For many sports fans, the excitement of a championship game can’t be matched by the boring routine of the preceding months. That is especially true for the loyal followers of professional football (American football), who have to endure a string of excruciatingly long preseason friendlies. But it’s not only sports fans who find themselves enlivened by the conclusion of a grueling competition. Political junkies, for example, eagerly await the US Presidential Election in November, and will follow the campaign in full swing regardless of whether it’s summer or winter. In fact, the closer the election gets, the more sports fans will be found on the couch, glued to their TVs.
Why Round Robin?
While watching a football game is almost certainly exciting, the occasional bout of jubilation is quickly overshadowed by the endless drudgery that is professional football. For those who have watched the sport long enough, this routine begins to feel like punishment, and it’s hard to tell whether to laugh or scream at the sheer unfairness of it all. That is why after weeks (perhaps months) of brutal practice and heart-breaking losses, the players and coaches of the winning team usually find themselves relieved, and even more exhilarated, by the brief intermission that follows the game.
What did we say about the importance of the election in the previous paragraph? The answer is that sports fans are always looking for excitement, and they know that the outcome of the electoral race will have profound effects on the country and the world. But that is a matter that concerns everyone, not just sports fans, which is why the outcome of the election will be followed with equal interest by people who aren’t even remotely associated with sports. This is one reason why it is sometimes referred to as the “politics of entertainment.”
On the other hand, you might be a die-hard New York Yankees fan, and you have no idea what I’m talking about because you’ve never been to a professional baseball game in your life. But that doesn’t mean that you don’t appreciate a good round of baseball, and after the long, cold winter months, you’ll be more than happy to tune in to the playoffs this year, regardless of whether your team is in first place or last place. In other words, even though baseball is a “sport,” it isn’t necessarily a “sports” sport, and that is what makes it different. In the next few paragraphs, we will discuss some of the fundamental differences between the football and baseball seasons.
Football Is More Than Just Sports
The main reason why the football season is considered the “off-season” by many is that the game is less about “sports” and more about scoring points. There is, in other words, less strategy involved, and more excitement (not to mention violence).
This isn’t to say that football is completely without strategy. Far from it. The players and coaches do their research throughout the year, and plan out their tactics for each opponent. After all, the game is a lot easier to grasp if you know what your opponent is doing (and you don’t always know). But it is still more about “trying to outsmart the opponent,” rather than outmuscle them as in a traditional fight.
To give you a clearer picture of how the point-scoring works in football, let’s compare it to another game that is also traditionally very violent: ice hockey. In ice hockey, the same situation would arise as in a football game. The opposing teams are looking to score as many goals as they can, and prevent the other team from doing the same. However, in ice hockey, it is much more about trying to injure your opponent as much as possible. This makes for some pretty exciting games, especially if you’re a fan of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Toronto Maple Leafs or Montreal Canadiens (sorry, New York Yankees fans, you’re absolutely out of place in this group).
The Last Game Is Often More Exciting
One of the main differences between the two sports seasons is that while the outcome of a football game is largely determined by the performance of the respective teams during the preceding months, the last game of the baseball season is almost always a nail-biter. That is because, other than the occasional all-star game, playoff baseball is usually a best-of-seven series (with three games per series, except in the case of a tie).
As a result, even the games that are essentially “soulless” are often more exciting to watch. For example, if you’re a Seattle Mariners fan and your team is at the bottom of the division, you’ll be glued to the TV throughout the entire season, desperately wishing that it was over already so that you could have a moment to yourself. The same goes for Florida Marlins fans (sorry, Philadelphia fans – you’re absolutely ruining it for everyone), who have to suffer through an entire N.L. Central season, only to have their hearts broken by the Florida Marlins (and their pitching, as usual) in the play-offs. It is, however, nothing new for professional baseball. It has always been the case that, as you might guess, the closer you get to the end, the more bitter the disappointment, especially if you’re a team that is not named the Los Angeles Dodgers (or Philadelphia Phillies).
Games Are Often More Than Four Hours
Another interesting aspect of the football season is that the games are often much longer than in most other sports. This is partly because, as we’ve discussed, the game is more about points than it is about strength. But it is also because, unlike in most other sports, the games in football are generally (and I mean generally, there are always exceptions) played in front of raucous, partisan crowds, who want to see their team score as many points as possible. The result is that the games often go into extra innings (this is especially true in the NFL, where each team gets three points for a touchdown, two points for a field goal, and one point for an extra point).
It would be a mistake, however, to think that every football game is a blockbuster. Far from it. Despite the fact that it is a point-scoring sport, and despite the fact that most fans will be inclined to go all-out for their favorite team, competitive games often have a small audience, and this, in turn, creates a better atmosphere for the fans that do show up. This is largely because it is difficult to generate public interest in a game that is essentially a collection of teams that no one cares about, apart from the fact that they happen to play in a league that is organized and has some prestige. This is one reason why the NFL is often referred to as the “No Fun League.”
At the moment, the most exciting week in American sports is undoubtedly the NFL Draft, which is coming up soon. The week before the draft, the entire football world stops, and this is mostly because of one reason: it is the one time during the year when fans can get a peek at the future stars of the league. In other words, it is the one week during the year that is guaranteed to increase the intrigue surrounding the sport. Even though fans have a good idea of what is going to happen, especially since mock drafts have become so popular throughout the internet, it is still an exciting event when it finally happens. With the NBA playoffs upon us, and the major league baseball season about to begin, the NFL Draft is one week away. Get ready to be riveted!
To wrap up this article, and as you may imagine, we haven’t even begun to discuss how frustrating the football season can be, let alone how much it can torture players and coaches alike, we need to discuss one more critical difference between the two sports:
The Nature Of The Outcome
While professional sports are, generally speaking, very exciting games to watch, regardless of whether you’re a fan of the Pittsburgh Penguins or the New York Knicks, the outcome is, in most cases, predetermined. This means that even the most inconsequential games have a sense of direction, and even the most meaningless games (from a competitive standpoint) will have a winner and a loser. There is usually little doubt as to which team will emerge victorious. The only question is whether, eventually, one of the teams will prove to be the superior one.