Red Sox vs. Patriots: Who Are You Going To Watch?
Which sports team are you going to watch this weekend? The Boston Red Sox or the New England Patriots? The St. Louis Cardinals or the St. Louis Rams? The Detroit Tigers or the Detroit Lions? The Los Angeles Dodgers or the… Opps! Sorry L.A.
Before you answer, let’s assume you can only watch one or the other. And by “one” we mean “one sport” or the other. Also, let’s pretend your DVR is broken, you can’t find your old VCR in your garage, and even if the games aren’t scheduled at the same time factors prevent you from watching both. Under that byzantine caveat, which team, or better yet, which sport are you going to watch this weekend: the National Football League or Major League Baseball and their ALCS Playoffs and NLCS Playoffs?
We ask because with the NFL season in full swing, and World Series tickets about to be collected, North America’s two main sports leagues are battling one another in the cutthroat arena of television ratings. And once again, the NFL is shellacking Major League Baseball. To most sports fans it comes as no surprise but to others (i.e. hardcore baseball fans) it’s a bitter ballpark dog to swallow.
Sunday Night Sports
NBC’s Sunday Night Football game between the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys (Oct. 13) drew nearly 20 million viewers. Game 2 of the Tigers-Red Sox series attracted just over 8 million fans.
That same baseball game garnered a 20.6 television rating in Boston. Meanwhile, the Patriots victory over the New Orleans Saints drew a 35.1 television rating in Beantown. The games didn’t run concurrent to one another. The Pats played late in the afternoon. The Red Sox played at night. No matter how you parse it, a NFL regular season game was seen by more people than a MLB playoff game.
Red Sox & Patriots
This Sunday, the Patriots clash with rivals the New York Jets. Meanwhile, depending on how the series pans out, Boston Red Sox fans will be able to buy tickets for ALCS games on Saturday, Oct. 19 and Sunday, Oct. 20. That last date is a coveted Game 7.
The Patriots, despite all their growing pains are the second best team in the AFC. A sixth Super Bowl appearance of this century is not out of the question. Meanwhile, the Red Sox are looking for their third World Series crown in nine years. Winning this season’s Fall Classic would give the Red Sox sole claim to the title of “Team of the Century.”
“We’re Watching Baseball” (Sung To The Tune Of That Terry Cashman Song)
The television ratings don’t look good for MLB but their playoffs ratings are actually up. TBS, one of MLB’s broadcast partners, was the most watched cable network five out of six nights during the week of the League Division Series. Their two playoff games on Sunday captured three million more viewers than comparable games in 2012. Overall, all the postseason games on TBS are up 5 percent from a year ago. Clearly, when it comes to television, baseball is a popular sport. It’s just not as popular as football.
Every year at this time, when the NFL trounces baseball in television viewership, hardball geeks quickly take to the internet to make excuses for the “National Past-Its-Prime.” Every year they present the same arguments. But this year, we’re refuting their excuses.
One Game vs. Series
The first excuse baseball fans make for why their beloved sport annually loses the ratings war to regular season football games is that the NFL plays just once a week while the MLB postseason consists of prolonged series. That argument works in the regular season but not in the playoffs.
Aren’t the playoffs the one time of the year where every baseball game is important? Isn’t that the whole point of having a multiple-game series? If a non-elimination game is “no big deal” then why play a “Best of (add number of games here)” at all? The length of a MLB regular season should make their playoffs must-see-TV.
If the Red Sox were to play the maximum number of games possible in this year’s postseason then they will have played 19 times. An NFL regular season consists of just 16 games. Baseball geeks fail to realize that playoffs game, even those that are part of a series, should always be more important than regular season games.
The NFL IS Nationwide, MLB Has “Big Local Appeal”
Another excuse baseball geeks make is that the NFL is nationwide while Major League Baseball has “big local appeal.” Isn’t that the whole point of having a major league, to capture the imagination of the entire country? Every league has “big local appeal.” If they didn’t they’d be out of business.
For some reason, baseball fanatics think “big local appeal” is somehow better (nobler) for a sport than nationwide appeal. In reality, they’re explaining why the NFL is America’s number one sport. Regardless of what two football teams are throwing down the entire country will tune in to watch. Also, as the television ratings from the last Patriots and Red Sox games prove, the NFL has a bigger local appeal.
Gamblers and Fantasy Geeks
Steve Melewski of MASN Sports postulated that many who watched the NFL, specifically that aforementioned Redskins-Cowboys contest, were gamblers and fantasy league participants. Melewski picked the wrong teams to make his point as the Redskins and Cowboys are two of the league’s most popular clubs and they share a long and popular rivalry.
Without a doubt, gamblers and fantasy geeks lift NFL’s television ratings but not nearly as much as Melewski thinks. That demographic may have accounted for a million or so viewers (at the most), but it certainly doesn’t account for the difference in viewership between Sunday Night Football and the Red Sox-Tigers Game 2.
Gamblers and fantasy geeks don’t need to watch the contest they have a vested interest in. They can catch a score or read a box score later in the day. Those two fractions came to football not because of their loves of wagering and operating fantasy sports teams but because they love football. It’s interesting to note that you can gamble on MLB games and rotisserie baseball started the fantasy craze.
Are You Ready For Some Football?
Football is tailor made for television and baseball is not. The gridiron is a rectangle, just like our HD televisions. The game ebbs and flows perfectly on our bed of pixels. There’s plenty of time for replays and halftime gives us the opportunity to either watch highlights or make a sandwich. Conversely, television eliminates baseball’s charming nuances. Most of the game is hidden.
You watch baseball on television because you can’t get tickets to the game. You watch football on television because it’s the best show on television.
Let’s Watch Two!
We put forth a fairly draconian scenario at the beginning of this article. Fortunately, thanks to apps, portable devices, and DVRs we can watch broadcasts of both the NFL and MLB even if they’re scheduled concurrently. That’s good news for Boston sports fans. They’ll never miss a clutch performance by Tom Brady or David Ortiz.
So enjoy the eventful NFL regular season and the dramatic MLB postseason, but when it comes to arguing why the former gets better ratings than the latter don’t make excuses. Just tell the truth. Football is clearly America’s most popular sport especially on television.
By David B.