November 13, 2018
Hockey. Baseball. Basketball. Football. Futbol. Golf. Tennis. Sportsball. This large assortment of sports and games are all great in their own way, but how watchable are their major leagues? Which sports keep your eyes glued to your screen, and which ones make you continue to flip through the channels? This piece takes a closer look.
Before this list begins, a few rules:
- One league per sport, and it has to be considered a “major league”, which means no minor leagues like the American Hockey League, Minor League Baseball, and the NBA G-League.
- This means no high school sports are going to be on this list. This also means no collegiate sports. Not that I don’t like either of them; college basketball and college football are both really fun.
- Only leagues based in the United States will be in consideration; sorry, soccer fans. This means no Premier League, La Liga, etc.
- “Watchability” will be divided into three components: spontaneity, crowd investment/drama, and parity (out of 10). The average score of these three components will be the league’s final score, which will determine rank.
- All components of a league’s season, except the preseason and offseason, will be considered for this piece.
- No fighting/boxing/MMA-type associations.
- No esports, as that is a really broad sport.
- Tiebreaker for the rankings is highest score in a single category, then is judged by lowest score in a category.
With those prerequisites out of the way, let’s dive into how watchable the major sports are!
Major League Baseball (MLB)
Spontaneity: 6 (Wait, he hit a grand slam? Aw, I missed that?)
This one was hard to judge. On one hand, any batter can just smash a ball into the stands on any pitch. On the other hand, there is a lot of time in between pitches, especially during the later innings and playoff baseball. We just had the longest game in World Series history this year, as Game 3 between the Boston Red Sox and the Los Angeles Dodgers went for 18 innings and 7 hours, 20 minutes, so you really can’t tell. The breaks in between innings usually are not that long; only two to three minutes.
Crowd Investment/Drama: 4 (*clapping like Jason Garrett*)
Again, this is quite a wild card here. Playoff baseball has seats filled to the brim with the home team’s faithful. The regular season, however, was quite the opposite, as attendance this season saw an overall decline of 4%. A game in April between the Chicago White Sox and Tampa Bay Rays had a grand total of 974 people come through the turnstiles. All in all, the huge attendance issues plaguing the MLB hamper this category.
Parity: 7 (Cool, a 163rd game!)
The American League (AL) this year consisted of three really good teams, a mediocre team that reaps the benefits of a terrible AL Central, a surprisingly competitive Oakland A’s team, and a Tampa Bay Rays squad that could have made the playoffs had they not had their abysmal start to the year. The National League (NL), however, was absolutely crazy, especially in September. There were two 163rd games that had to be played this year, and both were for bragging rights to their division title. The NL Championship Series between the Dodgers and the Milwaukee Brewers went down to Game 7. The Brewers, by the way, won the NL Central in one of the two 163rd games. Next year, there are some teams that might break through and threaten their division giants, so I would say a seven is the safe rating here.
Overall: 5.67 (Alright…!)
If people actually went to games, this league would have a much higher rating, but alas. This rating seems low, but it’s nothing compared to what some other leagues have.
Major League Soccer (MLS)
Spontaneity: 3 (SAD!!)
If you know me, I am not the biggest fan of soccer, and this is the main reason why. Yes, the field is really big, but that doesn’t excuse the fact that this game is usually one that bores people that aren’t soccer fans to sleep. A one score lead is a really big cushion in this game.
Crowd Investment/Drama: 8 (AND THE CROWD GOES WILD!!!)
The aforementioned soccer fans love their teams to death, though. Playoff soccer really gets good, especially come penalty kicks. The drama is as high as ever, the crowds are wild, and the players on the sidelines have their arms around each other’s shoulders. This is one of the redeeming factors of the sport, especially at the global stage.
Parity: 7 (Although the past two years saw the same championship game)
In the five previous years, there have been five different champions. This year, the league’s defending champ didn’t even make the postseason, so the MLS could have its sixth different champion in six seasons. The playoffs look much more different from last year’s, with first-year team Los Angeles Football Club making its first playoff appearance in its first season. Could LAFC become the next Vegas Golden Knights?*
Total: 6 (Alright…!)
I, admittedly, have refused to willingly invest myself into soccer, although from time to time I do find myself watching some highlights. The last time I watched a soccer highlights video was back in early April, a couple of weeks after the first ever soccer match between the two Los Angeles teams, when generational talent Zlatan Ibrahimovic engineered a comeback for the ages, with LA Galaxy winning 4-3 after being down 3-0, headlined by this absolutely nutty goal to knot it up at three apiece.
