I've completed my Fermi analysis of three sports (Major League Baseball, college football, and NFL football). I did this at a very superficial level, only estimating the fuel used by the fans driving to the games and travel by the participating teams. Such a calculation involves estimating the answers to a myriad of data points, among others: how many games per season; how many fans at each game; how many fans in each vehicle attending the game; how far the average vehicle traveled to and from the game; what is the average fuel economy of the vehicle used; how far and by what means did the visiting team travel to the home team's venue; what is the fuel economy of the means utilized by the visiting team; and others. I didn't estimate the coal burned in field lighting, the natural gas used in heating the hot dogs and nacho cheese, the coal burned to power the HDTVs watched by fans not actually attending the game, and many others.
With those limitations in mind, the results of my speculation are as follows (in decreasing order of fuel used):
- College Football: 9.0*10^6 barrels/year
- Major League Baseball: 4.2*10^6 barrels/year
- NFL Football: 1.0*10^6 barrels/year
In each of the sports I estimated, by far the largest fuel use was by fans traveling to the games. This use was typically an order of magnitude larger than that by team travel (anywhere from 8 to 40 times as large). And finally, the use by the three sports I estimated totals about 0.19% of our nation's annual oil consumption of about 7.5*10^9 barrels/year. Let's suppose that the sports I've looked at represent 10% of the oil consumed in all sports, then "sport" would be responsible for about 2% of U.S. oil consumption. I suspect this is high, since the fuel is consumed primarily by individuals and the "average person" I know likely doesn't use 2% of her oil consumption on sports. Thus, elimination of all spectator sporting activities is yet one more way not to get us out of our energy dilemma.