Move over Christmas trees and jingle bells, the NFL wants pigskins and shoulder pads to become the unmistakable symbols of the season.
While professional basketball teams and fans once had a hold on Dec. 25 games, the past several years have shifted that trend in football’s direction.
A brief history of holiday athletics
If you’ve been following the NFL for a while, you probably remember spending at least a few of your Thanksgiving celebrations trying to sneak away from the turkey to catch an NFL game. While the November holiday still has some significant ties to the sport, football has increasingly started infiltrating Christmas, too.
For three years in a row, there’s been professional football to watch after opening the gifts under the tree.
Since the holiday came on Sunday this year, there was an obvious opportunity for the NFL to stake its claim — and for the first time ever, there were three games on Christmas Day.
What it means for the NFL, NBA, and fans
Although five of the six teams that played on Sunday had a losing record going into their respective games, it’s a notable development for the sport itself.
While the NFL cements its connection with Christmas, the NBA could easily come out as the big loser. Since 75% of the 100 most-watched TV broadcasts last year were NFL games, it’s clear that fans will follow the games pretty much wherever they are shown.
For the NBA, last year’s viewership was the lowest the league has seen since it began playing five games on Christmas way back in 2008. While those basketball games averaged just over 4 million viewers each, the two NFL games played on Christmas 2021 received 28.6 million and 12.6 million viewers, respectively.