Saturday, May 13, 2006

Americans Love Their Sports Teams

I have a passion for sports. I have completed one academic sports study, and I have a few other ideas floating around. One of the many things that excites me about moving to Texas Tech University is the Sport and Media master's program.

Many people dismiss sports as unimportant, but I could not disagree more. When I was sports editor of the Las Cruces Sun-News, I argued that our readers tore open the paper more fervently each day than any other section. Sure, people care about politics. But sports fans devour the newspaper each day. There are no box scores for congress!

Living in Ohio has provided a fascinating look at sports passion. This state is crazy about the Buckeyes. While listening to sports radio the other day, I heard that Columbus had the highest ratings in the nation for the first day of the NFL draft. Twenty percent of televisions in use that day were tuned to ESPN. Craziness. Furthermore, two other Ohio markets cracked the top 10 nationally.

Thus, in total, the state of Ohio accounted for 30% of the top 10 markets in first day draft viewing. This is not entirely unexpected since five Ohio State players were selected in the first round. More importantly, however, it underscores the importance of sports in our society.

In my department here at OSU, there are several political communication scholars of note. However, I cannot think of a single faculty member who would self describe as "sports communication." People just seem to think that politics should be important. Meanwhile sports just are important.

For comparison, I hunted down some ratings. This is no easy task due to Nielsen's chokehold on their ratings. However, I found an interesting story from the "Entertainment" section of the Buffalo News from Sept. 10, 2004, using LexisNexis (sorry, I cannot post a link since LexisNexis requires a login).

Under Alan Pergament's byline, the News reports that on "Wednesday, when Democratic Sen. Zell Miller and Vice President Dick Cheney bashed Sen. Kerry in prime time," the GOP convention on Fox News "averaged a 3.0 rating locally, with the cable network beating [ABC] (2.1) and [CBS] (2.0) but losing to [NBC] (4.1). CNN had a 1.4."

Thus, in total, the third night of the GOP convention pulled a 11.6 rating on 5 networks in Buffalo, New York. This is unimpressive considering that the NFL draft -- not even a game, much less the ratings king Super Bowl -- pulled an 8.5 rating in Columbus on a single cable network.

As scholars, we continue to underestimate the importance of sports in our society. This is a mistake. Perhaps in a perfect world, more people would know Bill Frist than Terrell Owens. Be we don't live in a perfect world. We live in the real world. And sports are king here.


Blogger IUAngelini said...


12:15 PM  

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