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Getting Ready for the Sports Watching Drought

by on April 09, 2019 5:00 AM

What are we going to do? This coming Sunday is the beginning of the drought.

What drought, you ask? We had the wettest year ever in Happy Valley last year and we’ve seen plenty of precipitation so far this year. How could we possibly be having a drought?

Why, the sports watching drought, that’s what drought.

The annual Penn State football team scrimmage, the Blue-White game, is this Saturday, and then that’s it. The Alliance of American Football suspended all operations a week ago and will play no more football. The XFL doesn’t kick-off until next year, and the NFL’s Hall of Fame Game isn’t until Aug. 1 in Canton, Ohio.

So there will soon be an almost 16-week drought before there will be any reasonable facsimile of football on television.

Heck, the first full-fledged college football game doesn’t hit the airwaves until Saturday, Aug. 24, and the NFL’s first regular-season game doesn’t kick-off until Sept. 5. So you could easily say that it’s a 19-week drought before any meaningful football is available to sit down on our couches and watch.

Now, you may be thinking, there are plenty of sports to watch on television during the next several months. Baseball, soccer, golf, tennis, horse racing… the list goes on. We can watch those.

Here’s the thing. Apparently we can watch those sports, but in comparison to football, we don’t.

In the United States, our sports-watching allegiance is largely to one sport and one sport only: football. All other sports take a back seat. Actually, they don’t even get the back seat. Their situation could be more accurately described as occasionally viewing the car, but never getting inside, and certainly not riding along.

Here’s how one-sided our allegiance to football is in this country. Earlier this year an online company named Sports Media Watch published a list of the 50 most-watched sporting events by viewership for the year 2018. Those numbers also included streaming viewers where the information was available. Of the top 50 sporting events in 2018, 43 were football games. 40 of those 43 were NFL games, and the other three were college football games (the National Championship game, the Rose Bowl, and the Sugar Bowl).

The other seven events that weren’t football? All Winter Olympics telecasts.

Absent the Winter Olympics, it’s possible a football game may have taken every single one of the top 50 most watched sporting events in the United States last year.

That, my friends, is called dominance.

But, you’re thinking to yourself, there are so many other great sporting events we can watch over the next few months. Some of them must crack the top 50. The Masters. The Kentucky Derby. The MLB All-Star game. The Final Four. The NBA Finals. The U.S. Open.

Nope, sorry. Not a single one was in the top 50. Although if you want to feel better about your particular favorite sport, the top non-football and non-Olympic viewerships went to three games of the NBA Finals, the World Cup final, and World Series game 5.

And all that football watching turns in to football money.

As I’ve mentioned many times, the president of the NCAA has this to say about college football, “… I say to my women’s golf fans, ‘The most important thing you can do is buy football tickets.’ If you love rowing, buy football tickets. If you love cross country, buy football tickets. We couldn’t do any of those other sports if we weren’t successful in football.”

Football drives sports revenue in this country. Locally at the collegiate level, anyone who is familiar with Penn State’s athletic money stream knows that football is by far the largest contributor to the department. And it pays the bills for many of the other varsity and club sports that Penn State offers.

Another local component to that equation is within our own State College Area School District, where the football stadium is scheduled to undergo a long overdue renovation.

Within the SCASD athletic department are a number of sports teams. When I was a kid, all the high school sports teams in my town got most everything they needed to compete. Obviously the football team got their equipment, but so did all the other teams. This included not only the uniforms but apparel such as sneakers and socks. And when the teams played away games they received meals or were given money to buy food.

Nowadays in the SCASD athletic department, I’m not aware of any sport that gets shoes or socks, and on away games for most sports the players have to bring their own money to purchase food or the booster club provides it for them. It’s an issue that can be traced to cost-cutting within the school district, but also from a lack of revenue within the athletic department. Revenue that, as we can see from above, would normally be generated by football. But with a stadium located in an area some locals avoid, and with the ability to stand above the end zones for free, and no in-stadium concessions (which will change with the renovations), it’s hard to maximize that revenue. That results in the need to cut supplies and food for athletic teams.

All of which is to say, football is king. Football giveth, but if you aren’t ready to taketh, then you lose out. And it would be great to see our local kids receive the benefits of football largesse. Plus, the State High football team puts on great performances on the field – more people should get out to see them play! (And pay to do it!)

So yes, we are about to enter the drought phase of our sports-watching year. As alternatives I suggest you go outside and have fun with your kids, register to vote, hike Mount Nittany, do some yardwork, go watch a play or two, check out an art exhibit, ride a bike, or start that novel you have inside you. Refresh your soul so that come August we’ll be ready to sit down and do the one thing we do so well – watch football.


John Hook is the president of The Hook Group, a local management consulting firm, and active in several nonprofit organizations. Previously John spent 25 years in executive, management and marketing positions with regional and national firms. John lives in Ferguson Township with his wife Jackie and their two children.
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