determining ticket price. It is not realistic to expect a MLB team to ask for $75 a game over a 162 game season however the NFL can because of the short season length. These figures only take into account the admission price and not the added costs of snacks or refreshments, which can be astronomical. However, these figures suggest that the best value for today’s American family would be to attend a baseball game. Some say that the greatest part about going to a baseball or football game is not the food, the athletes, or the weather, but rather the stadium itself.
Today’s professional sport venues are more Disneyland than backyard and have become a gathering place for families, friends, and co-workers. Many corporations now do serious business in the luxury boxes at several stadiums and unfortunately the blue-collar presence that was everywhere 10 years ago seems to be disappearing at today’s outdoor events to be replaced by the white-collar crowd. I believe the best thing about a sporting event is the crowd noise, which can be a result of cheering, booing, or just too much alcohol. However, there is nothing better than feeling a stadium rumble in your chest. Crowd noise is dependent on stadium capacity and that is where baseball typically falls behind football.
The average MLB venue can hold around 47,000 people with stadiums in San Diego setting the bar high at 66,307. The smallest MLB venue can be found in Boston at Fenway Park, which holds 33,871, which is curious because as we learned above the Boston Red Sox also have the highest average ticket price. The average NFL venue can hold around 70,000 people with the largest stadium being the Detroit Silverdome, which can hold 80,311 people. The smallest NFL venue is located in Indianapolis and can hold 56,120 people. In addition to crowd noise the second most important feature about a NFL or MLB venue may be their historical value.
Many baseball fans will tell you the importance of places such as Wrigley Field in Chicago or Fenway Park in Boston although the owners of those teams will tell you that they need new and more modern venues. The oldest ballpark in the MLB is indeed Fenway Pa …