This ranking is actually higher than I had expected, but if I had allowed myself to look at international leagues, I would have absolutely given the Premier League (England) or La Liga (Spain) a total of at least 7.33, at minimum.
Spontaneity: 3 (zzzzzzzzzzzzz)
I’m being really generous with this rating. On one hand, on certain racetracks, cars can go as fast as 210 MPH, and there’s a small chance that somebody could blow a tire or an engine, which would bring out the caution. On the other hand, there usually is not much action on the track, especially in the middle of the race, and the casters find themselves trying to find talking points to pass the time until someone gets within .3 seconds of another car. It’s really saddening that the only genuinely exciting moments of a race are the initial starts and restarts, because that’s usually when gutsy passes are made.
Crowd Investment/Drama: 2 (zzzzzzzzzzzzz)
NASCAR, like the MLB, has been dealing with some attendance issues as of late, and I don’t blame those who don’t go. The only time there’s really any drama is during the playoffs when a driver in the playoffs starts whining about how he didn’t win and how he blames the guy who made a clean pass, so it’s all really fake.
Parity: 1 (ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ)
I’m being even more generous giving this a 1 out of 10. This season had next to no parity, with Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr, and Kevin Harvick accruing 20 wins combined in 35 races. That is 57% of the 35 races so far. Oh, and did I mention that all three of them are racing for the championship? Why watch a race when you know one of those three will win barring some improbable event where all three crash? The only time I find myself saying “I think I might watch some NASCAR” is when they go to superspeedways like Daytona and Talladega, and even then, I only watch them when there’s nothing else on.**
Total: 2 (SAD!!)
In addition to all of this, the France family has mangled this sport to oblivion, making rule changes that blow up in their face and cause their dwindling ratings to plummet even further. Case in point, the overtime line. You know how if the leader crosses the white flag and then a caution comes out, the race is over and the field is frozen? Yeah, in 2017, they thought it was a good idea to make it so that you only have to complete half a lap. You can take a guess as to how well that worked out. This sport is totally pathetic, and is arguably not even racing anymore. It’s just a bunch of failed gimmicks.
National Basketball Association (NBA)
Spontaneity: 9 (Blink and you miss the whole quarter)
Basketball is, without a doubt, the wildest sport around. Sometimes, it takes less than a second to drill the game winner, as shown here:
The court itself is not very big, so it doesn’t usually take that much time to traverse the court. Momentum can also change on a dime. One moment, a team might be leading by 17, the next moment, the other team goes on a 23-5 run in two minutes. This is really one of the only redeeming qualities about this league.
Crowd Investment/Drama: 8 (AND THE CROWD GOES WILD)
Great crowds are always on hand for a home game, no matter how sucky their team may be. Even though the playoffs have an incredible lack of tension (which I will cover in detail soon), there is always a plethora of high scoring, multiple overtime games that keep your eyes glued to the TV.
Parity: 1 (Golden State won? Next thing you’ll tell me is “grass is green.”)
The only reason I don’t watch the NBA is because there is next to no parity in the league. Everybody with at least one brain cell knows the Warriors superteam is going to steamroll the Western Conference, then the Eastern Conference champion; and because The Process has turned out to bring some success to Philadelphia, about ⅓ of the league is tanking to win the draft lottery because they know full well they can’t compete with the top teams in the league. One positive, though: we won’t see Warriors vs LeBron in the NBA Finals. We’ll probably see it in the Western Conference Semifinals, instead.
Total: 6 (Alright…!)
It was going so well for Adam Silver’s baby boy until parity came up. The Warriors expanded their superteam by acquiring Demarcus Cousins, which means that they will win the NBA Finals without dropping a single game throughout the playoffs. Sorry, every single other NBA team!
National Football League (NFL)
Spontaneity: 6 (Unless you’re the Kansas City Chiefs)
Usually, a team has to drive 75 yards down the field and, unless someone gets wide open deep downfield, scoring possessions usually take anywhere from 4 to 6 minutes. Even more methodical drives that have a lot of third down plays can even take up to 8 minutes, at times. Long scoring plays usually take about 10 to 13 seconds off the clock, which is quite a long time in a football game. With that said, however, big plays like that can happen at about any time.
Crowd Investment/Drama: 8 (AND THE CROWD GOES W– wait, they’re leaving in the middle of the third quarter?)
