Ranking the Four Major Sports

The four major sports in the United States are Major League Baseball (MLB), the National Football League (NFL), the National Basketball Association (NBA), and the National Hockey League (NHL). Today I’ll be ranking the four based on my opinion.

1. The National Football League

Without a doubt, the NFL is the best and most successful of the four major sports. It is the most marketable, sells the most tickets, and brings in fans from all over the world. First and foremost, the NFL is the most accessible major sport; it’s always on Sunday, Monday or Thursday, and often on basic television channels. Watching football on a Sunday afternoon has become something of a tradition—not to mention Super Bowl Sunday, which has become something of a national holiday.

The NFL features thirty-two teams that play sixteen fast-paced, bone-crushing and entertaining games. From color-rush jerseys on Thursday nights to stadiums and teams worth well over a billion dollars, the NFL provides a spectacle like no other. Though its ratings took a hit this past year (in part due to humdrum matchups and over-saturation), the behemoth that is the NFL remains unwavering—still raking in millions in revenue and sales. It’s going to take something spectacular to knock the NFL off its pedestal; there’s just something we all love about humans running into other humans at high speeds.

2. The National Hockey League

In my opinion, if you were to watch one regular season game, then the NHL provides the most entertainment. The games are fast-paced and the commercial breaks are few and far between, with only three per period (unlike baseball, which has at least two per inning). The NHL has thirty teams, with six in Canada, and will be the first of the major sports to house a team in Las Vegas. What puts the NHL above the NBA is its excitement, passionate fans, and playoffs. The NHL and soccer are similar in that scoring doesn’t happen often, so when it does, the fans go crazy.

Next, the fans in hockey are, I’d argue, some of the most passionate in the world. They go crazy when goals are scored, and they’ll pack their team’s arenas for viewing parties—even when the home squad is playing on the road. Last, the NHL playoffs are undoubtedly the best in professional sports. Every round is a seven-game, action-packed series, where every game matters and is often decided in overtime. Also, the best teams don’t always win, as one or two star players can’t take a team all the way. It takes talented offense, defense, and goaltending to win a championship.

The Stanley Cup is the hardest championship trophy to claim, requiring twenty-eight victories from April to June. The lack of nationally televised games is where the NHL lags. Outside of local markets, NBC Sports Network is the national broadcaster for the NHL, and they often stay on the East Coast—televising the same teams and matchups. For the fans, that’s a negative; however, the league is a business after all.

3. The National Basketball Association

Numbers two and three on this list are fairly interchangeable, but coming in at number three is the NBA. The eighty-two game season is good for fans, as it poses more interesting matchups throughout the year. A recent trend in the NBA is that of so-called “super teams,” where the best players in the league join together to form a supposedly unstoppable force. The first modern super-team was the Boston Celtics in 2007, with Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen, followed by the famed “Big 3” of LeBron James, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade of the Miami Heat.

The NBA treats players well with a high salary cap with a well-versed and just flat-out cool commissioner in Adam Silver. However, it’s the playoffs that hinder the NBA’s ranking. Every year, it seems that the playoff matchups don’t carry any weight until the finals. The one-seed vs. eight-seed first-round matchups often end in 4-0 sweeps, with blowout games. The problem the NBA has is the teams at the top are very good, the teams at the bottom are terrible, and the teams in the middle are just okay. The top teams and middle-of-the-pack teams end up playing in the playoffs, and the result is too predictable; playoff upsets rarely happen, and it’s always the top teams playing for the championship.

4. Major League Baseball

There’s no bias here; I am a lifelong baseball player, and even I can’t put the MLB any higher. It seems like baseball only appeals to those who play it, but even then, sitting down for three hours and consuming a whole game is tough. It doesn’t help that our hometown team is abysmal—I find myself watching Twins games just to take up time. For the casual fan, the 162-game regular season is unbearable. The MLB is a mix of small-market teams with low cap space and huge markets that can afford almost any player. Until recently, the contract Alex Rodriguez—player for the New York Yankees—totaled more than the entire roster of the Houston Astros. Additionally, the Yankees have won twenty-seven World Series—more than most MLB teams combined. Couple long games with uninteresting matchups, and it’s not hard to see why I rank the MLB last on this list.