The NFL is the #1 sport in the United States. No other sport is close. eSports isn’t a sport, so let’s leave that out. Millennials think baseball is boring and Nascar is dropping, so that leave the NBA, NHL, and Soccer. Everybody will agree that boxing isn’t in the same conversation as these other sports, but it was once the top sport in America.
Pre-Babe Ruth, the heavyweight boxing champion was the man. Jack Dempsey, who still has a bar named after him in Manhattan, once fought in front of 120,000 fans in Philadelphia in 1926. He lost the fight that day to Gene Tunney, but my point is that sport was the big draw. The big money was there. Kids aspired to be boxers. All that’s changed.
I’ve watched baseball go from the #1 sport to the 3rd or 4th most popular in my lifetime. If you would have asked me in 1973 if that was possible, I would have laughed at you. If I say that the NFL could drop like a rock in the next 20 years, many of you might laugh at me again, but experience tells me it’s possible.
The NFL in the 1970’s, was a blue-collar sport. That’s all changed. The owners were rich back then, but they didn’t flaunt their wealth and power the way many of today’s owners do, not all of them, but a large majority. I think players are tired of losing what they perceive to be a freedom of expression with every passing season. They’re well compensated, but they’re still people, and many of them don’t even have fun at their jobs unless they play for the Eagles, I kid, I kid.
Former NFLer, Chris Hope talks about the NFL’s policies:
A lot of fans I talk to just watch their team and the Super Bowl. These are fans that aren’t attached at the hip to fantasy football. Fantasy football has propped up this sport for a while. A local strip club in Philadelphia advertises about having your “fantasy draft” there. Sounds great for single guys. Legalized gambling may hurt those numbers. Now you won’t have to worry about winning a league and the eventual purse. You can just watch the game you gamble on. Couple that with the sport having health risks and youth participation dropping. Here’s one study:
Some of the falling sports surprised me. In the summation, football isn’t even mentioned, and you can see on the chart, tackle football has been dropping. Flag football seems to have gained because it’s mostly non-contact. Hockey is expensive but, in this survey, it was still on the rise and I do hear that in certain circles. Boxing isn’t even listed in individual sports. Can you name even one of the current heavyweight champs?
In this study football ranks 8th in 6-12 and 9th in 13-17.
Right now, the NFL is flush with cash. They saw a drop in television ratings last year. 9.7% seems to be the number that they were down in the regular season. You can say it was the “anthem controversy” which still isn’t over or a lot of other reasons, but the fact is they’ve dropped. Baseball didn’t react fast enough and now they lost that spot forever. Boxing probably never saw it coming. The NFL won’t become extinct, but the numbers and participation suggest it’s heading downward.