Friday, February 08, 2008

A Couple Good Links

Paul Zimmerman's Announcer Rankings are out, which is an annual treat because Dr. Z is one of the few major media figures who is allowed to pull no punches in engaging in media criticism. If you want an illustration as to the difference between and, try to imagine the latter running a column like this. And speaking of the Mouse, Zimmerman goes off on Ron Jaworski, describing how disappointed he was that Jaws was not able to make the sort of insights on Monday Night Football that he does on NFL Matchup on Sunday mornings. The lesson is that that network producers are the arch-enemy of their core audiences, but we knew this already. The penultimate paragraph is my favorite:

I did, however, see moments when a dim flame seemed to animate Jaworski and lead him to lash out briefly at his broadcast partner. Such as the time when Kornheiser said, in all seriousness, that Jacksonville's QB, Quinn Gray, was so inept that the Jags should run on every down. Or when he insisted that LaDainian Tomlinson was unknown because he played in a small market city. Or when, after the 49ers went for a TD against Seattle and Kornheiser said, "I found that very satisfying," Jaws replied, "That's wonderful, Tony. You got all involved in the game." Maybe someday, as Peter Finch did in the movie, Network, Jaws will open the window, stick his head out and holler, "I can't take it anymore!" One can only hope.

I spent a little bit of time this fall trying to keep notes during the college football season to be able to write a similar column at the end of the year, but I found it hard to stick with the project. Maybe next year. The process did make me appreciate just how much effort goes into Dr. Z's Announcer Rankings.

The bi-annual Harris poll on the most popular sports is out. Aside from establishing how far ahead the NFL is as compared to other sports, it's often interesting to me to note that college football is virtually as popular as baseball, but it's not treated that way in the mainstream media because baseball is more popular in the region of the country where the media is centered. Then again, with the attention that ESPN and Sports Illustrated now pay to Signing Day, they seem to have gotten the memo that college football ought to be covered as much as baseball. Contrast that attention with the attention that Duke-UNC got on the same day and you have yet another illustration on college football dwarfing college basketball as a sport.

There's actually a good argument to be made that the Harris poll results underestimate college football's popularity relative to that of baseball for two reasons:

1. If the 30% of Americans who listed the NFL as their favorite sport were also asked to name their second-favorite sport, I suspect that more of them would list college football than baseball.

2. I also suspect that if there was a way to measure intensity of preference, college football would finish ahead of baseball in that regard, as well. I just don't know people who are fanatic about baseball the way that college football fans tend to be about our sport.

One caveat: the poll does reflect that baseball's "first preference" number went up a point in the past two years, while college football's went down. Is this related to the Red Sox winning the World Series and energizing a very large fan base? A reflection on a college football season that was underwhelming in the sense that it produced a two-loss national champion, no great teams, and sub-standard BCS games? A reflection on Notre Dame's fall from grace this year that led a number of subway alums to switch favorite sports for the time-being?

Another caveat: the poll is taken in mid-January, which heavily favors the NFL and should also favor college football a little (although not this year because the BCS bowls were not very good).


Jay Babbitt, Walla Walla said...

Put me in the minority then, when I note MLB as my favorite sport, and off-season baseball as my second favorite sport.

As much as I love reading about football, there's not much to the complexities of the game that can be found intriguing to captivate an audience. Looking at the statistics is great fun, because they're so simple. But watching the games is mostly agony.

jjwalker said...

Ugh, NBA basketball finished behind *hockey*? It's weird, there's been this massive influx of talent the last 5 years, there are a million good teams (look at the #9 and #10 teams in the West for chrissakes), some blockbuster trades and all kinds of interesting subplots, and yet NBA popularity continues to fall of a cliff.

I'm not sure what else David Stern can do--the product on the floor is outstanding right now, significantly better than the Jordan era (through no fault of MJ, of course, it was just a period of crappy talent in the league). Maybe LA's & Boston's resurgence and Shaq back on a championship competitor will bring back some casual fan interest.

Michael said...

JJ, the poll does a bit of a disservice to the NBA in the sense that it isn't most people's favorite sport, but it's a lot of people's second- or third-favorite. It commands much more casual support than hockey or NASCAR do.

The NBA is also hurt by the fact that its most marketable stars have poor supporting casts. That might be changing with Kobe. The Spurs are its best team, but they're a small market team that isn't especially fun or dramatic to watch. The NBA needs something like the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry to increase popularity.