The Super Bowl isn't the world's biggest sporting event and that's okay

One sporting event dwarfs the Super Bowl.

Tim Clayton - Corbis/GettyImages
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Not everyone is hyped for the Super Bowl - and that’s okay. The narrative that it has global significance is patently false. That's okay too.

You have no doubt been bombarded by countless ads for the Super Bowl over the past couple of weeks. Buzz about the Big Game is inescapable no matter where you look. Like you, I have an avid interest in the game and have for decades. As you have probably noticed, I write about an NFL team on occasion. I even make a bit of money at it, so I have a vested interest in the event. Plus my brother and I have had a series of wagers on the outcome for decades now.

While I enjoy the game for the sake of the actual events on the field, many viewers truly don't care what happens, or even know which teams are playing. According to this article from axios.com, 25 percent of viewers watch the telecast for the ads and not the game itself. We all know these people. We all have them in our family - assuming our family watches the game at all. A lot of people care about the events surrounding the game, like the bizarre toboggan run that accompanied the finest Super Bowl ever: the 43-8 annihilation of the Broncos by the mighty Seattle Seahawks.

The Super Bowl is a great event, but it's far from the biggest

The genesis of this article was a meme I came across yesterday. It was a simple joke, and most commenters took it as such. The setup was typical ballyhoo about this year's Super Bowl, and how amazing it will be, yadda yadda yadda. It was followed by this simple photo:

Posted by Jesus Of The Day on Tuesday, February 6, 2024

As I said, most people thought it was funny. After all, it isn't exactly attacking the sacrosanct Big Game. It's merely stating that the person who wrote the post isn't interested in it, By the reaction of some folks, you would think they had spit on the American flag, played the Star Spangled Banner backward, or even - horror of horrors - mentioned the word "soccer". A few commenters did, and we're about to get to that.

Yes, the Super Bowl is a big deal, sure. It's become a de facto holiday in the U.S.; a consumer research firm estimates that 112.2 million people will watch at a Super Bowl party. The same firm estimates 200.5 million viewers in the U.S. - pretty impressive numbers, considering there are 334.8 million people in the entire country. But you know what? That audience, as impressive as it is, is *still* just 2.5 percent of the world's 8.118 billion people. 

People who watch sports beyond the American version of football know that soccer's biggest championship match - sorry, futbol's - is the most heavily viewed sports event. The World Cup final had 1.5 billion viewers, according to statista.com. That's for the final game alone, not the entire tournament. The Super Bowl ranks eighth in global sporting events, as reported by roadtrips.com. While it's true that other sporting events have more viewers, those are held over a period of weeks, so it isn't the best comparison.

In support of the diehard football fan, the NFL's championship game is indeed growing its global audience. According to the above-cited article on statista.com, the Super Bowl's audience outside of the U.S. is estimated to be at least 30 million and as high as 50 million people. So you've got some ammo for your next argument. Congrats. As for this particular title game, I think this graphic says it all:

Posted by NFL Memes on Sunday, January 28, 2024

So while the game is a big deal to some people, it's still a tiny fraction of all the people in the world. I can't imagine why anyone would be offended at the joke, or for that matter, offended if it wasn't a joke. Who cares whether the game you love isn't the most popular in the world? It's the game you love, and that should be enough. There's probably a lesson there.

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