Like it or not, football is still the king of American sports

Guy Dossi

I was talking with a friend the other day and the conversation shifted to popularity of certain sports. We discussed why we believe some sports are more popular than others and the reasoning behind it.

When we finished our debate, we both came to the same conclusion that, in America, football is still king.

I understand that some people don’t want to admit or accept that football is the most popular sport in America, but it is. The 2017 Super Bowl had nearly 103.4 million views. Game seven of the 2017 World Series had 28 million viewers, which was down from 40 million the year before. Even the recent World Cup only had 11.8 million US viewers.

And if you are unwilling to agree with the large scale of its popularity in America in general, then when it comes to Calaveras County, there is no question that nothing tops football.

Let’s say that you don’t like football or believe that it is the most popular sport, that’s fine. Nobody says that you have to like any sport, let alone football. Heck, the lovely Mrs. Dossi doesn’t know if a football is stuffed or inflated and I don’t think she’ll ever care to find out.

Before we go any further, let’s figure out what “most popular” means. I guess we can start with which sport has the most active participation. According to data from a 2017 National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) article, 1,057,407 athletes participated in football during the 2016-17 season, which was followed by track and field (600,136) and basketball (550,305). The bottom three most participated sports were tennis (158,171), golf (141,466) and swimming and diving (138,364).

The top sport for participation in girls’ sports was track and field (494,477), followed by volleyball (444,779) and basketball (430,368). The least participated sports were tennis (158,171), competitive spirit squads (144,243) and lacrosse (93,473).

Ok, so that’s participation, but what about viewership? I think the answer is clear. Is there any other sport in Calaveras County that outdraws football? If you are being honest with yourself, the answer is no. Again, does that make the other sports less important? Absolutely not. But, face it, there are more people watching Bret Harte vs. Calaveras football than Bret Harte vs. Calaveras soccer, swimming, basketball, baseball, wrestling, volleyball, golf, water polo, track, tennis, softball and cross country.

And with attendance comes money. There are sports that don’t charge spectators. You can watch every home high school baseball and softball game and not pay a dime. Those sports have to still be funded. Of course each team does its own fundraising for new uniforms, travel expenses and better equipment, but they are not adding any money to the general sports fund. Where do you think a lot of that money comes from? I would be willing to bet that the homecoming game brings in quite a bit of cash for the overall fund.

But the best game isn’t always the one that’s the most attended. It’s no secret that my favorite thing to cover is the boys’ and girls’ basketball county clash. Whatever gym the game is played in is packed and people are having fun. Football has way more people at the game, but there is something magical about those winter basketball clashes.

Now there are also the people who say that football is too dangerous for the children to play. If a parent feels that having their child play football is too big of a health risk, they wouldn’t let them play. It’s not super complicated. I don’t see a lot of kids playing football who are out there only because their parents forced them to do so.

But the hot topic surrounding football is concussions. I’m not going to sit here and say that there isn’t a risk of injury playing football. There is a risk playing any sport. However, maybe football isn’t as dangerous when it comes to concussions as one may think? According to a 2017 article on WebMD, as well as one published by The Washington Post, it stated that female soccer players suffer the highest rate of concussions among all high school athletes in the United States. The author of the study was Wellington Hsu., who is a professor of orthopaedics at Northwestern University in Chicago.

The study was based upon data on 41,000 injuries of high school athletes between 2005-2015 who played football, soccer, basketball, wrestling, baseball, volleyball and softball. And where was football on the list? Fourth. It was behind girls’ soccer, girls’ volleyball and girls’ basketball.

There is no denying that football is a dangerous sport and that’s why there is a constant battle to keep making the game safer. Whether it is better equipment, rule changes or just teaching different techniques, progression is always happening.

I would never say to eliminate sports. But casting the scarlet letter on football seems a bit much. But again, everyone can make their own choices. Now, I have no children of my own, but I’m pretty sure I would feel more comfortable letting my kid play football than putting them behind the wheel of a car. According to a 2018 article on, nearly 3,000 kids were killed in car accidents in 2016. Is driving a car more dangerous than running a football?

At the end of the day, it all comes down to what you enjoy watching and participating in. If going to watch football on Friday nights is your idea of a good time, that’s wonderful. If following a round of golf with a cart on a warm sunny day brings you joy, I’m happy for you. But don’t rain on someone else’s parade just because you are unhappy with the floats.


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