Months removed from the London Olympics, stories from the games top the list of 2012’s biggest accomplishments in sports. Among sports fans nationally, 28% consider Michael Phelps breaking the Olympic medal record to be the single best sports accomplishment of the year. The gold medal win by the U.S. women’s gymnastics team tumbled into the hearts of 23% of U.S. sports fans. 13% believe Notre Dame’s football team played like champions during their undefeated regular season while the third consecutive gold medal for the U.S. women’s soccer team is deemed the biggest sports accomplishment by 12%. However, 11% think Drew Brees’ record for consecutive games with a touchdown pass trumped sports while 10% of U.S. sports fans say the Triple Crown win by the Detroit Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera was a home run this year. Three percent are unsure.
“The results remind us that Olympic accomplishments carry enormous weight with the American public,”says Dr. Keith Strudler, Director of The Marist College Center for Sports Communication. “They also highlight Michael Phelps’ place among the hierarchy of American sports greats.”
Men and women differ on this question. While 31% of men think Phelps breaking the Olympic medal record deserves the title of single best sports accomplishment of 2012, 33% of women say the gold medal win by the U.S. women’s gymnastics team takes the crown.
Touchdown! Big Blue’s Super Bowl Win Scores as Best Sports Championship
When it comes to the best sports championship of 2012, the Super Bowl victory by the New York Giants is tops. 36% of U.S. sports fans have this view. 17%, however, believe the World Series win by the San Francisco Giants deserves the honor. 13% report the college football national title win by the Alabama Crimson Tide is the best championship of the year while an additional 13% say the NBA Championship victory by the Miami Heat tops their list. The NHL season may be on ice due to the current lockout, but the 2012 Stanley Cup win by the Los Angeles Kings is tops in the minds of 8% of sports fans. Seven percent, though, report the NCAA men’s basketball championship victory by the Kentucky Wildcats deserves the title. Six percent are unsure.
Regionally, the Super Bowl victory by the New York Giants is thought to be the top sports championship by 45% in the Northeast, 43% in the Midwest, and 29% in the South. However, in the West, the World Series triumph by the San Francisco Giants — 35% — edges the New York football Giants’ victory — 30%.
While 44% of sports fans age 30 to 44, 42% of those 45 to 59, and 32% of fans 60 and older give top honors to the New York Giants Super Bowl win, there is less agreement among younger fans. 27% of fans under 30 say the Miami Heat’s NBA championship was the best sports championship of 2012. This compares with 24% who say the same about the New York Giants taking home the Lombardi trophy.
Sandusky Scandal Sends Shockwaves
The Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal not only stunned the Penn State community, but it had a large impact on the sports world. In fact, nearly half of sports fans nationally — 48% — believe this story had the biggest impact on sports in 2012. The Lance Armstrong doping scandal comes in a distant second with 18% followed by 13% who mention the replacement referees in the NFL, and 10% who pick the NHL lockout as having the greatest impact on sports in 2012. Six percent believe the NFL bounty scandal hardest hit sports this year. Four percent are unsure.
Regardless of region, income, age, ethnicity, and gender, the Sandusky scandal is thought to be the story with the largest impact on sports in 2012.
Peyton Manning Most Influential on His Sport
When it comes to the player with the biggest impact on their sport in 2012, quarterback for the Denver Broncos, Peyton Manning, takes the top spot. 35% of U.S. sports fans have this view of him. The Miami Heat’s LeBron James comes in second with 24% who say he has had the biggest impact on basketball. Swimming phenomenon Missy Franklin is thought to have had the largest effect on her sport by 10%. The same proportion — 10% — says the PGA’s Rory McIlroy was the most influential in golf while an additional 10% believe Serena Williams had the largest impact on tennis. Five percent think Major League Baseball’s Mike Trout had the biggest impact on the diamond, and 6% are unsure.
Don’t Believe the Hype
Which athlete do sports fans think is the most overhyped? A plurality — 46% — says Tim Tebow of the New York Jets deserves this dubious distinction. Third baseman for the New York Yankees, Alex Rodriguez, is believed by 18% to be the most overrated athlete this year. NASCAR’s Danica Patrick is perceived by 12% to be the most overvalued athlete. Linsanity fizzled out for the 8% of sports fans nationally who believe the NBA’s Jeremy Lin is the most overhyped athlete. Six percent say Olympic track star Lolo Jones is the most overrated, and 10% are unsure.
Just how many adults nationally are sports fans? Six in ten — 60% — are while 40% are not.
About Keith Strudler, Ph.D.
Keith Strudler, Ph.D., is the director for the Marist College Center for Sports Communication. Dr. Strudler founded Marist’s popular concentration in sports communication in 2002, now one of the nation’s largest in the discipline. He studies and teaches in the areas of sports media, sport and society, and sports reporting and information. Dr. Strudler also writes weekly sports commentary for WAMC, an NPR radio station in Albany, NY.