NFL vs. MLB vs. NBA vs. NHL

For much of America, present company included, each season has a sport associated with it. Spring and summer mean baseball games, hot dog in one hand and a cold beer in the other. In the fall, Sunday is a day devoted to NFL football games, eating a bowl of chili and sipping on a cold beer. And in the winter months basketball fans and hockey fans are in heaven (with some nachos and cold beers).

Not surprisingly, each major sport’s online property experiences a seasonal spike. The chart below illustrates the yearly peaks and valleys of visitors to NFL.com, MLB.com, NBA.com, and NHL.com.

Both NFL.com and MLB.com have become the front runners in attracting online enthusiasts. The similarities between the two sites’ visitation trends should come as no surprise as there is a great deal of overlap in the fan base of the two sports. Spring Training begins just as Superbowl memories begin to fade, and football kicks in right around the time the playoff contenders are being decided in baseball. The fans follow the cycles accordingly.

By contrast, the NBA, marred with fights and player disobedience, has experienced a decline in online interest. In 2001 NBA.com‘s peak monthly unique visitor count rivaled that of NFL.com and MLB.com. But by 2006, the NBA’s high-water mark was just over 5 million unique visitors — a fraction of the peaks of 8.5 million and 9.2 million people to NFL.com and MLB.com respectively.

Hockey is the clear bottom dweller in the category, reflecting the NHL’s difficulties as of late. As if the sport’s waning popularity in the US wasn’t enough of a disadvantage, the lockout that canceled the 2004/2005 season appears to have solidified the league’s online property’s position in the rear of the pack.

For whatever reason, in America we love football and baseball. Some people follow the NBA and a select group of diehards hold interest in the NHL. Why is it that football and baseball have become a part of American culture while the other sports have been left by the wayside? Comments welcome.

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