Sports are popular in America.
How popular? Of the top 50-most watched television programs in America in 2013, 45 were sporting events. Of those top 50 programs, the top 26, and 42 of the top 50, were NFL games.
The rest of the top 50 were the BCS National Championship Game (No. 27), NBA Finals Game 7 (No. 29), NCAA Men’s Basketball National Championship Game (No. 39) and five episodes of NCIS (ranking anywhere from No. 40 to No. 50).
To put that in perspective, 84 percent of the top 50 most-watched television programs were NFL games.
And to put it in even greater perspective, the three most-watched NFL games (the Super Bowl at 108.69 million, and the AFC and NFC Championship games at 47.71 million and 42 million, respectively), combined pulled in 198.4 million viewers and outdid the eight other non-NFL games, which had 14 million less viewers at 185.04 million.
The highest rated non-NFL game (the BCS National Championship Game) drew 26.38 million viewers (or less than a fourth of the Super Bowl and about half of the NFL’s AFC Championship game)
In sports terms, anyway you look at the numbers, the comparison was an annihilation, no contest, a rout, etc.
Seems like no sport (or television program) captures a nation’s attention like the NFL, which brings me to what’s happening for the next five weeks – the NFL playoffs.
I love the playoffs and so do the majority of sports fans in America as the statistics prove. In fact, statistics also show that the NFL wasn’t just popular in 2013; it has been popular each year for a while – and it keeps building.
According to television numbers, the top four, and nine of the top-10 most watched programs in U.S. history, are Super Bowls. The only exception in the all-time list was the last episode of MASH, which ranks No. 5 (until Feb. 2 when it likely will fade to No. 6 after this year’s Super Bowl vaults ahead of it as the last four Super Bowls have since 2010).
It’s a sign of the times.
I’m not sure if that’s good or bad, but it does prove that people enjoy watching the NFL and especially the Super Bowl.
Christians can view this several ways, with one being that too much attention is being paid to sports, specifically football, or that, although too much attention is being paid to sports, especially football, that believers who play this sport have a platform like no other person can have in the United States.
When their platforms are used to honor God or bring glory to Him in some way, they have a platform that is broader than pastors, evangelists and common people like you and me. But, their platform doesn’t replace pastors, evangelists or ordinary people who share a faith in Christ. We have a platform, as well, but it’s different. And their platform actually helps us by providing a segue into sharing our faith with a culture that is crazy about sports, and the NFL in general.
In the pages that follow, you will find those athletes, specifically football players (one from each of the 12 playoff teams) who have committed their lives to Christ and have been impacting others by sharing their faith.
Not all of them will be able to win the Super Bowl, the prize they all strive for each season, but all are winners in God’s eyes because they follow Christ.
This column was published in Sports Spectrum’s special 2014 NFL Playoff DigiMag. Brett Honeycutt is the managing editor of Sports Spectrum magazine. His column addresses topics from a biblical perspective. Follow him on Twitter-@Brett_Honeycutt.