After talking slightly on the subject in one of our latest News & Notes sections, I thought I would expand on it by listing some of the ideas that occurred to me over the weekend. I honestly think basketball is a much more appealing sport to watch in person and on television, and these are some of the reasons why. Feel free to agree, disagree, discuss in the comments section, etc.
1. Basketball is more wide-spread than football, both nationally and internationally
I know in the Midwest -- especially in Texas -- it seems like football is in every corner of the globe, especially at this time of year. But, in fact, football is very specific to the United States. In fact, in other countries, it is called "American football" (so as not to be confused with say "real football" AKA soccer.) While basketball is played in various professional and semi-professional leagues around to world (by both men and women) -- and is also an Olympic Sport -- American football is played in like four countries outside of the United States.
As far as nationally goes, think of all the powerhouse college football programs in the United States... Texas probably comes to mind. Oklahoma. Nebraska and other Big 10 schools like Michigan and OSU. Maybe some Californian schools. Definitely some schools in the South. But how about teams in the Northeast? Anywhere North and/or East of Penn State coming to mind?? No? Because not all colleges have football teams. (See Wichita State University.)
It can be a very expensive thing to run a football program by itself, not to mention all the women's programs that would have to be added to equal the number of male athletes on a football team. Whereas with basketball, it is much less expensive to run. There's fewer players, less equipment involved, probably less maintenance are needed for the sports facilities. KU is probably one of the few exceptions to this rule, as we spend a great deal on our basketball program. But if you're Central State Community College or whatever, and you have to decide between having a football program or having a basketball program, you're likely going to pick basketball.
2. Basketball is more gender-neutral, because both men and women play it
It's a sad thing that I have to explain this point at all. Let's just side step the whole "both sexes can play it" thing. I know guys who hate having women around when a football game is on because, and I quote, "they don't understand it -- they always have to ask stupid questions about what's going on, who's doing what, and it's a distraction. Women can never understand football like a man does!"
Yes, I realize this is a very misogynistic thing to say, but I wonder if any guy -- deep down -- kinda sorta holds it as truth. Maybe not out loud, but still believes it all the same. If you were hosting a football trivia game-night, would you invite your female friends? Would you if you were hosting a basketball trivia game-night? Think about your experiences with your female friends/coworkers/SO's etc. during football season vs. during basketball season. Do you, as a guy, think that there's a stigma when a woman knows a lot about football? Do you think there's a stigma when she knows a lot about basketball? (This is something to discuss in the comment section.)
But, returning to the main point, yes, basketball is played by both men and women -- at elementary school level, in HS, in college, in semi- and professional leagues. Yes, the men's games tend to be more athletic, faster paced, etc. But it's always encouraging to see women competing not necessarily alongside them, but on an even scale as them. And they don't need to break all sorts of sex/gender norms to play it (like in football) or wear skimpy uniforms to make it more "interesting" (like lingerie football or volleyball).
3. At their simplest levels, basketball is easier to explain and pick up on than football is
Basketball is relatively simple: five players guard their basket and try to get the ball in the other team's basket. Football's more like: try to get the ball down the field by either running it or throwing it, while also defending your goal from your opponent's passes and runs. Even if you want to get a bit deeper (man to man vs. zone defense, the details of guard vs. forward, etc.) on the basketball side, the football's "deep ends" are much deeper. (Nickel vs. dime defense, run-heavy offense vs. pass-heavy offense). The fact that there are 22 players on the field vs. 10 players on the court also helps.
Also, football has some weird-ass penalties. If you're watching football for the first time, it will take you a while to figure out what offsides, false starts, chop block, horse collar, etc. are. Penalties/fouls in basketball are pretty simple: make too much contact, and you'll get penalized for it. The limit is five fouls per player. Any weird fouls in basketball (like technicals, etc.) are usually explained by the announcers/commentators. I feel like football people take for granted that their audiences are knowledgeable enough in football to know what a chop block looks like.
If nothing else, imagine that you have never seen either sport in your life. Don't you think it's easier for you to understand basketball as opposed to football?
