It’s no secret that football is the most popular sport in America. There’s a few reasons for that. The rise of fantasy sports, and more recently gambling, has obviously been a big reason for its surging popularity. However, every sport has seen increased attention and viewership with fantasy sports and sports betting. There’s something else that is something that is unique to football, and the NFL in particular.
There has seemingly never been more parity in the NFL than there is today. This isn’t to say we don’t know who the best and worst teams are. We know the Eagles, Chiefs, and 49ers are at the top of the pecking order, while the Raiders, Bears, and Panthers are far away from seriously competing for a Super Bowl championship. For the most part, however, the rest of the 26 teams are, to varying degrees, relatively equal. It seems like we see a “big” upset every single week. This week, the Patriots beat the Bills and Vikings beat the 49ers. Last week, the Jets beat the Eagles, and the Browns, with a backup QB, beat the 49ers. Most teams and fanbases go into just about every game with the idea that if a few things go their way, they can win the game. That is powerful, and keeps the fans and even the teams engaged on a weekly basis.
More importantly, this extends to the playoffs. Obviously, it’s not a series. It’s one game, do or die. In baseball, basketball, and to a lesser extent, hockey, the better teams usually win in a 3, 5, or 7 game series. On the rare occasion, we will see a big series upset like the Heat beating the Bucks in the 1st round. But that’s the exception, not the norm. Over the course of history, only 13 times in 48 Super Bowls did both number 1 seeds make it to the Super Bowl, since the NFL implemented playoff seeding in 1975. Over 28% of number 1 seeds failed to win a playoff game going back to 1990! Upsets happen in the playoffs every year. No one expected the 49ers to go into Lambeau in 2021 and beat the top seeded Packers. The Titans rolled into Baltimore in 2019 and demolished the top seeded Ravens. And we all know about the legendary playoff runs the 2007 and 2011 Giants had. This gives every fan optimism. “Get in the dance, and you never know what happens.” It’s cliche, but it’s true!
The NFL is King because any team can truly win on any given day. Fans and teams thrive on optimism and hope, and the NFL provides it like no other league. No other sport can compare to the parity that football provides.