March 1, 2010

The future of spectator sports

The opening of my new Taki's Magazine column:

What’s the long-term future of spectator sports?

With the conclusion of the Winter Olympics, some trends have come into focus. The Olympics, for instance, have established a niche as the Exception to the Rules of Sports Fandom: they’re the athletic event for people who like watching sports in highly limited doses, a couple of weeks every couple of years.

The audience for the Winter Olympics was 56 percent female. For women viewers, the Olympics in the 20th Century served as a prototype for the 21st Century reality television shows, with their human interest stories about a small group of good-looking rivals vying for a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Figure skating, for example, long let spectators indulge themselves in watching the backstage dramatics that have become a staple on reality shows such as Survivor. But unlike the contestants on Survivor, Olympians are highly disciplined professional athletes, so most aren’t as amusingly prone to hissy fits as reality show contestants, who, like Dr. Evil, will do anything for One Million Dollars.

Will audiences continue to demand all the expensive pomp and circumstance of the Olympics if the current trend in popular culture toward shameless gratification of audience urges continues?

Back in Baron de Coubertin’s day, people wanted a high-class pretext for enjoying spectator sports, so the Olympics were ostentatiously rooted in the “Glory That Was Greece”. Similarly, horseracing, which was long the most popular sport in America as measured by attendance, was drenched in classiness. You weren’t really supposed to admit what horseracing was all about (gambling). You were supposed to talk about “the sport of kings” and ponder pedigrees longer than those of most royal families.

Read the rest there and comment upon it below.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer


bjdouble said...

If you've ever been to a racing track on a Tuesday afternoon, it's hard to think of any environment more depressing. At least prisoners don't choose to go to jail. And they're not even looking at the horses, they're looking at the tvs.

Anonymous said...

Following the line of devolution even further, one can predict that MMA will attain more popularity as basketball and baseball decrease in popularity.

Aren't sports -really- just a show of reproductive fitness? Why did you want to excel on your junior high baseball or football team? So you could be a starter and the cheerleaders would know it, right?

Whats a more base evincing of reproductive dominance than MMA? (I can beat other males into submission).

I think the fascination with bodybuilding is just the male's projection of visual appreciation of females onto himself. He sees women with sexy bodies, and wonders what he can do to make women feel the same urges for him. He sees the magazines in line at the grocery store and notices that the built-up males are presented as the "male ideal" and he thus deduces that he should emulate them to have reproductive success. His first gym membership or weight-bench is bought soon thereafter under the pretense of "being a better linebacker" or "improving his bat speed", or even "being able to defend himself", but ultimately its too build himself a powerful physique that he imagines will be the female equivalent of a bikini bod.

Being from the American South, I can tell you with no hesitation that college football is a type of chilvarous-feudal-event in which the knights of your "shire" battle against the knights of another shire. When your knights do well, the fans imagine the men from their area (the boys from Georgia vs. the boys from Florida) are just a little bigger, stronger, coordinated (and a little more reproductively fit by extension) than the boys of the "other" state. The fact that these kids are often recruited from time-zones away is convieniently swept-under the mental radar of the fans.

If there was a sport that really celebrated the ideal-human form for women it might be figure skating. For men it would have been gymnastics except for the fact that so many of those men are very short (less than 5-7), but their proportions are closer to the ideal than the now-guargantuan bodybuilders who have grown to be gorilla-like in proportion.

In Europe, unless they start having some babies mighty quick, the stands at the soccer games are going to be getting more and more Islamic. In America, when the boomes start dying out in earnest, some of these massive football stadiums will either be becoming more black, hispanic, and asian, or there are going to be more empty seats in the upper decks unless it gets to be even more popular amongst white males and females than it already is. There simply will be less fans to attend, especially in blue states.

Anonymous said...

Gambling is an awful pastime.

Peter A said...

Within the U.S., however, soccer has made almost no progress toward becoming a major spectator sport with non-Hispanics.

I have no data at my fingertips - but my sense is that this is untrue. Increasingly being a follower of Premier League soccer and World Cup soccer is a mark of SWPL distinction. When I was a kid it was mostly PBS watching types who cared about European footie (anyone remember "Soccer made in Germany?") but more and more I now meet attorneys, I-bankers and other well heeled professionals who can talk knowingly about Everton, Man-U, etc. It is true though that no one cares about the American pro soccer league.

