It wasn’t that long ago that the Kansas City Centre was flooded with a sea of blue Royals Baseball jerseys, and last week the crowds came back, this time in Chiefs blazing red. But with two championship celebrations held in the same place so close to each other people noticed more differences than just the color of the jerseys.
Many news outlets and commentators were quick to point out that the turnout for the Super Bowl celebration was considerably less than for the Royals win. Royals fans came out en masse for the Royals 2015 World Series win with some professional estimates for crowd attendance reaching as high as 800,000 fans.
Side by side photos of the parades shows that the Royals crowd was at least twice as large as the Kansas City Chief’s eventual turnout.
This discrepancy in turnout is notable due to the popularity of football being higher these days than baseball among Americans. Baseball may have been America’s original pastime, but its glory days have long been replaced by NFL dominance with NFL game attendance regularly reaching 67k, making it the most attended sporting league in the world.
In fact, a Harris Poll showed that the last time baseball was more popular than football was in 1982 with the popularity ratings going back and forth between the two sports throughout the 70s.
It may be surmised that baseball was the perfect radiosport. The pacing of the game and the set bases made for a perfect translation to the radio. In short, it is very easy to sit and listen to a radio broadcast of a baseball game and picture what is happening in the stadium.
Football is a little more tricky, with tens of players moving in every direction of the field at all times it is a bit more difficult to organize the chaos in real-time over the radio with commentators often having to explain what just happened for some minutes after the fact.
With the rise of television ownership in the last century fewer and fewer people were utilizing their radios to tune into games and preferred instead to watch the action on the TV.
Gone are the days of groups of eager listeners in a barbershop or bar crowded around the radio and listening intently, or perhaps a father and son sitting in their car in a fast-food parking lot somewhere, but Super Bowl parties have their charm too.
The radio factor may have helped Baseball keep its supremacy for a while but the real reason for football’s modern popularity is a mystery.
There are some factors that may be helpful when trying to understand why the Chiefs crowd was much smaller than the Royals.
One. Early forecasts for attendance were very high. Local KC radio stations were projecting for days that they expected nearly 1.2 million fans to descend upon KC for the celebrations. This may have deterred many would-be celebrators from attending the party due to the trouble in finding parking and amenities.
Two. It was very cold out. The day of the parade the weather was nasty with snow flurries and 18-degree winds meaning it can be assumed that only the die-hard fans came out. In contrast to the Royals celebration when the weather was a perfect 70 degrees it is no wonder, more people showed up.
Three. By the time the Royals won in 2015 Kansas City had not seen a championship victory of any sort since 1985, the last time the Royals won the World Series, and people were busting to celebrate their cities’ victory. After a few years rolled by and the Chiefs had their time in the spotlight maybe it wasn’t such a unique spectacle.
With all that being said, whether you are primarily a baseball or football fan, we’ll see if Kansas City can keep up their winning streak. Maybe now the pressure is on their professional soccer team the Sporting Kansas City Soccer Club to bring home a major victory, but I’m not sure the crowd would be very big even if they did win given soccer’s popularity problems in America.
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