Despite all the political noise of last year, the NFL remains firmly entrenched as the most popular sport in America. Why? There are many reasons, but here are a few mind-blowing tidbits and statistics that separate it from other mainstream American sports.
There is always hope:
If you are happy with where your team is, enjoy it. If you are not happy, don’t worry. Neither scenario will last long. The Bears finished last in the NFC North in 2017 only to win it this year. In the last 16 years, 15 years have resulted in at least one team going first to worst.
For the “What about the Patriots?” crowd, Yes, New England has missed the playoffs just twice since Tom Brady replaced Drew Bledsoe early in the 2001 season. However, that does not change the statistic above. The Patriots are the exception not the rule. We will never see the greatest coach and quarterback ever land in the same spot and stay there for the better part of two decades again.
What happened to the Bears this year happens fairly often in the NFL, but not in other sports. The Mariners have not reached the MLB playoffs since 2001. Unless you have unlimited financial resources like the Yankees or Red Sox, it takes five or more years to go from bad to good. The Astros lost 100+ games for three straight years before beginning to build the run they are on now. The last four NBA Finals have featured Golden State’s super teams taking on the LeBron James dependent Cavaliers. That will change this year, but only because James moved west. It is hard for many fans to stay invested in other sports when the majority of the league is an afterthought before the season even starts.
MLB is fun for Yankees and Red Sox fans right now. You can throw a few other fanbases in there, but a lot of fans watch a particular sport for their team and not much else. In any mainstream American sport other than the NFL, that leaves a lot of folks out. College sports are similar, you can pretty much write Alabama into the college football playoff every year. The same goes for Duke and Kansas in the basketball Elite 8. In the NFL though, the right coach and two or three players can turn a team around in a hurry. Even the NFL’s most dysfunctional franchises like the Raiders and Bengals have made the playoffs in the not too distant past.
In MLB, all but two division races were decided by six or more games this past season. In the NBA, 16 teams make the playoffs each year. It is widely understood that only about a quarter of that group can actually win it all.
Once you realize that, what happens in the NFL this and every other year is incredible. Take the AFC this year for example. We already know that a team could finish 10-6, receive a first-round bye, and at least one home playoff game. We also already know that the loser of Sunday’s Titans/Colts game will go 9-7 and be forced to watch the playoffs on TV.
Think about that. A single game is the difference between a possible inside track to the Conference Title game and going home. You don’t even have to watch very closely each week to figure out that multiple games come down to a single play. No other sport in this country offers that fine a line between postseason life and death. It really is hard to wrap your head around. The NFL has its issues, but so does everything that is worth a billion dollars. More than anything else, the content discussed here is why the NFL is king of American sports.