(Reader Supported News) -- Although football has long been America’s favorite child among professional sports, there are clear indicators that the ole pigskin is starting to deflate in fans’ eyes. Football fanatics need not panic: polls show it’s still far ahead of both baseball and basketball in popularity. The 2017 NBA finals averaged 20.4m viewers (a 20-year record), which is roughly the same as the NFL’s regular Sunday night audience of 20.3m, and nowhere near the 2016 Super Bowl über-audience of 111m. Based on just those numbers, football is still kicking professional basketball, baseball and hockey through the goal posts. But America can be fickle. And the Magic 8-Ball of our cultural zeitgeist says, “All signs point to the NBA replacing the NFL as the league of America’s future.”
This prediction has nothing to do with the athletes themselves, their level of skill, their heart, or their commitment to their sport. Professional athletes are generally the highest expression of what the human body is capable of doing and therefore inspiring to the fans to reach higher and strive harder. In that way, no sport is superior to any other sport. But when it comes to professional sports, some are more inspirational, more exciting and more entertaining to the general public than others and those sports take on a symbolic meaning for Americans. They come to represent our core values. They represent not just who we are, but who we want be.
Baseball once ruled all other sports as America’s pastime because it reflected the laid-back, less confrontational mood of America in the 1920s and 1930s. It was highly strategic, required precision teamwork, but moved at a pace reflective of hot summers in rural towns across the country. Football’s popularity rose with the increasing aggression of the America at home and abroad. Football embodied an America who faced all challenges head on, forcing its will on opponents through skill, guile and brute force. We were a country taking bold risks in order to succeed and football was the riskiest of team sports.
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