Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Poll Position - What's The Best Spectator Sport?!?

I fully realize that in the pantheon of "dumb discussions", this one might land in the Top 5, but roll with me anyway. The other day, some dudes on our sportstalk email list (every office has one, no?) got off on some tangent about which sport was the best. The obligatory "college hoops is best because of the Final 4", and "the NFL, cause nothing beats the Super Bowl" arguements were tossed out. Needless to say, I stan for The Association, so I had to throw my 2 cents in.

You folks said the NFL was the best spectator sport by a wide margin in our recent poll. The NBA was a distant second, nothing else registered more than a blip.

I really don't understand why the NBA isn't given its props in terms of enthralling American sports. NFL football is the king by all measures, whether it be TV revenues or franchise value. Major League Baseball leans heavily on tradition and statistics. The NBA, according to most surveys, is routinely the 4th or 5th most popular spectator sport behind college football, and sometimes NASCAR. Why this is the case is beyond me.

Unlike the other sports, the NBA obviously markets players, rather than teams. Sure, the Lakers and Celtics (and maybe the Bulls & Knicks) have their diehard fans, but if Lebron (God forbid) signed with The Jazz next summer, you'd suddenly see a lot of folks reppin' SLC. If that sounds silly to you, consider how many "Cleveland Cavs" fans you knew about 6 years ago. Riiiight.

Aside from the obvious star power and proliferation of players automatically recognizable by a single name (Bron, Kobe, Shaq, Kwame)[1], nothing beats the drama of the final 5 minutes of a close NBA game. Sure, things can get a bit boring in the 2nd quarter, but when it's crunchtime, no other sport can deliver the potential for mindblowing finishes. Think about it, the NFL is terribly possession oriented and too many games end with a field goal. Boring. Your best baseball game is gonna finish with a walkoff HR, which is sorta cool, but also sorta cliched. Hockey's a taste I've yet to acquire, despite trying. Golf is for old fat guys and Cablinasians. Tennis is too momentum based and gender imbalanced, as the guys are too boring, which diminishes the overall product. As much as people hype up the NCAA's Final Four, reality is with so many TV timeouts, the final 2 game minutes can easily last 25 minutes which really kills the momentum. Only in the NBA, where tides can change on the drop of a dime, and a breathtaking play can happen at any moment can you have a finish like this.

Or this...

Or these...

Again, show me an NFL finish, heck any other sports finish, even remotely as spontaneous (the key word) and exciting as any of the above clips.

Question: What is the best (not necessarily your favorite) spectator sport? Why?

[1] Just wanted to see if you were paying attention.

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