Wednesday, January 25, 2006
"Mr. Tagliabue, how do you sleep at night?" "On top of piles of money with many beautiful women!"
With an ode to my favorite Simpsons character and a hat tip to the Mighty MJD, here is a Harris poll indicating that college football has become the third most popular sport in the United States, trailing only the NFL, which has dwarfed its rivals by leaps and bounds, and baseball. (In defense of baseball, the results of the poll would have been different if it was taken in May instead of early December, when football is at its peak.)
It's interesting and gratifying that college football is apparently significantly more popular than the NBA. In fact, college basketball outpaced the NBA for the first time in the poll's history, which is a sign that David Stern is right to be concerned that the Pistons and Spurs are dominant, while not generating much casual interest because their rivalry can't be personalized into some sort of simplistic, "Achilles vs. Hector" battle on which the league thrives. You'd never know from watching SportsCenter that college football and NASCAR are so much more popular than the NBA, which leads one to question whether the geniuses in Bristol (the one in the frozen tundra, not the one with the short track) know their audience (or their potential audience.) Compare how much attention Signing Day will get, as opposed to NBA games or whatever excuse the Worldwide Leader will use to involve the Yankees and Red Sox in their flagship show.
Factors that might have increased interest in college football over the past two years:
1. The USC Dynasty;
2. Several big stars like Young, Bush, and Leinart staying in school for several years;
3. Notre Dame fans coming out of the woodwork; and/or
4. HeismanPundit and CFR's "Gang of Six" Theory
The poll also hits on the reason why I felt a little alienated from college football (and specifically the SEC) at the end of the 2004 season: it's much beloved by Republicans. It's hard for me to have a communal bonding experience when I know that the fans around me, woofing to their heart's content, probably do the same thing in their tackily-decorated living rooms when Hannity gives another ill-reasoned put-down to the hapless Colmes. "Yeah, Democrats are traitors!!!" Some of my best friends are Republicans (it's hard to work at a major law firm and not get along with conservatives,) but it always worries me when I do something that Red Staters love and Blue Staters abhor. In that period, I had the same feeling of disquiet listening to Merle Haggard, eating at Waffle House, drinking bourbon, and being outside in February. Then I remembered that my party pissed away the election by nominating a liberal from Massachusetts who had all the personality of Herb Sendek and I felt strangely better.