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America’s Favorite Pastime

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What’s the “great American pastime?” It used to be Major League Baseball but most consider professional football #1 today. The NFL is a marketing behemoth striding the earth siphoning up our attentions, affections and dollars in ever-increasing numbers.

Look no further than the proliferation of opportunities to watch football. It used to be one game on Sunday, right? Now, it’s two flights of games Sunday afternoon, a game Sunday night, Monday Night Football and Thursday Night Football. The Sunday night game is regularly the most watched network program each week in the fall.

Black Friday used to be like Sunday afternoon football. Black Friday entered the American lexicon years ago in Philadelphia to describe the heavy, disruptive pedestrian and vehicle traffic that would occur on the day after Thanksgiving. In the mid-1970s, an alternative definition arose: “Black Friday” indicates when retailers get “in the black” for the year.

Just like the NFL, the shopping game wouldn’t stay confined to one day. It evolved further about a dozen years ago as retailers tapped into the American zest for great deals and began opening earlier and earlier with Black Friday loss-leader, “door buster” deals to draw crowds. First, it was 6am; then 5am; then 12:01am. Many a big screen TV or PC or Tickle Me Elmo was bought before dawn the day after Thanksgiving.

Last year the start of Black Friday backed all the way into Thanksgiving and a limit was breached. Now, many retailers are spreading their deals into the entire week. Still others are popping out specials each day for the entire month of November. Black Friday will never be the same.

And that’s as it should be. American retail is a huge laboratory in which sellers vie to influence and serve buyers. Ingenuity abounds. Winners and losers get declared each season. Strategies and tactics get studied and behaviors analyzed. And the game begins anew next year.

Is professional football America’s favorite pastime? Or is it shopping?