Inspired by the "Check out" post... I want you to rank sports in the US in order of national popularity, preferably with a explanation.
1. Football - This will probably be undisputed. I don't think football has been in this spot nationwide for very long... it seems as though this ascent was very post 9/11. And why not? Football is America's game... even Canada doesn't play it the same way. That said, I think football's increase in popularity in the post 20 years is more directly related to Baseball imploding than anything the NFL has done. College football is still a regional sport, though now it reaches many, many more popular than ever before and if I ranked it separately would probably come in third. Still, it's not that important on either coast.
2. Baseball - Baseball has suffered more than any sport besides hockey. Between the chronic labor issues that plagued the league for decades, the utter predictability of the league in the mid 90's (Indians are good, but Yankees are better. Braves are great but choke it away. Yankees beat NL leftover) to the steroids issue. Multiple generations of fans, most who grew up in the past 3 decades, has been turned off the former National Passtime. But, it's still more popular nationally than anything below it and there is a sufficient amount of older people who love the game. I can't imagine it ever falling beyond this spot, either... the sports below are too regional.
3. Basketball - Basketball is a tough sport here. It's clearly more popular than hockey, but clearly less popular than baseball or football. I think basketball is a highly regional sport. There are places where it's very important, and there are places where it isn't. Basketball is (usually) not as important in Detroit as hockey, for example. In Los Angeles, there's no comparison because basketball dominates. It's hard to figure basketball's popularity out, because it seems to wane every few years until a bunch of hot new stars come into the league. I think it's currently on a decline which will be exasperated by labor problems and the eventual exodus of all the talent in the league to the Knicks. College basketball is perhaps the most overrated sport in the country. Does anyone ever watch college basketball without a rooting/gambling interest?
4. Hockey - Hockey has never been higher than 4, so at least there's that. It's a regional sport to the extreme... only in about 10 or 15 US markets is the game really popular (or even has the potential to be popular). But it's still a major sport, and if you want proof ask someone who isn't really a hockey fan if they'd go see their local team in the Stanley Cup finals. The answer is yes. In fact, in the NHL's most successful southern market (Dallas) the fans exist primarily because the team is a contender. What is really needed by the NHL is a quality TV deal, some relocation and the league will become what it was before the lockout happened.
5. NASCAR - Overhyped beyond belief.
6. Soccer - The MLS has the hilarious misfortune of being less popular in the US than the English league. But, younger generations are no longer xenophobicly shunning the world's game. Much like the Spanish language, soccer will one day be a major force in this country.