Anonymous said...

Hence, spectator sports are likely to become ever more calibrated toward the satisfaction of mass urges at the expense of tradition and idiosyncrasy.

Timing impeccable. Did you watch the Premier League this weekend? Highly appropriate comment.

Don't watch the youtube video. Talented little Arsenal player just got his foot chopped off by a 6'5 88kg Stoke City goliath.

And the reaction of the pundits and the Radio show callers?

It's a contact sport! Don't change the rules to ban tackling! The goliath shouldn't have been given a red card! It's just one of those things that happen in a physical game! Call him up to the England national team and make him captain against Egypt on Wednesday!

Aaron Ramsey played for Arsenal. Arsenal are a passing side modeled on the Spanish national side - three times in the last 4 seasons they have had a player's foot chopped off in a lunging body-weight challenge (Diaby, Eduardo and now Ramsey). Their manager says their players are not protected enough.

The media are encouraging the bloodlust, playing to a section of the crowd that wants to see serious injuries, and games ruled by the "hard men." (The part that have forgotten the object of soccer is to use the foot and the ball in a skillful way).

These media pundits ignore the obvious changes in modern football that means tackling rules should change to stop 100kg men running 12mph to throw their full bodyweight into a 50/50 tackle.

1. Modern footballers are much heavier than they were when the rules were drawn up (actually, goalies, defenders and forwards are, interestingly the midfielders have remained about the same height and weight).

There is a difference between an 90-100kg guy (Ryan Shawcross) losing control of his bodyweight in a tackle and one of 65 kg (e.g. notorious Robbie Savage who in his long infamous career has not to my knowledge caused a career/possible career ending injury).

2. Game style means there are more, more dangerous tackles. Soccer pitches used to be a mud bath, now they are pool tables.

The best tactic in wet British winters was to kick the ball over the mud. Or down the channels where speedy wingers could run on the only available strip of grass. Now the Premiership stadiums have grass all throughout winter.

This has changed the game. It enables the attractive passing game to be played more often, by more teams which has increased the speed of the game (harder to run in mud).

As a consequence more tackles fly in in one game than ever, increasing the chance of horrendous injuries and physical contact between heavier players.

Soccer in England has evolved beyond the level the men who wrote the rules on tackling anticipated. Rules must change, but the crowd's lust for a gladiator arena rather than a circus act and media's glamorisation of violent men has meant there is no momentum for this change.

jody said...

the decline of the NHL's american television audience had nothing to do with the NFL and everything to do with gary bettman, the worst commissioner of any sports league in the history of the united states.

he regularly and routinely makes decisions to limit the american television audience of the NHL. he's also ruined the league by adding too many new teams. hockey teams in warm weather cities where not a single person gives a F? done. literally fighting tooth and nail to keep canadian billionaires from moving those failed teams from phoenix and tampa back to canada? done! gary bettman will fight you ALL THE WAY TO THE SUPREME COURT to prevent you from putting a hockey team in a city where people want to pay to see it. those teams MUST stay in warm weather cities and lose 12 million dollars a year.

bettman is, of course, jewish, in a sport in which there are almost no jews at all. his position as the commissioner of the NHL is just a plain, straight up, jewish takeover. it had nothing at all to do with him being "smarter" than the "dumb" white guys in the NHL.

he is the commissioner of the NHL because of the now terminal political correctness of every white guy who has something to lose by saying the wrong thing within earshot of the news media. every owner and important player has millions of dollars to lose if they say the wrong thing. this lets bettman get away with almost anything.

after the MASSIVE success of the 2010 olympic hockey tournament, including a 17 (!) television rating on that last USA-canada game (that was only 1 point lower than the highest rated NBA game of all-time, the 1998 bulls-jazz finals), bettman is now considering PULLING the NHL players from the 2014 winter olympics. yes, now there's a good idea. better yet, why not just have pulled them from the 2012 olympics? it is ALWAYS a good idea to keep your sport off of network television. who would want people actually watching your sport on NBC or ESPN, when you can have a nice, little rating of 1 or 2 on versus? that's jewish brainpower folks. bettman brainpower. he's "smarter" than the rest of us.

Anonymous said...

"In Europe, unless they start having some babies mighty quick, the stands at the soccer games are going to be getting more and more Islamic."

