Muscle Sport Magazine

First and Goal: The NFL Has Run Right By Major League Baseball in Popularity

Turn on any old movie or television show and the kids on it are playing a game of pick-up sandlot baseball. Babe Ruth took it to new heights and the sport became such a part of Americana that it was tabbed ‘The National Pastime.’ But as the decades wore on, popularity started to wane as the game of football became the top dog on the sports map.


Up until the late 1950’s, college football was more popular than the pros. It took ‘The Greatest Game Ever Played’ (the 1958 NFL Championship between the Baltimore Colts and New York Giants), held, ironically, at Yankee Stadium, to get the NFL fully noticed.

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Back then, the World Series was still played during the daytime and tickets for it were actually purchased by the common man, not just corporate cardboard cutouts who don’t know shit about sports. So baseball was something that was better enjoyed in person. Not that football wasn’t, but the gridiron captivated a massive television audience, which undoubtedly helped it grow.


By the mid-1960s, the Super Bowl began to separate the two king sports and football had it’s own national holiday. Super Sunday became an annual ritual and soon overtook the Fall Classic and the most important game(s) of the calendar year. Year after year, the Big Game grew even bigger in popularity and it didn’t even need the baseball strike of 1994 (and subsequent cancellation of the World Series that year) to bypass it even further. Football had truly become ‘America’s Game.’ But the hierarchy will not rest on their laurels.

“I feel very strongly that we cannot be complacent in what we do,” said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. “We have to continue to find ways to grow the game, to reach new fans, to continue to provide quality. That’s what the NFL represents. Innovation is a big part of our initiative. Whether it’s the Super Bowl in New York or the changes we’ve made to the Draft or the changes we’ve made to the Pro Bowl, we’re going to try to find new ways to reach our fans and make sure we’re bringing them the highest quality entertainment and make them feel good about following the NFL.”


It is statements like that, which make those black and white movies seem even older.


Photo by Bill Menzel


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