Why does the Super Bowl so captivate America's attention? With the game coming up this weekend in Jacksonville, Fla., it might be worthwhile to share some thoughts on the matter with readers across the nation.
Start with pro football itself. Our InsiderAdvantage national survey from last August made it clear that Americans prefer football over any other professional sport, and by a wide margin.
Let me preface the poll's finding by making due apologies to a fellow national columnist of much greater talent and wisdom than I -- George Will. Being a baseball junkie, he will doubtless be disappointed with the results. We asked: Which professional spectator sport do you most enjoy watching?
Football 37 percent
Baseball 17 percent
Basketball 14 percent
Some Other Sport 11 percent
NASCAR 6 percent
Ice Hockey 5 percent
Don't know/Undecided 10 percent
The InsiderAdvantage national survey was conducted Aug. 13-15, 2004, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.
Why the love for football? Look at the NFL. Under the leadership of Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, the league has reached a level of great stability as a business enterprise. And yet, through a system that encourages great parity among teams, the results from week to week and year to year have become unpredictable.
Last year's losing Atlanta Falcons this year raced to the NFC Championship. That one-year turnabout is a credit to a league whose structure encourages strong team owners and good management to bounce back quickly.
Even so, the Super Bowl seems consistently to be contested by the two strongest teams from each conference. No one could argue that the New England Patriots or the Philadelphia Eagles don't deserve to play in Sunday's game.
Our survey goes on to tell us a bit more about why pro football is the nation's runaway favorite sport. For example, when it came to the politics of fans, our survey showed that Republicans were far more likely to say that baseball was their first choice for viewing, while football drew a fairly equal number of Democrats and Republicans. So there, George W. (a former owner of the Texas Rangers Major League Baseball team), you can take some solace in the fact that the GOP seems to favor baseball. But as far as those who call themselves moderates, no sport came close to pro football.