And Turkey will start dominating the "European" Championship, unless Europe keeps bringing in more Africans.

Anonymous said...

gary bettman, the worst commissioner of any sports league in the history of the united states

Surpassing David Stern in that category is no small accomplishment.


Mercer said...

"If you've ever been to a racing track on a Tuesday afternoon, it's hard to think of any environment more depressing."

I have been to the horse races many times when I pass by the track. I don't see anything depressing about it. I have no desire to gamble but I think watching horse races in person is fun when you can get close to the track.

I think that the people inside the gambling complex who sit in front of video gambling machines for hours are kind of pathetic.

dearieme said...

On the other hand: The Young here in the UK are prepared to do such apparently daft things as travel to Cardiff so that they can sit in a pub to watch the Wales vs Scotland rugby match on TV amidst A Great Atmosphere.

The Young also turn up by the tens of thousands to watch the Oxford & Cambridge Boat Race on the Thames every year, in spite of its usually being a pretty dull contest.

josh said...

I think its funny the way blacks seem to growl in anger at the Winter Olympics. "What about US??Where's people who look like US??" as they're wont to say. One black columnist wrote a piece complaining that the Canadian girl who got the bronze in skating got it just because the judges "didnt want all Asians getting medals." And--dammit! --out of sympathy,because her mom died. Thats a tough black man! They will attack Whitey for any conceivable reason,so brimming with righteous hate. And they pick funny places to start bellyaching about "merit"!I only wish I watched more,I usually ignore it. They seem cheesey and dull,but at the end when they march around with their medals,you think,gee willikers I bet they had fun. With everyone in spandex and in top shape,we-heh heh hell,as Paul Harvey used to say,I bet they did!!

OhioStater said...

My iPhone has cut and paste but I'll do my best to paraphrase. You said if the NFL was not as painful they'd play year round.

I don't think so! One of the Robert Greene laws of power is absence! You get sixteen games, sixteen hits of dope and you're done. If there were more weeks, or many games on a week, you lose the scarcity and they lose their premium.

Also, the key question is are the Olympic viewers spending money? You need ads if you overpay for TV rights. Let's say NBC had a hypothetical decision: figure skating or ice hockey. From an ad sales perspective (let's assume 75% of ads sold upfront 25% sold late at spot price) would you rather have 17.5m men watching hockey or 25m female equivalents watching figure skating? NBC owns the over air NHL contract and does this slant their view?

josh said...

Wide Wide World Of Sports:Remember the "agony of defeat" guy? Maybe he will put in a sympathy call to Lindsey Von? Wasnt it funny how the Mancuso girl gamely tried to hide the fact that she hates Lindsey's guts? WWWof S links to Roone Arledge who links to Ethel Kennedy as well as those Howard Cosell Supertar Sports competitions--with OJ! That was great,tho seriously dumb,entertainment. A girl I know once dated a guy who had been on one of those,a discus thrower whose name you'd recognize. He took steroids. She could tell... Hockey: The a-holes trashed the sport when they expanded from the original six. The recently deceased Bill Wirtz showed what a scumbag he was when he wouldnt pay to keep Bobby Hull from leaving the Hawks and going to Winnipeg. I hope kids today have the same thrill when seeing this Sidney(Sidney?) Crosby,who scored the winning goal,damn him!,as I did as a mere yute seeing Bobby Orr in person for the first time. Every time he(a defenseman,you surely will recall)touched the puck,the entire Chicago Stadium went on High Alert. Stopped breathing. Future of spec sports: NFL and more NFL. They will try to expand the season. Which is why they are trying to suppres all this brain injury stuff. But our Bears are treading water and wont do anything till they fire their GM and the (ahem-black) coach. Could be a few years!

Anonymous said...

No, Peter, Bettman is far worse that Stern. Only an idiot like Bettman would have the Boston Bruins play their Winter Classic game at Fenway Park against the freakin' Flyers instead of their archnemesis and Original Six collegues, the Montreal Canadiens!


PatrickH said...

Doesn't the NHL season correspond much more closely to the NBA than the NFL? The calendar year is now covered by established team sports, with three playoff/championship peaks spread throughout the year, with only the doldrums of summer left out...and rightly so.

When basketball became the third big team sport, and covered over the fall to winter to spring progression, there was no room for the NHL to move up from the second rank. And now it never will.

anon2 said...

