Wednesday, October 10, 2007


Sports fans who consider themselves environmentally aware might want to scale back their NFL watching -- and maybe watch the NBA more. Baseball doesn't come of too well, either.

The environmental movement really isn't going to begin in earnest until people start tweaking their day-to-day activities beyond recycling and opting for the reusable shopping bags at the supermarket. Slate's enviromental advice column says the NFL, the most popular team sport in North America, is probably No. 1 or 1-A for being the least eco-friendly. A NFL game comes with having 75,000 people trying to get to and from a stadium, likely one that has contributed to urban sprawl (since you need a lot of space for a NFL stadium). The parking lots have to be massive enough to hold 20,000 vehicles, including many fans who as Slate says, " drive hundreds of miles in tailgate-ready RVs to pull for their beloved team."

In other words, watching the NFL is tantamount to giving tacit approval to using up scarce resources.

Baseball, of course, plays 10 times as many games as the NFL (honestly, if Major League Baseball cut back to about 140 instead of 162, there would be no complaint here, since the quality of play would improve and teams). The move toward "modern vintage ballparks" that are often located in downtown areas or accessed by public transit does help, a bit, especially if doing so is an ingrained practice among local fans, which is the case in Toronto, where all five professional teams play close to downtown.

The NBA might have it right. The arenas take up less space and the length of the schedule (41 home games) and size of the crowds (15,000 to 20,000) impact the environment much less. Slate's article made little mention of the NHL, but hockey uses the same buildings as the NBA and its schedule is the same length. Of course, who knows how much electricity is used keeping the ice playable.

It's funny, since in all the debate over the NHL's unbalanced schedule that reduces the number and distance of plane trips (at least for the Eastern teams), how often has it come up that Gary Bettman and his buddies are acting, albeit unwittingly, in the name of sustainability? Most people just assume they did it because they're cheap.

(True, some academic had a laugh over this, but for those of us who joined the real world, it's a spur to thought at the very least. How that's for net intellectual impact?)

Which spectator sport is best for the environment? (Brendan I. Koerner, Slate)


Pete Toms said...

An Economics Professor @ Holy Cross ridicules this article today;

I found his comments very condescending and very funny.

sager said...

Not all of us can be Noam Chomsky.... sure, maybe the analysis was mediocre to a university prof, but if you want to take the "net" intellectual impact, it's more than you're going to get from Sportscentre.