American football, even though baseball is considered our country’s pastime, is without a doubt the most popular sport in the country. A game with about half of capacity attendance for an NFL stadium would still almost fill up most baseball stadiums, hockey arenas, or basketball arenas. Especially during close games, the crowd is amped up, as they give their team support during the two minute drill.
Parity: 8 (Both playoff races will last all 17 weeks)
Similarly to the MLB, there is loads of parity in the National Football Conference (NFC), but unlike the MLB’s AL, the American Football Conference (AFC) is rather loaded as well. The NFC North and the NFC South, in particular, are total bloodbaths. The former division is in a situation where the last place team is still only one game behind the first place team, as the Bears, Vikings, Packers, and Lions’ records are 4-3, 4-3-1, 3-3-1, and 3-4, respectively. The NFC South is an interesting case, as Tampa Bay, who jumped out to a 2-0 start, is now sitting at 3-4 and is tied with the Falcons for last in the division. The main battle is between the Saints and the Panthers, who have a one game distance from each other. The AFC has more competition than last year, especially in the AFC North, with the Steelers on top by less than a game after starting 1-2-1. Also, the Patriots aren’t ruling over the AFC with an iron fist, so that’s a shocker.
Total: 7.33 (Hey, that’s not bad at all!)
I’ve been a big football fan ever since I was a small child, and I don’t think I’ve ever been more invested in football now than I ever have been. This is looking to be an exciting year, to say the least, and this looks to be sort of a changing of the guard from the Patriots empire to the Rams regime.
National Hockey League (NHL)
Spontaneity: 9 (quickly checks social media then looks back up WAIT WE SCORED?!)
Hockey is, no contest, the most physical sport there is. Combined with the speed at which the players can skate down the ice and how mobile the puck is, it’s very feasible for teams to score immediately after a faceoff or from the blue line. Over the past few months, I have fallen in love with the sport, and coming up is the main reason why.
Crowd Investment/Drama: 10 (HEYYYY, YOU SUCK)
The crowds are without a doubt the most electric I’ve seen. Chants reverberate throughout the arena, Mike “Doc” Emrick’s commentary amplifies the intensity and excitement, and horns pierce the air when the home team scores. Especially come playoff hockey from April to June, the arenas are always packed (unless your team’s owner was stupid enough to put their arena in a suburb 30 minutes away from the city your team plays for. I’m looking at you, Ottawa and Florida…)
Parity: 8 (Just the Central Division, in general)
Over the past five Stanley Cup Playoffs, there have been four different champions and nine different teams in the Stanley Cup Final. The most recent Stanley Cup Final saw the Washington Capitals break their dry spell by beating the new kids on the block, the Vegas Golden Knights, in five games. In this young NHL season, there are a lot of teams that are making their case for a playoff push that didn’t even come close to playoff contention last season. There are only a couple of teams that scream “futility” at me, but just about every other team is capable of making a playoff run that their team desperately needs in order to get fans reinvested in the product, mainly Buffalo and Arizona.
Total: 9 (Best sport…?)
Over the past five months, I have fallen in love with this sport, and it is arguably my favorite sport/league right now. You hush with all that talk about how we’re nearing another lockout; that doesn’t make the sport suck. I’m already getting really impatient for April to come, because that gives us playoff hockey, which, like I’ve said many a time, is the absolute best exhibition of sports ever.
PGA Tour (specifically, The Masters)
Spontaneity: 1 (I just lost 40 years off my life)
There really isn’t much to say, other than golf moves super slow.
Crowd Investment/Drama: 4 (*golf clapping*)
The crowds are always eager to watch golfers work their magic, as is the usual with all other sports. This category is hampered by attendance, as about 40,000 people show up to the event per day, and that’s for the biggest event of the year. The Cincinnati Bengals average about 12,500 more attendees per game than that, and they’re second lowest in the NFL in average attendance right now.
Parity: 7 (new winner every year)
The Masters Tournament has seen nine different winners over the past ten tournaments, which is a testament to how much new blood this sport gets each and every season. It’s also a bit of a reminder that people don’t stay at the top for too long. Sergio Garcia, who won the Masters last year, didn’t even make the cut for top 50 this year.
Total: 4 (Alright…?)