"I have no data at my fingertips - but my sense is that this is untrue. Increasingly being a follower of Premier League soccer and World Cup soccer is a mark of SWPL distinction. "

I find that too.

Steve, women like ice skating because they like watching it. If it was just for the cat fights or hissy fits or whatever you're claiming, they wouldn't be as interested in becoming ice skaters as they are.

They also really like watching gymnastics, and for the same reasons. What is the percent female viewership of regular gymnastics/ice skating/cheerleading competitions? Still over 50% I'll bet, and there isn't much of a focus on reality-style cattiness.

Anonymous said...


The Wide World of Sports was about the only place one could watch the roundy-rounds

anon in texas

Thomas said...

Steve, while the Winter Games were going on, I had taken to calling them "Sports White People Like." The fact that they took place in Vancouver this year, culturally close to the heartland of North American SWPL-dom and affording a close race between Canadian and American Ice People made the parochialism all the more stark.

Wapiti said...

It seems the future of spectator sports is no different than anything else. Movies used to be more varied in what they offered. Now, it's mostly stuff for young teens. Even major directors and actor now mostly adapt comic books into movies. There was a time when SERIOUS directors made stuff like Wild Bunch, Lawrence of Arabia, or 2001 while the lesser directors made silly genre movies. Now, silly genre movies for teens get top priority and billing.

Music used to be more varied too. In the 60s, classical music used to be shown on PBS quite often. Older people still listened to Sinatra and young ones were into rock. In the 60s, you could see both old and new forms of music on Ed Sullivan. But as time passed, all that was left was rock music. Even old boomers now only listen to rock music and just about nothing else.

This is nothing new.

Tom Regan said...

The relative decline in the popularity of the NHL has less to do with overlap with the NFL than it has to do with the fact that it is an all-white demographic - players and fans - in a market becoming less white as each day passes.
Baseball's plateau in popularity is due to a quicker pace of life. Who has 5 hours free on a Tuesday afternoon to watch a baseball game? It is the same as cricket, which has seen its most popular form graduate from 5-day games to 1-day games to 3-hour games.
The popularity of the EPL on a global scale is less to do with the quality of its play - though it has improved - then the fact its in English and promoted throughout the world by Murdoch's forces. Also there is a great atmosphere at most games due to well-designed stadia. But the dirty little secret that no-one mentions is that is a NASCAR-like ethnic pride festival. Look for the shots of the fans - how many non-white faces do you see? Take West Ham for example, situated in east London where there's barely a white person left - their crowd is overwhelmingly white. Plus its overwhelmingly men. Why do they pay $50 a ticket for 90 minutes? Because a football match is about the last place in the world where white middle-class and working-class men can feel uninhibited behaving like white middle-class and working-class men.

Tom Regan said...

Horse racing continues to thrive in Australia and Britain by marketing itself still as a high-society social occasion.
This is particularly popular with women, who suddenly feel justified in buying a $200 hat and $700 dress and indulge the feminine side they usually have to surpress. This in turn, brings the guys who don't mind going out for the day in suit and tie if there's the chance to meet inebriated pretty girls.
And gambling on horse racing is regarded as a prototypically male thing to do in Australia, and has been helped by the post-war immigration of macho cultures from southern Europe and gambling-obsessed east Asians.

michael farris said...

"If there was a sport that really celebrated the ideal-human form for women it might be figure skating."

I really don't think there is a sport that can do that, sports require muscle and minimize fat and the ideal human-form for women has curves (that is fat deposits).

I think old time figure skaters (when training built up lower body muscles that looked like fat) may have been closer but even the most feminine old time skaters like Janet Lynn or Peggy Fleming were too light on top to be the ideal. The current system favors slight body types without much fat. Five of the top 8 finishers in Vancouver (including four of the top five) were Asian.

The kind of public display that celebrated the idea female form might be pre-plastic surgery burlesque and/or soft porn (where looks were more important than willingness to indulge in extreme .... activities).

"For men it would have been gymnastics"

I would say gymnastics, diving and (for a more rugged archetype) rugby. Soccer players, like tennis players and male skaters end up with too much lower body development and not enough upper body development.

