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A disection of popular U.S. sports

KEVIN B. KLAUS/Arizona Daily Wildcat
UA junior defensive back Darrell Brooks squares up to tackle ASU wide receiver Derek Hagan during the Wildcats' win over the Sun Devils in November. Brooks said that of all the major American sports, football reaches out to the largest demographic.
By Kyle Kensing
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, May 4, 2005
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Baseball has had the honor of carrying the moniker "America's pastime" for decades, a handle met with little dispute.

Yet the Super Bowl, professional football's championship, is the highest rated sporting event in the United States.

Meanwhile, basketball is the most widely-played sport among the collective American age groups from children to adults.

Baseball, basketball and football are the three most popular sports among American spectators, both on television and in live attendance, according to the Nielsen television rating system.

The debate for each as America's pastime can be, and has been, made most recently by Arizona athletes, coaches and fans.

"For basketball, all you need are shoes, a ball and a hoop," Arizona men's basketball associate head coach Jim Rosborough said, citing basketball's accessibility as an indication of its popularity.

This, he said, has played an important role in the sport's growing global popularity.

"Basketball guys, NBA and college, are probably as recognizable as any people in the world," he said. "I suspect they could go in the furthest, most remote parts of the world and be recognized."

He added that because fans identify with basketball players, it brings them closer to the game.

"(Basketball) arenas aren't as big as football or baseball, but the fans are right near the action," he said.

Rosborough cited the 1979 NCAA Championship game, one of the five highest rated basketball events to date. The game was the first matchup between hoop icons Ervin "Magic" Johnson and Larry Bird.

Arizona senior safety Darrell Brooks said on a national scale, football has the most far-reaching appeal.

"Football reaches out to the largest demographic," he said. "Football fans are also the most passionate.

"People are a part of it, and they just love it," Brooks said. "It's an emotional outlet because a lot of people live through their teams."

Brooks said he grew up in a "basketball family," yet the gridiron always intrigued him.

"I don't know if it was the hitting, but there's just something about (football)," he said.

Matt Brase, a two-year letterman on the Arizona basketball team, said Major League Baseball's advantage over other spectator sports is its marketability.

"The NBA creates excitement, and it tries selling itself," Brase said. "Baseball doesn't have to try to sell itself. It brings in fans without trying."

Brase finished his tenure on the Arizona basketball team last April and is the grandson of men's basketball head coach Lute Olson. Yet despite his immersion in the basketball world, Brase said baseball maintains its place as the nation's premier sport.

"Going to the ballpark, having a beer and a hot dog, watching baseball. What could be more American than that," he said.

Amanda Walter, a communications and Italian language senior, said attending an MLB ballpark is the pinnacle of fandom.

The Super Bowl is the dominant sporting spectacle, attracting a 43.4 Nielsen rating in 2005, meaning more than 43 percent of American households with a television were tuned into the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles encounter.

Of the five highest rated televised sporting events - the Super Bowl, Bowl Championship Series, World Series, NBA Finals and NCAA Final Four - the Final Four was one of the lower rated in the past year with about 15 Nielsen.

However, Rosborough and Brooks said the Final Four has the most appeal for a live sporting event.

"I'm biased, but for my money ... a Final Four with four good teams is the best," Rosborough said.

"If you look at recent Final Fours, they're in 40,000-50,000 seat arenas," he said. "Our national championship in '97 (at the Indianapolis RCA Dome) had 48,000 spectators."

"I've always loved college sports, I'm an avid fan," Brooks said. "I would love to see the top four teams in a weekendlong event."

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