It’s really hard to like golf, in my opinion, unless you were raised at a country club or you were born into a family that either has a history of pro golfing or just really likes golf and no other sport. There are quite a lot of intricacies into it, like what clubs you should use for different distances, how you should direct your shot based on the wind, and how much harder or softer you should hit the ball when facing a hill. That said, this is like NASCAR in the sense that it’s really hard to enjoy, even though there are a lot of intricacies involved in both sports.
Women’s Tennis Association (WTA)
Before I get into this, the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) is based in London, England, and is therefore ineligible for this list. The WTA is based in St. Petersburg, Florida, so this is fair game.
Spontaneity: 4 (Wait, HOW FAST WAS THAT SERVE?!?!)
Tennis is spontaneous in its own right. Players smash the ball with precision, and serves (on rare occasion) can surpass 120 MPH. This doesn’t rescue tennis from the fact that it takes a long, long time with lots of stoppage in between serves. I do not voluntarily watch tennis because of how slow paced it usually is.
Crowd Investment/Drama: 4 (*GOLF CLAPPING*)
Obviously, tennis has its fans, and they come out to tournaments to support their favorite tennis player and/or bandwagon Venus and Serena Williams. Obviously, it’s respectful to be quiet so the players can concentrate; yet it does not seem as though average tennis crowds invest themselves into matches that much. I never see GIFs of incredibly excited fans make the rounds on the internet. Sure, the players celebrate, but the only thing that gets excited over a tennis ball that isn’t a tennis pro is this dog.:
Parity: 4 (Winners don’t do drugs, right?)
In theory, the Williams sisters and Maria Sharapova would rule the roost and dominate, right? Wrong. There are always some upsets at most opens, but those upsets never happen in early rounds, so those three still, to an extent, dominate the Tour. I like sports where more than a few people/teams have a shot at winning, but this is not one of those sports, sadly.
Total: 4 (Alright…?)
I admit, the only tennis I genuinely get excited about is the tennis gamemode in Wii Sports and one of the few times a year my family spends a few hours at the APL tennis courts down Sanner Road. This, in combination with the plethora of controversies, most recently Serena Williams overreacting to a penalty in the US Open finals by blaming the umpire for being sexist towards her. In a match where both competitors were women. I’m not the type of person who would want to get into that sport.
With all of that out of the way, let’s see how these leagues stack up.
#8: NASCAR (Score: 2)
The only thing that keeps people watching this sport is the potential for wrecks like these:
Funnily enough, this is an epitome of what the 2018 NASCAR season has been.
#7: WTA (Score: 4)
Especially after the most recent Serena Williams controversy I talked about, I’ve mostly distanced myself from the sport. Wii Sports tennis has massively out of date motion control physics, and it’s still much more entertaining.
#6: PGA Tour (Score: 4)
The PGA Tour gets the tiebreaker over the WTA due to its parity rating, but still doesn’t salvage how boring the sport as a whole is.
#5: MLB (Score: 5.67)
I’m surprised this didn’t wind up higher on the list, but alas. An unintriguing playoffs was a fitting end to the season, and it epitomized the year as a whole: the AL juggernauts ruling over everybody with an iron fist.
#4: MLS (Score: 6)
This is the epitome of an in the middle sport/league. There really isn’t much bad about the sport, but it doesn’t have too much going for it. At least Zlatan Ibrahimoviç will be able to entertain the soccer realm as a member of the LA Galaxy next season.
#3: NBA (Score: 6)
The spontaneity is the tiebreaker between the NBA and the MLS, and even though the amount of teams that can contend for a title is just two, maybe three, the sport itself is still a pleasure to watch.
#2: NFL (Score: 7.33)
This was the first pro sport I’ve ever watched (specifically, Super Bowl 43). I have had an undying love for football since childhood, and this season is just another reason why I’m such a big fan.
#1: NHL (Score: 9)
Did I mention that playoff hockey is some of the best sports ever? I highly recommend that, especially in late May, you tune into a playoff game. You will never see/hear a more raucous, ecstatic, and passionate crowd like that in your life.
And there you have it! The National Hockey League is the best sports organization based in the US of A, thanks to a constantly morphing playoff picture, tension that goes nearly unrivaled, and the fact that you get all the intensity I’ve been rambling about for eight straight months. EIGHT STRAIGHT MONTHS; and the best part is, it never really gets old.
*EDIT: They didn’t
**EDIT: Well I’ll be darned, none of the aforementioned drivers won the championship. Joey Logano ended up being the winner after missing the playoffs last year.