The 4 major sports leagues here in America. Are they trending up or down?
The NFL is undeniably in the lead when it comes to popularity here in the states. Despite television ratings falling off slightly in the 2016-2017 season, overall the league’s power and presence is the stuff advertisers love to fight over. However many are predicting that ratings will continue to fall and the off field news at times, are just as damaging to the sport as are parents across America who are pulling their kids from playing football due to concerns about concussions. Quarterbacks are the faces of the league and as Tom Brady approaches retirement, you start to look around and notice that most of the other certified big name QB’s aren’t that far from retirement themselves. In May the NFLPA started warning players to save their money for a possible 2021 lockout, while currently players like Richard Sherman are preaching that players should be making more money and are willing to strike to get it. I love football, a lot of us do, but honestly the NFL is trending down!
The NBA went through some rough times starting in the early 2000’s. The moment that signifies those times for me is “The Malice At The Palace”, November 19th, 2004. That’s when the Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers ended up rumbling with each other and somehow with fans too. Scoring was down, Michael Jordan had on a Wizards uniform and the league we fell in love with because of Bird, Magic and Jordan was fading fast. Fast forward to today and under the leadership of commissioner Adam Silver, the league for the first time in a long time feels like it deserves attention 24/7, 365. The NBA Finals were the most watched since Jordan’s last championship in 1998 and this years draft class for many reasons has fans of the league energized. NBA players are recognizable around the world and the game of basketball is arguably the most popular sport worldwide behind soccer. Some will argue that the league is top heavy and that may be true, but overall the NBA is trending up!
Major League Baseball has seen a surge in great young talent. Mike Trout (25), Bryce Harper (24), Mookie Betts (24) and Aaron Judge (25) are just a few of many excellent players. Unfortunately it’s not translating into new and younger fans of the game. In 2016 the MLB All Star game had a record low 8.7 million viewers. This season it jumped to 9.3 million which is great, but when you find out that overall the average age of people who watch MLB is 55 years old, you can’t help but cringe. Like any business in order to keep it growing and moving you have to pull in a younger demographic and it’s clear that baseball isn’t. Some say the game is too slow, not diverse enough, etc. At the end of the day MLB has a problem and if things don’t change soon, the league could be in major trouble. MLB is trending down!
What sport has grown by 9% in participation in the U.S. and it’s professional league has made a nice impression through digital media? That’s right, it’s hockey and the NHL.
From video games (NHL 17 is the truth) to new and diverse faces on the ice, the NHL is beginning to move in the right direction. In 2008 the league held it first “Winter Classic” on New Year’s Day in Buffalo and over 70,000 people showed up to support. Even bigger was the impact that game had on the casual fan. It caused people like myself to check it out and to look forward to it every year. If you’re willing to give the game a chance you will see that it’s a fast paced and beautiful game to watch. The 2017 Stanley Cup Finals were the most watched Finals without an original 6 team playing in it (4.7 million average) and that’s nothing to sniff at. Is there room to improve? Absolutely, but again they’re headed in the right direction. Patience has been their ally and if they can remain in that space the league should see better days ahead. The NHL is trending up!
Bonus: MLS is not to be overlooked. It’s been around for 22 years. Has 22 teams (19 in America and 3 in Canada) and in 2016 the league set an attendance record. Soccer is the biggest game in the world and the kids love it. MLS is trending up!