At the end of a golf tournament last week, we had an interesting discussion about the evolution of sports over the past 20 years. We had four generations offer an opinion of which sports would be considered to be the top sports in America today.
Everyone immediately went to their phones to get the actual ranking of the top 10 sports in today’s society. All agreed that football was No. 1 but beyond that the discussion quickly went all over the map. The younger guys were confident soccer and mixed martial arts had to be in the top 10. The older guys went with boxing, baseball and basketball in their top five.
The official rankings used were as follows: 1) American football, 2) baseball, 3) basketball, 4) ice hockey, 5) soccer, 6) boxing, 7) auto racing, 8) golf, 9) tennis, and 10) mixed martial arts. This ranking was determined in the last months of 2018 by a survey that delved into the amount of revenue generated and average attendance.
The rankings surprised most of us – no matter the generation. The younger guys were surprised baseball was ranked so high while soccer and mixed martial arts were not ranked very high. The older guys were surprised that boxing was still was in the top 10 and that soccer was currently in the top five.
The older generation seemed to have a hard time with the reality that soccer – or football, as the rest of the world calls it – is the No. 1 sport in the world. Soccer is without a doubt the fastest growing team sport in America, but it should be another decade or so before it passes the top three.
American football moved ahead of baseball in the No. 1 spot about 25 years ago and has not looked back. Even with the safety controversy, it remains as the top choice in most age categories. Baseball has long been considered the national pastime for the country. Most young people now feel that the game moves too slow. Their minds are acclimated to fast moving technology.
Baseball still remains big for older Americans and seems to be more of a local base. Football and basketball tend to be watched more nationally. Hockey has moved up in interest in the past 25 years and is holding its own on the national scene.
A surprise to me was that boxing is still ranked among the top 10. During the 1950s and ‘60s, boxing was likely the No. 2 sport in America, falling just behind baseball. Big heavyweight legends Rocky Marciano, Sugar Ray Robinson, Joe Louis, Joe Frazier, and Muhammad Ali made it a must-see event whenever two of the greats would match up. However, in the last 15 years the fighters have not gained as much notoriety. The rise of mixed martial arts has created a loss of focus on boxing.
Auto racing has become a huge money sport over the last two decades. Huge, beautiful tracks have been built all over the country, particularly in the south. Golf popularity has been similar to boxing. Big names like Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer gave rise to its popularity in the ’60s. Tiger Woods brought the sport back in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Tennis is very similar to hockey in that it always seems to hang around in the top 10 but stars in America seemed to fall off the map with the disappearance of players Arthur Ashe, John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, Chris Evert and Billie Jean King. The tennis world is now dominated by non-American players.
A big part of America’s culture is centered around sports. Sports create a cohesive atmosphere – the sports world has functioned as a tool to bring fans together. The next 10 years will without a doubt bring about other changes. I wonder which sports will catch the interest of sports fans in America and which sports will begin to fall from favor.
• The quote of the week is from Tex Schramm, former NFL administrator: “Never let yesterday take up too much of today.”
– Tim Crone, a William Chrisman High School graduate, is a former activities director and coach for Blue Springs High School and is a host of a weekly radio show, “Off the Wall with Tim Crone,” on KCWJ (1030 AM) 6 p.m. every Monday. He writes a weekly column for The Examiner. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.