The Faceoff: Football versus Baseball

Levi Fiske, Staff Writer

One day out of the year – every year – over 100 million televisions across the United States are all tuned to the same television channel. That day happens to be the day of the Super Bowl. In fact, Super Bowl XLV, had over 110 million viewers in the United States.

The 2010 World Series had 75 million viewers, which is impressive in its own right. But that was over a span of five games.

NCAA football is one of the biggest moneymaking machines in the world, but the only NCAA baseball we see is the so-called "College World Series." When it comes to sports, the people of these United States have made a clear choice: football is America's pastime.

Let's face it – football has an appeal that baseball is simply lacking. First, each game in football means more than each baseball game. In the NFL season, each team plays 16 games – just 16 chances to prove that your team belongs in the talk about the playoffs. In NCAA Division I football, you may only get 10 or 12 games to prove that you belong in a bowl game. Not to mention that in all of the Bowl Championship Series hoopla, losing one game may break your season.

Meanwhile, in the MLB, each team plays 162 games, which makes losing one individual game much less punishing.  

Second, football has a smash-mouth, do-or-die, blue-collar style that appeals to and represents the mentalities of hard-working Americans. While baseball players are prancing around a bunch of "bases," football linemen face off in the trenches in a battle of sheer strength.  While baseball players are trying to hit a ball with a stick, football players are trying to hit each other in order to gain possession of the pigskin. While baseball playoffs consist of best of five or best of seven series, football playoffs are best of one: win or go home.

Finally, football is the genesis of possibly the greatest American tradition: tailgating.  During the NFL season, no matter which stadium you choose to go to, you're going to witness some great scenes. The close-to-home example is Pinto Kenny, with his Pinto-turned-grill and famous bowling ball shots, but there are great tailgating traditions all over the football world.  From the Tiger Walk at Auburn, to grilling in the Muni lot in Cleveland and Boulevard beer in Kansas City, football has churned out more camaraderie and devoted fandom than any other sport.

When it comes to America's pastime, there shouldn't be any discussion. It is football. No fans are more devoted, and no sport is more American.

Rebecca Fitzgerald, Assistant copy editor

A national pastime isn't about favoritism. It's not about practice, entertainment or even viewership. Instead, "A national pastime … doesn't necessarily refer to the spectators. It refers to how people pass their time," stated sports economist Andrew Zimbalist.

Baseball has always been America's pastime – and it still is. Baseball has been America's appropriate pastime ever since its early practice in the 18th century. As baseball grew in popularity over the next few centuries, it became the new American sensation that everyone played, regardless of gender, age and race.

In comparison, football didn't reach colleges and universities until the mid- to late 19th century. The Harvard University and McGill University match-up in 1874 acted as a kickoff for the modern American game. Collegiate football became the dominant version of the sport until the first half of the 20th century. Professional football, however, wasn't practiced until the 1890s. The first professional league formed in 1903, while the first professional championship game wasn't competed for another 10 years.

But maybe Zimbalist is wrong. Maybe factors, such as prevalence, amusement and fan base do matter in a sport's qualification to be a national pastime. Even so, baseball still tops football.

Throughout baseball's history, many different leagues of all various levels were developed. Baseball expanded its practice to minor leagues, collegiate level, high schools and even youth leagues, allowing children as young as 4 years old to play. Football, however, didn't, and still cannot produce the same leagues, since 4-year-olds tackling each other is just a bad idea.

While some argue that football should be America's pastime because of the viewership statistics, they do not consider the fact that baseball yields a similar sized crowd and fan base. Last year's World Series yielded about 115.7 million viewers over the seven games. Super Bowl XLV, the most viewed television broadcast in the United States history, attracted a 111 million-member audience.

While that speaks to television viewership, how about regular season attendance? In 2008, over 78 million fans went to MLB games, while only 17 million attended NFL games. Baseball must be somewhat fun to play and watch, with that many supporters. Football fans may think baseball is too slow, boring and the same old thing over and over again, but football isn't much better. I would rather sit and watch a baseball game in full than a football game, not only because football takes up an entire day, but because baseball is more exciting. Walk-off home runs, stolen bases, diving catches, Jim Joyce-like mistakes and the occasional fights trump football's usual touchdown.

Throw me a glove or pass the remote, ‘cause I would rather spend my time having a catch or cheering on the Yanks than have anything to do with football on any given day.