America’s Pastime… It may not be what you think!

MLBFor decades baseball has been referred to as “America’s Pastime,” but is that title accurate? Perhaps back in the early 1900’s through the 1960’s one could make a case that baseball was the most popular sport in the United States, or at least close to the most popular, but if one were to look at the numbers, a different picture could be painted. A more accurate sport to be labeled as “America’s Pastime” would be the sport of football.

In the United States people love watching football for the big hits, the amazing moves made to break big plays, and the intelligence of the quarterbacks and coaching staffs. It seems, through these basic ideas, there are many mini games being played inside the actual football game that individuals can “hone” in, causing a motivation to watch the games of not only their favorite team, but other teams as well. This motivation can help define why football has consistently been the most popular sport in America.


As concrete evidence of this fact, I gathered data on TV ratings from both baseball and football, as well as some other popular shows.

World Series Ratings

197330.7Oakland A’s vs. New York Mets
198628.6NY Mets vs. Boston Red Sox
199519.5Atlanta Braves vs. Cleveland Indians
200415.8Boston Red Sox vs. St. Louis Cardinals
20088.4Tampa Bay Rays vs. Philadelphia Phillies




Highest Rating- 1980- 32.8 Rating – Philadelphia Phillies vs. Kansas City Royals[i]

Super Bowl Ratings



197342.7Redskins vs. Dolphins
198648.3Bears vs. Patriots
199541.349ers vs. Chargers
200441.4Panthers vs. Patriots
200843.1Giants vs. Patriots







Highest Rating – 1982 – 49.1 – 49ers vs. Bengals[ii]


As shown by these TV ratings tables, through the decades, the NFL’s Super Bowl has well outperformed the MLB’s World Series. The World Series’ ratings have continued to decline, while the Super Bowl’s ratings have stayed fairly steady. This fact in itself proves that football has always been America’s pastime; however, if these ratings are not enough proof, ponder these next few statements.


Aside from the NFL, NCAA football is extremely popular. Yet, the only NCAA baseball nationally televised is the College World Series. As for ratings comparisons, Saturday’s game between USC and Ohio State drew a 7.3 rating[iii], while numerous other games were also being televised. Last season, the BCS Rose Bowl between Penn State and USC drew an 11.7[iv] rating on New Year’s Day and the BCS National Championship between Oklahoma and Florida drew a 15.8[v] rating. Both of these bowl games demolished the last World Series in ratings. The popularity of NCAA football also helps the NFL on its draft day every year. The NFL’s televised draft draws crowds to its venue, Radio City Music Hall in New York, as well as drawing unbelievable ratings through the course of the entire draft. Baseball’s draft isn’t even televised.


Lastly, the ratings numbers have remained fairly constant throughout the years and have remained a mainstay in our society. I would like to introduce one last comparison of ratings between popular shows in our society to prove the dominance of the NFL and football in itself. The first Sunday Night Football game between the Chicago Bears and the Green Bay Packers drew a 9.4 rating.[vi] In comparison, the last season finale of American Idol drew a rating of 10.0[vii], just higher than a regular season football game. The MTV Video Music Awards drew a 7.5 rating[viii], significantly lower than the Sunday night game.

Although there are many people who may disagree with me, numbers do not lie. I’d love to agree with whoever labeled baseball as America’s pastime, but it’s just not possible. Football has always outperformed baseball and will continue to do so. So when you think about America’s pastime, think football, not baseball.


[i] Gorman, Bill. “Major League Baseball World Series Nielsen TV Ratings, 1968-2008 -.” TV Ratings, Nielsen Ratings, Television Show Ratings | 10 Nov. 2008. Web. 15 Sept. 2009. <>.

[ii] Gorman, Bill. “Historical Super Bowl Nielsen TV Ratings, 1967-2009 -.” TV Ratings, Nielsen Ratings, Television Show Ratings | 18 Jan. 2009. Web. 15 Sept. 2009. <>.

[iii] Gorman, Bill. “USC at Ohio State: ESPN’S Most-Viewed College Football Game Ever -.” TV Ratings, Nielsen Ratings, Television Show Ratings | 15 Sept. 2009. Web. 15 Sept. 2009. <>.

[iv] “CFB – – FOX Sports on MSN.” CFB – BCS Football – FOX Sports on MSN. Web. 15 Sept. 2009. <>.

[v] “CFB – – FOX Sports on MSN.” CFB – BCS Football – FOX Sports on MSN. Web. 15 Sept. 2009. <>.

[vi] Gorman, Bill. “TV Ratings Sunday, September 13, 2009, Sunday Night Football: Packers vs. Bears, Shark Tank, Big Brother, Defying Gravity, There Goes The Neighborhood, Cold Case, King of the Hill Finale -.” TV Ratings, Nielsen Ratings, Television Show Ratings | 14 Sept. 2009. Web. 15 Sept. 2009. <>.

[vii] Seidman, Robert. “Nielsen Ratings – Overnight TV Ratings for Wednesday, May 20, 2009 featuring American Idol, The New Adventures of Old Christine, Gary Unmarried, Criminal Minds, Law & Order: SVU -.” TV Ratings, Nielsen Ratings, Television Show Ratings | 21 May 2009. Web. 15 Sept. 2009. <>.

[viii] Seidman, Robert. “Cable Ratings For the Week ending September 13, 2009: Monday Night Football, NASCAR Sprint Cup, WWE RAW, Saturday Night College Football BYU vs. Oklahoma, Leverage, Design Star, NCIS, SpongeBob -.” TV Ratings, Nielsen Ratings, Television Show Ratings | 15 Sept. 2009. Web. 15 Sept. 2009. <>.