The Final Word
By Jeff Girod
An estimated 110 million people and 72 percent of U.S. adults are expected to watch this weekend’s Super Bowl between the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos.
Forecasts for game time are a jittery 30 degrees. But one thing that’s burning hotter than a dimpled Tom Brady is America’s passion for pigskin. ESPN recently announced pro football is the most popular sport in America for the 30th year in a row.
Then again, of course it is! What else are you going to watch? Hockey? Good god man. I’d rather watch Oprah play Bunco.
In 2014, 35 percent of fans named the National Football League as their favorite sport, followed by Major League Baseball (14 percent), college football (11 percent), auto racing (7 percent), the NBA (6 percent), the NHL (5 percent) and college basketball (3 percent).
One nimrod actually said “soccer,” but we sent him out to look for more shin guards and sliced oranges. Soccer may be the most popular sport in the rest of the world. But in this country, Rupert, it ain’t a sport if we can’t use our hands.
Football isn’t just our country’s most popular sport. It’s in our DNA. It’s barbecuing with a game on, and two-hand touch that turns into tackle in the street and dents your neighbor’s car. It’s knowing that your team is never ever out of it—as long as there’s the chance of a flea-flicker, the long bomb or “the statue of liberty” play.
And there’s something uniquely American about watching our nation’s strongest, fastest prima donnas try to knock each other’s teeth out, then some ref throwing a yellow hankie and penalizing somebody for holding.
What the hell is “holding” anyway? With all the groin pulls, rug burns and internal bleeding, I’m surprised somebody isn’t holding in their intestine after every play.
If a baseball player is even suspected of using steroids, we brand him a cheater and want him banned for life. But nobody cares if a football player takes steroids. Pro football is such a gruesome sport, we’re amazed if anyone can remain healthy for an entire season without a suit of armor and a bazooka.
And that’s precisely what makes the NFL so enthralling. Everyone is so much bigger and more enhanced than us normal doughy humans. Added bonus: Cheerleaders!
The NFL is so over the top precisely because it’s the NFL. The atmosphere is heart stopping. The stadiums are cathedrals. Everything has a pregame, halftime and postgame show, not to mention a blimp. It’s equal parts professional wrestling and Las Vegas spectacular.
And the best part is you’re invited to this party because everyone’s invited. It doesn’t matter if you live in New York or New Mexico or New Delhi. Southern California hasn’t had a professional football team in two decades and nobody who lives here gives a damn. Because the NFL is the one sport that’s more exciting on TV.
According to The Nielsen Company, 205 million unique viewers watched the 2013 NFL regular season, representing 81 percent of all television homes in the U.S. (I like to imagine the other 19 percent were either at the games or too drunk from tailgating.)
NFL games accounted for 34 of the 35 most-watched TV shows among all television shows last fall—better than American Idol, The Big Bang Theory or any show where somebody renovates a house or loses a ton of back flab. And for the second consecutive year, an NFL game was the week’s most-watched TV show in all 17 weeks of the season.
By comparison, last year’s clinching Game 6 of the World Series between the Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals wasn’t even the most popular show of its week. It lost to CBS’s NCIS, which is a snoozer my 69-year-old mom usually falls asleep to in her Barcalounger.
This Sunday’s Super Bowl may be the last NFL game for the next 8 months, but don’t despair. Spend the offseason constructively.
Stare at a grease stain that resembles Peyton Manning. Make your own Lombardi trophy out of macaroni. Do a touchdown dance every time someone hands you a receipt.
Just remember one essential thing: Everything is more interesting than soccer, including hockey.
Contact Jeff Girod at email@example.com