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Thread: Will any of the "big four" sports in the US/Canada ever fade into obscurity?

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    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Will any of the "big four" sports in the US/Canada ever fade into obscurity?

    A while back, when I was doing some research and going through some newspapers of the 1920s and 1930s, I was struck by how sports coverage was dominated by baseball, boxing and horse racing. Football, basketball, and other sports were just footnotes. Local newspapers even had "late racing editions", late-night editions published after all the results from tracks in the Northeast had arrived. This was in the days when "off-track betting" meant "bookies". (I believe a couple of newspapers in the NYC area still have late racing editions.)

    Today, boxing and horse racing still have their fans, but they're nowhere near as dominant as in the pre-WWII era. Today, the "big four" major sports in the United States are football, baseball, basketball and hockey. Do you think there will be a time when any of those sports fades into the background much like horse racing and boxing did in the past? What will replace them?
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    Cyburbian Bubba's avatar
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    Wait - hockey is still being played? Who knew?
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    Cyburbian btrage's avatar
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    Maybe hockey. But I just don't see it happening. I don't think it's a zero-sum game. Instead of one of the big 4 dropping off, I could foresee more "bigs" being added. At one point it looked like NASCAR might make it a big 5, but even NASCAR's popularity has fallen recently. Maybe MMA? I don't know.
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    Cyburbian mgk920's avatar
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    I agree on the 'more being added' thing. 'Fútbol' is #1 in my long-term 'most likely' list for North America.

    Mike

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    Cyburbian stroskey's avatar
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    Great question about the horse-racing and boxing. I did a paper on this in high school and what I found was that back then there was less time and access to participate in team sports. There was a worldwide shift, not just in America, towards team sports in the early 20th century. This was when rugby, soccer, cricket, etc all got really popular in their respective countries.

    For America, I think baseball and football will stay popular a lot longer than basketball or hockey. Football is obvious and baseball because it's the only sport where you can go to really relax. There's something very America about it. In many Latin American countries it is huge and I see that continuing. Hockey is a very expensive sport that requires a lot of pre-planning. Even in the winter when there are outside rinks you still needs skates, a stick, and decent weather to play. It's very regional. Basketball is popular worldwide but there has been serious talk about one major European league being created or an NBA expansion into Europe.
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    Akin to what Stroskey wrote, I could see it becoming the big 2 (baseball and football) and the little 2 (basketball and hockey). Basketball was bigger in the '80s and '90s but seems to have faded. Hockey hurt itself with the lost season. The other sports bringing up the rear. For whatever reason soccer has never had a large professional following in America.
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    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Baseball and basketball are catching on internationally. Ice hockey may be doomed by global warming. Football, the only one I really care about at all, is probably doomed since it is not played anywhere else. These last two are destined to be replaced by the likes of soccer and dodgeball.
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    OH....IO Hink's avatar
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    I think Aussie Rules football will make it big here. That and quiddich.
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    Cyburbian Planit's avatar
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    I used to love watching Aussie Rules Football inthe early ESPN days. Now we get poker 5 different kinds

    Hockey maybe fading, but I don't see it going away. Soccer might be on the upswing. I think you'll see the 2 big ones (f'ball & baseball) stay and then a group of 2nd teirs which may total 4 or 5 different sports.

    Things might change a little if the NFL has a lockout...
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    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    The future Big 4?...curling, horseshoes, nine pin, and ring toss...THEY'RE GONNA BE HUGE!!

    We discussed the decline of baseball one time and I think the consensus was that while it's clear it's lost its comparative dominance, it's not going to disappear any time soon and that what we're seeing is not so much a decline of baseball as an increase in the size of the sports market overall with room being made for others. Sports like soccer are definitely up and comers. But I suspect this is yet one more permutation of the much larger phenomenon (the 'fracturing' of markets and market shares seen in the music business and cable tv, for instance) where dominant venues for shared experiences are diminishing and multiple smaller venues representing different/alternate views and interests are taking their places.

    You know, I'm surprised no one has written a book about this yet. Maybe they have and I just haven't heard about it.

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    Cyburbian stroskey's avatar
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    American football is the only major professional sport in the entire world without an international competition of any kind. Isn't that odd? And yes, Aussie footy is awesome! I love watching the Grand Final at 1 AM in ESPN!
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