After a weekend spent taking in a lot of sports on television and in anticipation of further viewing over the course of the next two days, I've come up with the following observation:
On average, almost any "normal" regular season NFL football game is more compelling and interesting to watch than any "normal" regular season MLB contest. However, when the two sports are played at the peak of their meaning and importance, most of the time a baseball game will be more compelling and contain more drama than the football game.
Watching the Twins close out their season over the last week was better than watching any Viking games in some years (including last year's playoff game). Conversely watching the Vikings in weeks one, two, or three this year was better than watching the Twins in April, May, or June.
Obviously it's difficult to compare the sports directly because of the vast difference in number of games played. But the fact that any given NFL game will provide at least decent watchable partially helps explain the league's popularity. Yesterday, I caught parts of the Bears-Lions, Ravens-Pats, and Broncos-Cowboys and followed each with interest. And I don't play fantasy football or bet on games. I doubt if I would spent any amount of time watching early season baseball games not involving the Twins.
But I will watch as much of the MLB playoffs as possible. Because baseball at its best and most important is unbeatable to watch. That's probably partly because the gap between your average regular season baseball and your meaningful late or post-season games is huge.
Not so much so for football. While there's a significant quality viewing difference between the regular season and the playoffs, it's not as substantive or striking as with baseball. And even at its worst, regular season football is still pretty good.