Friday, July 04, 2008

A nation under the influence

... of The Worldwide Leader in Sports. Click to enlarge.

I captured this image because it tells me a lot about America's tastes during this Independence Day weekend. (Well, as much as statistics from small samples can tell you.)

1. Some areas vote out of regional interest. The Cubs-Cardinals series is a big deal in the Midwest, and sure enough, it claimed more than 50 percent of voters in that pocketful of purple states.

2. The Red Sox-Yankees rivalry is a larger draw to Massachusetts (where it grabbed 60 percent of the vote) than to New York (45 percent). That the latter team is a joyous mess right now may have something to do with the poorer showing.

3. However, ESPN's constant and ridiculous promotion of this rivalry, even during the offseason, has made the world take notice. Sure, they prefer the Wimbledon men's final. But it got 38 percent of the vote to 33 percent for the Red Sox-Yankees.

4. Conversely, ESPN's coverage of Wimbledon has a strong effect on the U.S. populace, with the men's final* going neck and neck in many states with Red Sox-Yankees. (Even 37 percent of New Yorkers, also known as Mets fans, voted for Federer-Nadal.) But these large swaths of green may be misleading: the South didn't have a Braves option, and the West didn't get to vote for the Dodgers-Giants.

5. That all Williams-sister final? Not registering. I guess I'm guilty here, too; I never bothered to pick a favorite back when it all started. I will say that I'm impressed to see each of them maintain their singles title focus when they're still playing together toward a doubles title. We'll see how that doubles final goes Saturday -- after one has already beaten the other individually.

6. NASCAR did even worse here, but to be fair, "Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Daytona" isn't a rivalry. I'm aware of the family history, but an individual and a place cannot be rivals.

7. West Virginia is neutral territory, just like in the Civil War.

*By the way, I agree with the multitudes that are looking forward to Federer-Nadal because (despite the ESPN hype) it actually IS a big deal. My generation has never seen a clay court specialist that was as good on grass as Nadal, nor a grass phenomenon that's as good on clay as Federer. That each would be so doubly dominant were it not for the other makes for some keen drama. I'll root for the Spaniard, and haircuts for both.

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