Aussies have the State of Origin, and Americans have the Super Bowl: the craze of the popular US sport explained.
The National Football League is by far the most watched and most popular sports league in the United States, or perhaps even the world. It ranks higher than any other professional sports league in terms of the number of people attending games as well as the number of people watching them on television.
The NFL is the single most popular and widely followed sports league in the US. In terms both of people attending games and watching them on television, it comes in ahead of all other professional sports leagues.
Every NFL season ultimately comes down to the Super Bowl. The championship match between the two sides left after the regular season and play-offs is the top annual sporting event across the country.
The level of passion that fans feel about their teams and this championship is incredible. Studies have shown that they think about these subjects for 46 hours per month.
That means the NFL has a wider impact outside the sports world.
The Economic Impacts of the NFL
The NFL is very important to the US economy due its popularity, but the impacts that it has on it are both direct and indirect. On a direct level, it is the league that brings in the highest annual revenues, which are around $16 billion per year.
Approximately $9.5 billion of that is earned during the regular season, with the rest coming in the play-offs and Super Bowl part of the season. It is the enthusiasm that fans feel for their teams that drives those enormous profits, because if they stopped attending the games or watching them live on television, the value of the league would plummet.
There is little chance of that though and the fan passion is also what drives the indirect economic impacts of the NFL. One example of that being sports gambling.
A lot of football fans like to add extra spice to the season by placing a Super Bowl bet, sometimes they pick a team from a particular division or conference during the regular season; at other times they wait for the play-offs or just before the Super Bowl game to make their wager.
Either way, the bets that they place are another key way that this league contributes to the US economy each year. Then there is the small matter of the hospitality industry.
The NFL helps to maintain roughly 11,000 jobs throughout parts of the country that have a team in the league. These range from people running – and working in – sports bars to hotel staff and people selling refreshments outside the stadiums on match days.
Edgeworth Economics produced research on behalf of the NFL Players Association showing that all of this provides a further $5 billion for the US economy every single year. The importance of the NFL to America, not just culturally but financially, became clear during the infamous league ‘lockout’ that took place a decade ago.
All of this economic activity is rooted in the dedication of NFL fans. Thankfully that has proven to be remarkably consistent and unswerving over the years.
In addition to the study mentioned earlier that looked at how much time fans dedicate to their pro football passion, there have been others that have explored what is behind it. Social scientists argue that NFL fans feel a connection to their teams of similar strength to that felt towards their families and friends.
That means they are equally invested in things going well for their teams as they are for those people. Therefore real joy is felt when they do and real pain when they do not.
You might think that the agony of defeat would be enough to turn fans off following their teams and the Super Bowl. However, the same studies found a strong correlation between following sports and good mental health.
Being a fan of a team lets people take part in social activities and helps them find a community to belong to. In turn, that lets them recover quickly from setbacks for their team, so fan NFL passion is here to stay.
Comparison with Other Leagues
The NFL is clearly not the only popular sports league in the US. Both the MLB and the NBA draw big crowds for matches and attract a lot of people to watch on television.
The stats do not lie though and they show the NFL as clearly the biggest of them all. Annual revenue for the MLB is currently in the region of $10.7 billion, while for the NBA it is $8.76 billion.
This combined revenue shows how much of a sports-crazed nation the US is, with the NFL just being the one that attracts the most – and most passionate – devotees of the lot. Something in the structure of it, culminating in that all-or-nothing Super Bowl match at the climax, seems to give it the edge over its rival sports leagues.
The craze of the Super Bowl among NFL fans is one that has lasted since the game was introduced during the late 1960s. Everyone dreams of their team winning it.