As Pigskin Waxes, Horsehide Wanes

Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be shortstops. A Harris Poll finds pro football increasing its lead

over baseball as Americans’ favorite sport, while college football and auto racing close in on the “national pastime.” In 1985, football led baseball by a single percentage point when people who follow multiple sports were asked to cite their favorite. Now, the gap is 19 percentage points (see chart below). The only good news for baseball is that it fares relatively well among people age 18-27, with 21 percent calling it their favorite. Its tally among Hispanics (20 percent) is above the U.S. average but below what one might expect. Some sports play true to stereotype. Nineteen percent of sports fans with a high school diploma or less voted for auto racing, vs. 2 percent of those with a postgraduate degree. Elsewhere in the poll, hockey had its best score in a decade, after a year in which labor troubles erased the National Hockey League season. Evidently, people like the game best when they needn’t watch it. Meanwhile, the poll suggests that the rise of women’s sports has been somewhat illusory. Women’s tennis—coincidentally the one female sport in which players wear those cute little skirts—was the only one garnering so much as 1 percent of the vote.