4. Basketball's season has more advantages than football season
Football season is very predictable. HS games on Friday, college games on Saturday, pro games on Sunday. The only exceptions are bowl games and holiday games around Thanksgiving. Football season, I would argue, has a disadvantage of starting in late summer, going through fall, and ending in early winter. If you go to outdoor games, the weather can range from stifling F-ing hot, to freezing-ass cold. There are likely some games in that "sweet spot" where the weather is beautiful and gorgeous and that "perfect fall day," and that's likely why football is so popular in states like Texas and Alabama -- where weather is more mild through the fall and into the winter.
In places like Kansas, Ohio, Michigan, Nebraska, Iowa, etc., you can have a beautiful outdoor game one Saturday, and be freezing your ass off the next. Going to HS games on Friday nights can also be very tortuous, because it's even colder at night than during the day.
But, if you're not going to the games in person, why should you care?... you might ask. You can sit at home on a lovely (or even a not so lovely) day and watch football on your television in perfect comfort, despite whatever the weather might be like outside. Again, because, football season is predictable. Need to go a wedding on Saturday? You'll miss the KU game. Family goes to church on Sunday? You could miss the first half of the Chiefs' noon game. Think about those Saturdays and Sundays when it IS nice out... do you really want to spend four hours indoors during the late morning/afternoon/early evening watching football when there's yard work to be done, houses to be painted, kids to be played with, family events to attend, etc.??
Another disadvantage to football season: the number of games. You miss one game because you were at a family reunion? You miss out on 1/12th of your team's season (in college, not counting post-season). With basketball, usually the weather is nastier, so there's more reason to stay inside and watch the games. And if you go in person, you can enjoy watching your sporting event INDOORS. Plus, if you miss a game, no worries, there will be at least 30 games in a season (for college). Not to mention the fact that basketball games are shorter, and even if you miss the first half, (and your team is competitive), you'll still get to see the parts of the game that really matter.
Also, postseason: football's postseason falls around the Christmas/New Years holidays. Do people really care to watch the Jet Blue Airlines Coastal Bowl on Dec. 25? Unless their teams are playing, no. But, when March Madness comes around, it's practically a holiday of its own. What else is going on in late March/early April? Not much. Maybe Easter, but that's about it. During March Madness, you can watch four games at any given time, usually; and I'd say about 7/10, they're probably pretty competitive/interesting games/match-ups. And, the pro's postseasons... football definitely has an edge with the Superbowl. But, let's be honest, that's usually because of the commericals/cultural interest, not necessarily the football. NBA Finals are a bit different, because they're that last tide that organized fast-paced sports before the summer kicks in with golf and tennis (and I don't know about you, but I'm not about watching golf and tennis during the summer. I'd rather pluck out my own leg hairs with tweezers than watch either of those sports).
5. Basketball is a more photogenic sport than football
As someone who has photographed both sports (granted, at the HS level), it's nicer to see the raw emotion and athleticism in basketball photography. Football photography is weighed down with helmets and protective gear. That's not to say that you can't get good football pictures, but compared to basketball pictures, c'mon. Think of all those great photos of KU players faking out their opponents, putting up shots, or just letting out a caveman cry while doing a Superman move across their chest. Now... think of all those great football photos. Got any in mind? Me neither. If you do, props to you, then. Lighting for football (esp. at a night game) is hit-or-miss; and the distance between the photographers and the players doesn't help either. With basketball, the lighting is consistent throughout the game, the photographers are closer to both the fans, players, and the coaches, and thus, are able to get more better quality photos.
While still photos are one thing, television is what I'm really getting at. Whatever holds true for still photography, holds true for videography. Need good lighting? Basketball arenas lighting is better and consistent, especially vs. night football games. Need to be close to the players, coaches, and fans for all those moments when you need to catch that raw emotion? You can do it with fewer cameras at a basketball game. I know it doesn't sound like much, but as a former sports photographer, I think it makes a great difference for how you view the game at home through your television.