Why some sports play better on radio than others

Why is it that some sports play-by-play is more popular than others? I’m not talking about some teams, I mean some sports types.

For example, my understanding is that while baseball, football, and NASCAR generally do well in the ratings, basketball and hockey generally do not (now don’t go sending me exceptions to these generalities. I’m sure they exist so you don’t need to convince me).

A few possibilities:

1. Baseball and football are both slower sports than basketball or hockey. And while NASCAR is hardly slow, it follows a predictable pattern, namely the perimeter of a closed track. So, in other words, the action is evenly paced and easy to visualize. But basketball and hockey are chaotic, fast-paced sports where the ball/puck is all over the place. Thus the action is very difficult to visualize and the pacing doesn’t allow for auditory comprehensiion as well as it allows for visual comprehension (hence the expression: One picture worth a thousand words).

2. A slower pace and a more predictable pattern facilitate color and story-telling. These would enhance the appreciation of games like baseball or football. Whereas there’s time for neither to the same degree in hockey or basketball, so non-stop action that’s harder to visualize and keep up with combined with a relative scarcity of story-telling make for a less enjoyable listening experience and, as a result, lower ratings.

3. Ratings follow interest, and hockey doesn’t have as much interest as baseball or football (but doesn’t basketball violate this rule? See #1 and #2 above). Golf is another sport which is certainly slow-paced with tons of easy visualization and opportunity for story-telling. But golf lacks the breadth of appeal that football, baseball, NASCAR, and basketball enjoy.

Food for thought.

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