I think the grotesque extremes that bodybuilders go to can be described in terms of

a) male excess (many men have trouble turning off the 'bigger is better' guide to aesthetics)

b) extreme body modification, they know most women find them repulsive looking, they're bulking up for each other (and the small subset of women who don't find them fugly) trying to see who can be more extreme. It's like guys with tattoos and/or piercings incite even more tattoos and piercings among the like-minded.

Whiskey said...

The audience for the Winter Olympics was 56 percent female. For women viewers, the Olympics in the 20th Century served as a prototype for the 21st Century reality television shows, with their human interest stories about a small group of good-looking rivals vying for a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Figure skating, for example, long let spectators indulge themselves in watching the backstage dramatics that have become a staple on reality shows such as Survivor. But unlike the contestants on Survivor, Olympians are highly disciplined professional athletes, so most aren’t as amusingly prone to hissy fits as reality show contestants, who, like Dr. Evil, will do anything for One Million Dollars.
That's GOLD Steve. GOLD!

Women love that stuff, indeed are the audience for reality crap, with hissy-fit dramas, divas, and so on. Gay trainers and divas yelling at fat people, backstabbing Guidos and Guidettes, and such like.

BUT ... the most popular sport in attendance is NASCAR, though it is down in the ratings, 13.3 million for the Daytona 500 vs. 17 million and change in 2008.

Women, generally, don't watch much sports, because it is about achievement by absolute metrics, rather than judged stuff with politics and backstabbing and diva-esque behavior (which women love and men hate).

NASCAR has fallen in popularity, but will probably stick around. EPL and Soccer is SWPL stuff, which is both falling out of fashion and un-affordable, as the recession trims the Trader Joe's shoppers.

Sports is still a mostly White audience deal, particularly since Mexicans watch Mexican soccer on Univision/Telemundo, and don't buy stuff hawked on EPL which requires Direct TV IIRC.

Heck the NBA is about 99% Black, and has a big problem in that most of its fans are White. Long-term ,baseball and the NHL *ARE* threats to it, if managed properly. White fans are not going to watch lumbering pseudo rappers dunk the ball while dribbling twice, particularly not in a lasting recession.

We are looking at extended hard times, with perhaps ten years or MORE of high unemployment. Its a fantasy that Blacks (only 40% of which are Middle Class) are going to support a sports league. Much less the separate cultural universe of Mexicans.

Sponsorship money, TV deals, and the rest are not going up, they will start to go down. It will be a scramble for getting the broadest audience possible, that means more White players, and more sportsman like (instead of Ghetto posturing or gangsta imitations) play. The NBA is too Black and Ghetto to survive a long, decade plus drop in TV/Sponsorship money in good shape.

I agree Bettman is miserable. But ABC or CBS could easily run hockey heavily after college football ends (early Dec.) up through Bowl Season, and again after Jan 6 or so, and after the Superbowl. Saturday nights in a recession, people will be home. Sports will be about the only thing guys will watch on TV now, it being a female/gay ghetto.

Anonymous said...

Thomas said

"Steve, while the Winter Games were going on, I had taken to calling them "Sports White People Like."

That's fair point, maybe it was an ethnic pride rally.

Another point. The most popular sports in the world were invented by whites. Or more accurately the British. Funny white people with their funny winter sports. Well same funny people invented all the other sports you play and watch you ungrateful bastards! Soccer, cricket, field hockey, tennis, table tennis, golf, rugby. Yanks came up with volleyball, basketball, gridiron, baseball.

TH said...

Nice touch with the Arno Breker. Who chooses the pictures at Taki's Mag? They're great.

Chris Anderson said...

Minor quibble, Steve. Leonard Jeffries coined "ice people." John Derbyshire's nice trick was taking that intended insult and using it as the best shorthand for [whites and east asians].

Anonymous said...

I was in Canada last week, where I got basically real time coverage of the Olympics on several different cable channels.

The venues were packed, the caliber of athletics was high.
The ancillary cultural (dare I say racial) glorification is part of the package.

Who gives a god-damn if sun people hate it? Seriously who cares.

And from what I could say it seems like the female speed-skaters (long track) had the most classical physique at the games. Similar to the swimmers in the summer games.

Paavo said...

In Finland horse racing is very far from the sport of kings. It is very strictly only for rubes and gipsies. One euphenism ( negative connotations) for the roma is ravikansa 'the horse race people'

Anonymous said...

