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NFL Network’s combine ratings show league’s immense popularity

BCS Championship Football

Auburn’s Cam Newton celebrates with fans after beating Oregon 22-19 in the BCS National Championship NCAA college football game Monday, Jan. 10, 2011, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)


When it was first proposed, the idea of televising the annual Indianapolis scouting combine was decried in many quarters as ridiculous: Why would anyone watch a bunch of guys running around in shorts and T-shirts?

Answer: Because it’s on TV.

The other answer: Because the NFL is immensely popular, and we’ll watch anything associated with it.

That’s backed up by the ratings NFL Network gets for the combine: Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reports that 5.2 million people watched last year’s combine on NFL Network. Jackson writes that those are better numbers than Major League Baseball gets on ESPN, even though ESPN is in 43 million more homes than NFL Network.

As our friends at The Big Lead put it, that’s insane.

But that’s how popular the NFL is now, so popular that when NFL Network’s combine coverage starts on Thursday, more Americans will watch a bunch of guys who are just trying to get to the NFL run 40-yard dashes than will watch actual regular-season games in any other sport.

And after the combine ends, we’ll resume wondering whether an NFL work stoppage is going to ruin a good thing.