Updated Feb 7, 2012 - 8:38 am
Many factors contribute to popularity of NFL
It has long been debated as to why the NFL reigns supreme over other sports with many people believing that fantasy football was the driving force along with gambling. But I'm not buying that. Sure, they're a factor, probably big ones, but I truly believe the reason that the NFL is so much more popular now than my favorite sport -- baseball -- is because of our attention span. Yes, our attention span. We as a society have a hard time following a 162 or 82-game schedule. We love the NFL because for the most part, it occupies our time just once per week for about 20 weeks. We have no issues dedicating 4 or 8 hours on a Sunday to the sport then not watching another game for another week. Sure, there are Monday nights and soon to be every Thursday night, but once a week on a day most people have off gets the job done in the NFL. It doesn't in baseball, basketball and hockey where following those sports requires daily attention.
In the day and age of hundreds and hundreds of television channels, there are far more options now then ever before on the tube. Televisions are gigantic and come with surround sound and high defnition capability, making the viewing experience that much better. When I was a kid growing up, we had one television in the house, you had maybe 12 channels to choose from and if you wanted to change the channel or the volume you had to get your butt off the couch and go change it by hand. No remote control. And for the most part you focused on your local teams, although Cubs games were always on WGN from what I remember.
Today any sports fan, anywhere, can watch whatever game they want. But now you also can watch movies on your own television without leaving the house to rent them. There are more options for entertainment then ever before and some of those options outweigh the desire to watch professional baseball, basketball or hockey. Most people can name 3-5 televisions shows that are on during the week. I'm not sure anyone can tell us what is on Sunday afternoon besides football!
Football moves fast and satisfies our need for violence. It is played in front of packed houses which make the viewing experience, both in person and on television, great. The vast majority of players are from the United States, all of them speak English and many of them we watched in college because college football is extremely popular. We know Tom Brady went to Michigan, Peyton Manning went to Tennessee, Eli Manning went to Ole Miss, Aaron Rogers played at Cal, Cam Newton went to Auburn, Andrew Luck went to Stanford etc... We can relate to these players better than we can do European basketball players or basketball players who most spent one year in college, Latin baseball players and European hockey players.
Look, there is no one answer for why the NFL is so popular. There are many reasons. But I do believe our attention span is shorter today then in past generations for obvious reasons of the technology era -- Facebook, Twitter, iPhones, iPads, iTunes, text messaging, Pandora, Skype, Xboxes, hundreds of television shows, etc.
We can concentrate on one game a week a lot better than we can concentrate on one game every day for six months