There sure are a lot of Jewish sports league commissioners. Besides NBA and NHL (and others?), MLS has one, I believe: Garber. He's done a pretty good job, actually.

In the midst of a very bad economy, MLS has grown from 10 teams circa 2002 to 16 teams this year, and 18 teams next year, with many cities building SSS (soccer specific stadia) with new ones in New York and Philadelphia this year alone.

Off the top of my head there are at least 9 SSS built or almost built, in MLS, with new SSS either approved or getting close to approval in Kansas City, Houston, and San Jose, plus Portland is converting PGE park to a SSS. Building these facilities gives MLS the long term financial viability it did not use to have - it is no longer getting raped, for instance, by NFL stadium owners in terms of leases and concession sales, etc.

There are many new SSS in lower level, D2/D3 minor league soccer as well (ie, USL, the new NASL, etc). Charleston, Montreal, Atlanta, just off the top of my head, with other cities getting close to building SSS (Crystal Palace Baltimore). This kind of grow in MINOR LEAGUE soccer would not be happening if pro soccer in the USA were as moribund as some of you people think it is.

The soccer fan base in the USA has always been quite large. American sports media people just don't like talking about it - or are completely ignorant of it. Visiting European teams were drawing crowds over 40,000 as long ago as the 1920's and 30's. The NASL drew huge crowds. Olympic soccer and World Cup matches drew huge crowds in the USA. Big club and national teams still draw huge crowds in the USA every summer.

The TV audience for EPL, UEFA Champions League, Euro Cup, and World Cup games are very large, and growing, with major American TV networks paying more and more for the American TV rights (these are English language TV rights - ie SWPL audiences, not Spanish speaking immigrant audiences). You can watch these matches every week on ESPN, Fox, GolTV, and various other networks - something that it was impossible to do 10 or 15 years ago.

So, yeah, right now only a small subset of American soccer fans are paying any attention to MLS (or USL or the new NASL). But MLS isn't doing too badly, and unless the players union does something really stupid this year (like going on strike), MLS has set itself up for long term prudent growth. You can watch MLS to see young players who will go off eventually to play in top European leagues, and you can see older stars come back to play out their final years in MLS.

MLS will not be a top league in world football any time soon. Still, lots of people watch minor league baseball, or college football, because it is their local team even though it is not in the top league in its sport. MLS can capture a share of that market, and grow it as American soccer fans learn to appreciate it more.

You can dis American soccer all you want, but it isn't going away and it isn't shrinking by any means. It is growing and pretending it isn't won't make it go away. And it has nothing to do with Hispanics, either, who are much more attached to the teams and leagues they left behind in the countries they came from, and who are uninterested in US soccer. It is SWPL audiences who are growing the English language audience for soccer in the USA, not Hispanics.

jody said...

tom regan, that does not even make sense. the american television audience of the NHL has declined directly with every move that gary bettman has made. it has nothing at all to do with race. if white people were the only americans watching the NHL in 1990, and white people are the only americans watching the NHL in 2010, and there are more white people now, then how the heck can the television audience have declined due to there being a LARGER target audience?

NHL ratings would quadruple immediately with only a few changes. get rid of gary bettman. contract 4 NHL teams, all of them money losers in warm weather cities. put the best 2 players from those teams on other teams and lose the rest of the players, contracting and therefore improving the talent pool in the league. and don't be a total Fing idiot about television. when ESPN offers you a contract after your versus contract ends, you say YES. when versus calls and asks you to renew, you say NO, you say NO, you say NO. you delete their phone number and email address from the company offices and computers, and never even talk to them again. then you call NBC, and ask them for an additional 4 NHL games on primetime per year. american television audience problems solved.

NBA ratings have declined in part due to race though. white people are, again, the people who do the great majority of NBA watching, and they don't like what they see anymore. they've been tuning out, despite the 24 hour saturation coverage of ESPN as well as weekly games on ABC and TNT. according to david stern (also jewish, of course!), the NBA will lose 400 million dollars this year. last year it lost at least 200 million dollars, and the league had to give 8 teams over 10 million dollars each to keep them operating. the NBA also fully subsidizes the WNBA, a league that strictly loses money, period. it would not exist if the NBA were not paying over 10 million dollars a year to keep it in existence.

Anonymous said...

