If you asked a sports fan what America’s pastime is, you would get the obvious answer—baseball. That is how it has been for more than a century. Baseball is tied to so much U.S. history. It still is popular.

But if you ask people their favorite sport, it likely would not be baseball. They would probably tell you that it is football.

Confusing, right? Not really.

Baseball is part of the fabric of America, much like apple pie. But apple pie for dessert is nice, not exciting.

The TV viewing fan just is not watching baseball like before. Instead, football rules. Look at the facts:

Two Sundays ago, when the Philadelphia Phillies clinched the NLDS on TBS, it drew a 3.9 rating. At the same time, the Sunday Night Football game on NBC that featured the Philadelphia Eagles and the then winless San Francisco 49ers, an otherwise blasé game, drew an 11.7 rating.


One could argue that this is not a fair comparison because the football game was on NBC, a free broadcast network and the baseball game was on cable TV, TBS. This is a valid argument until you look at Monday night’s comparison.

Both the marquee ALCS Texas-New York matchup of Cliff Lee and Andy Pettite and the Tennessee-Jacksonville Monday Night Football game were on cable, the baseball game being on TBS and the football game on ESPN. TBS is in just over 101 million homes in America (101.2 million) while ESPN is in just under 100 million (99.96 million).

The ratings came in. The football game had a higher rating than the playoff baseball game (a 7.2 compared to a 6.5 rating). And that rating for the baseball game was higher than last year’s ALCS Game Three (6.0).

So to be clear, a lousy NFL game in two smaller markets (Nashville and Jacksonville) had more viewers than a marquee playoff pitching matchup of two of America’s largest markets (Dallas/Ft. Worth and New York).

Why is this?

Some say that because the NFL season is so much shorter, it keeps viewers longer. Others will cite the participation in fantasy football leagues (Tennessee’s Chris Johnson and Jacksonville’s Maurice Jones-Drew are owned by millions of fantasy owners nationwide). Others cite the attraction to football’s violence or the fact that there is so much parity in the NFL, allowing more teams to be competitive longer.

All of those things likely are factors, but it comes down to one simple thing. Baseball is like Mom and Dad. You love them and keep them close to your heart, but you don’t always pay attention.

Football is like your hot new girlfriend or the hot girl who you can’t stop looking at. Family is there and is a part of you, but you can’t keep your eyes off of the lady.

Baseball may be and may continue to be America’s pastime, but football is America’s passion.