By Rohan Ahluwalia
An All-Star game, which features the best athletes a sports league has to offer, is ingrained into the American sporting landscape. There is an All-Star game featured in the leagues of the four major sports in the United States — football, baseball, basketball and hockey. Each one has its differences, though each game is exciting for not just the die-hard fans, but also the casual onlooker.
Recently, the National Basketball Association (NBA) held its 65th All-Star Game. The game wrapped up the All-Star Weekend, which includes the celebrity game, the three-point competition and the rising stars game. The NBA Slam Dunk Contest featured players using equipment, such as hover boards, to perform their thrilling and astonishing dunks while the All-Star Game itself featured star players such as Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook and Indiana Pacers forward Paul George, who swept the crowd off its feet.
Surely, as an event, one would think the NBA has the best All-Star game of the five major sports. The NBA All-Star Game is an event which stretches from Friday to Sunday, while the other sports do not nearly have the amount of glitz and glamour associated with their events. However, despite the successful event, it is still Major League Baseball (MLB), with its Midsummer Classic, that leads the mantel when it comes to the most viewed All-Star game.
Despite drawing at a record-low, the 2015 MLB All-Star Game still outdrew all the other All-Star games. The 86th Midsummer Classic, which took place in Cincinnati, averaged 10.9 million viewers on FOX. This drew over 2 million more viewers than the second most viewed All-Star game, the Pro Bowl, and dwarfed the NBA All-Star Game’s ratings.
Many analysts and sports journalists have pointed to the fact that the MLB All-Star Game occurs during a period where there aren’t any other sports in season, which allows for its constantly decent ratings. The Midsummer Classic occurs in early July, when the NBA and National Hockey League (NHL) playoffs have already concluded in June and while the NFL is mid-way through its off-season. This makes the MLB All-Star Game the only professional sporting event going on at the time, giving the sport an advantage.
The MLB All-Star Game is also the finishing event during the couple of days that include the Futures Game and Home Run Derby, which complement the All-Star Game. The game provides an incentive for the league (American or National League) that wins the game — the winning league takes home field advantage during the World Series that occurs during the fall.
While the MLB All-Star Game and the NBA All-Star Weekend can be called successes in terms of the ratings they bring in or the glamour they add to their sport, the other major sports don’t seem to have the same impact.
The National Football League’s Pro Bowl is the second most-viewed All-Star game, but it has also been debated among sports fans and analysts whether or not the game should even exist in the first place.
The majority of the 86 players selected for the event declined the invitation, while the players that did accept the invitation are questioned on whether they actually tried on the field or if they really just wanted the free invitation to Hawaii, where the game takes place. The ratings may justify the existence of the Pro Bowl, but as a sporting spectacle, the future of this game gaining attention seems unlikely.
Meanwhile, the NHL All-Star Game draws the lowest ratings in professional American sports, having only 2 million people watch it in 2015. The league does feature a skills challenge and, most recently, decided to split the All-Star Game into a four-team series featuring all the divisions in the league. Despite the changes, the game is still underwhelming in comparison to the other sports’ All-Star games.
However, the NHL recently received a one-time boost for its most recent All-Star Game, which drew 1 million more viewers than the 2015 All-Star game. This rise in viewership could be attributed to the recent controversy surrounding Pacific Division All-Star captain John Scott, who was fan voted into the game, despite the NHL asking him to decline.
Overall, the All-Star game is something well-entrenched in the American sporting landscape and while some can falter to please, others can thrill. The NBA All-Star Game grows its appeal through the stardom and the circus-like skill events, while the MLB’s Midsummer Classic can still receive good ratings due to its timing in the sports calendar. Meanwhile, the Pro Bowl rides on the popularity of football, while hockey has more room to grow its All-Star Weekend.
Which one is the best? The answer is subjective based on what one considers when thinking of an All-Star game. Each can still deliver something for the die-hards and the casual onlookers, and that is the beauty of an All-Star game, the spectacle of a sport — it is a game anyone can enjoy.