Paavo said:

In Finland horse racing is very far from the sport of kings. It is very strictly only for rubes and gipsies. One euphenism ( negative connotations) for the roma is ravikansa 'the horse race people'

In western Canada, horse racing is for the older (pre-VLT) generation of upwardly-mobile rubes. These are the ones who think they have so much class from they money they made working on the oil rigs in Alberta.

Matra said...

The NHL may be catching the NBA in popularity in the US - see here - although it may be because of the NBA's decline.

America's sports media establishment is anti-hockey (and anti-soccer too). If you are a sports journalist and only know football, baseball, and basketball of course you're going to feel threatened by any other sports. Even when ESPN had the rights to the NHL they treated it with contempt.

Peter A said...

Problem is, even with HD, hockey still doesn't translate as well to television as the other major sports. The puck is too small, the players look almost identical to the casual fan. Hockey in the 1970s, i.e. pre-helmets, was a lot more fun. We will never again see an image as iconic as a bare headed Orr flying across the ice.

The NBA is actually whiter, thanks to Europeans, and a lot less "gangsta" than it was in the late 90s. Stern has arguably done a pretty good job positioning the NBA as a "global" product, even if he's alienated the white American working class. Bettman can't even say that much. I don't think the NBA's problem is so much racial as it is glandular. The NFL is heavily black too, but NFL players are mostly just stronger and heavier than civilians, not all are freakishly tall. You can vaguely day dream that you could have played in the NFL too had you really worked at it, NBA players almost seem like aliens and if you're not 6'6" or taller, forget it.

Anonymous said...

Sports come and go in terms of popularity. It's not a new phenomenon by any means and there's no reason to believe it will end. Just look at what's happened so far:

- the NFL's dominant position is really only a few decades old, the first few Super Bowls didn't attract much attention

- baseball's spot as America's favorite sport looked unassailable at least until the 1950's, no one ever would have thought the NFL would displace it

- the NBA was essentially moribund 30 years ago, until MJ, Magic and Bird came along and saved it

- NASCAR was a Southern niche sport until recent years

- horse racing and boxing once trailed only baseball as the country's top sports, but both have faded into near-obscurity

- tennis peaked in the 1970's, as both a spectator and participant sport, and has slowly but steadily declined ever since.


Drawbacks said...

The number of English soccer games and the length of the season has changed little over the years, but the scheduling of games within the week has changed greatly, with the growth of satellite (and cable) TV.
In the 70s and into the 80s, there were games on each Saturday at 3, some Wednesday evenings at 8, and very few at any other time. More or less the only games shown live on television were cup finals (6 games a year, including Europe-wide tournaments), and those featuring the England national team (around 10 games a year). Every second June, there would be more saturated coverage of the finals of the World Cup or the European Nations tournament.
Nowadays there will be five live games to watch over the average weekend, and usually one every night from Monday to Thursday. The World Cup and European Nations' finals now have twice as many teams as they had in the 70s.

Tom Regan said...

Jody, TV ratings are expressed as a percentage. So while there may be more white people now than there was 30 years ago, they are a smaller percentage of the overall population. So, ratings inevitably fall given the NHL's fan base is almost exclusively white.
But I agree with you on Bettman. I sent some info to Steve last year on just how transparent his behavior was in the whole Coyotes fiasco - turning down the richest offer and preferring a lesser offer from someone who is, errrr, distantly related.

Anonymous said...

I expect that there will be more fragmentation and specialization of sports along genetic lines save for one or two big exceptions that have mass appeal (eg NFL). Humans, particularly non-Europeans, tend to identify with individuals, teams and sports that they have some genetic commonality with and chance at doing well in.

As an adult, I feel closest to the sports that I played while a child. I grew up playing all the major sports, but with the hypercompetition and specialization in sports today, my children will not. When they become adults, their favorite sports will be very different from mine.

Macduff said...

The British claimed that as soon as their dominance in a particular sport was challenged, they simply invented another one. However they seem to be doing really well in the hockey world cup taking place in India, at least until now.'s_Hockey_World_Cup
I guess no new sport will be invented for some time now.

Macduff said...

One look at the map of participating nations in the Winter Olympics
will make one realize that a lot of so called 'sun people' (india, ghana, pakistan, jamaica etc..) took part but they just hapless against the 'ice people' in their own turf.