Just in case you thought for half a second that baseball might still be America’s pastime, you are wrong. This Sunday proved it beyond a shadow of a doubt. I love baseball too, so don’t feel too sad. Just admit that we all are obsessed with football. The 365 day cycle of the NFL is officially complete. They changed the draft and made us into zombies trying to remember stats and tape from the combine. Oh yeah, the combine? That is on the NFL Network and I know more than a few people who watched that too. Now it is even more official. What were you watching this weekend?
If you’re like the rest of the American sports viewing public, you chose the Hall of Fame Game between Cincinnati and Dallas on NBC. That contest not only trounced ESPN’s airing of the Boston Red Sox-New York Yankees game, but its 7.6 rating is the highest for any NFL preseason game in six years, more than doubling the Yankees-Red Sox, which drew a 2.7 rating.
We can talk about the constant over-hyping of Red Sox vs. Yankees and the East Coast bias that exists at ESPN some other day. The fact remains that when those two over-spending juggernauts meet, it scores big in TV ratings. But obviously, a regular season series between those two mortal enemies in August wasn’t quite good enough to trump a meaningless NFL contest where we saw more than our fair share of Jon Kitna slinging the pigskin around the field.
The higher ratings for the HOF game are also attributable to a few outside factors unrelated to the NFL. First and foremost, two Bengals receivers have TV shows. The spectacle of having Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco on the same team is a draw in and of itself because they both happen to be dipping their toes into the reality TV game. On top of that “America’s Team” the Dallas Cowboys is also a larger than average national draw when it comes to the NFL. Wrap it all up in the final bow that the NFL was on national TV while the baseball game was on cable, and you can easily explain away the disparity.
Ultimately though, I think it is plain to see and fair to say that America has once again missed football and yearns to see it on their TVs again. The Browns will be playing their first meaningless game in Lambeau Field on Saturday at 8:00 PM.