Saturday, February 22, 2014

The State of Fandom Address

So apparently I am a man of the people as nearly half (49%) of all Americans joined me in saying they are NFL fans – although it is down from last year (56%).

The NFL continues to dominate over other sports as well – having led in every poll since they were first done in 1985. This year 35% of Americans listed the NFL as their favorite sport – more than twice as much as MLB at 14%. Baseball was followed by 11% for college football (which means that 46% of the nation lists some type of football as their favorite), 7% for auto racing, 6% for the NBA, 5% for the NHL, and 3% for college basketball (so 9% total for basketball). I am surprise hockey beat out college B-ball, but it’s not great news for either sport that NASCAR is ahead of them.

The polling also tells us that scandals hurt more than you might have guessed. In the thirty years of polling no sport dropped more than baseballs 9% (from 23 to 14) – baseball which just happens to be the only sport that cancelled their championship game one year. Golf also took a huge hit with Tiger-Pants. It hovered around 4% for first arc
of his career, until his wife tried to club him when the number dropped to 2% and there it has remained. That would be more than I would have guessed, sports fans sure can be fickle. Although also remember Tiger’s play tanked at roughly the same point.

In terms of the NFL the most popular teams were Bears, Packers, Broncos, Patriots, Cowboys, Giants and my 49ers (although I don’t know where all those alleged other fans were during the aughts). The first four had 7% of fans each, the next three 6%. If you do the math that is 46% for those seven teams leaving barely more than an average of 2% for the rest of the league.

The NFL does have a bit of an HDTV problem with 8% of fans saying they would not go to a Super Bowl if their team was in it regardless of cost. Roughly half (48%) would be willing to go on the cheap (for less than $250). Yeah, good luck with that. Fans were very off on the cost of tickets, guessing $500 for face (just a thousand tickets sell for that low and they go up to $2,600) and $1,000 average resale when it is actually $2,500 [I spent $2,300 in 2006]. Although given that last number I am betting NFL owners aren’t sweating about the threat of High Def too much.

Fairly surprisingly 45% of fans didn’t care about expanding the playoffs one way or the the other. Of those that did there was a slight opposition (28% to 26% in favor). I would be part of that 28% but I know how money works. Fans have to accept as fact that the decision makers for their favorite sports are thinking primarily in terms of making money (which is why Roger Goodell’s talk about canceling the Pro Bowl because of poor quality play was surprising given the TV share). Owners are billionaire businessmen, not sports purists. I’ve always objected to people complaining owners and players don’t care about fans. They do, they just care about themselves MORE. That isn’t a crime - fans look out for #1 too and would do the same if they were freakishly athletic. However I can certainly commiserate with being frustrated watching as a billionaire’s desire for one more million spoil something I love so much.

Rounding up our numbers roughly 85% of fans want the Washington Racists to keep their name although those numbers are dropping amongst men (in a surprising comparison women held steady) and (less surprisingly) college graduates (although only down to a still disheartening 77%). And no, I am not an Indian.

Similarly a sport's popularity varies based on demographics. NFL fans concentrate in rural areas and the East Coast (which is a little hard to square with Chicago, Green Bay, Dallas, Denver, and San Francisco being five of the seven most popular). In a stat that surprised no one the South is college football’s bastion. Blacks aren’t big baseball fans, but it is the sport of the wealthy (households that make $100+K). While those who never went to college like NASCAR. I guess some stereotypes hold true.

The other big discovery is that many more sports fans are nuts than I had realized as in a recent poll half of all fans said they believed there is some level of supernatural influence in games. HALF!! Just over a quarter have prayed for God to help their team and the same number (I am hoping there is some overlap) have considered if their team was cursed. Hey, the last time I prayed was during a game, but I was TEN. And Montana did indeed find Taylor with 34 seconds left.

Football fans are the most crazed – a third have prayed for touchdowns, almost an equal amount believe their squad is cursed (looking at you Cleveland), a quarter have some type of pre or during game ritual to help their squad of choice, while a fifth of fans said both they have a lucky shirt or whatever, and they agreed with the statement that God influences who wins a game (as two separate questions).

The biggest belief (nearly half) was that God rewards athletes of faith with success and health. Which makes sense – I’ve always guessed (or if I was being honest more hoped) that players are praying for health in those big circles. I also despised Ray Lewis all the more for claiming his success on the field was evidence of God’s favor and by extension that he was a good person.

The only thing that didn’t surprise me was that white Evangelicals were the most likely to believe any of this. If you already strongly believe, why not apply it to sports?

Meanwhile in my whole life I’ve never been called for any survey other than a stupid movie one.


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