In my continued researches into a Grand Unified Theory of Geekdom, I refer you to this post from the estimable Peter David (sci-fi novelist and comic book writer, extraordinaire):
"And all I could think of was how grotesquely unfair it is that science
fiction and comics fans are tagged as nerds and dweebs and treated in a
condescending manner when sports fans are just as 'bad' if not 'worse.' ... Maybe the only way science fiction and comic book conventions will gain
genuine respectability is if they become designed, not for
socialization or debate, but about being as aggressive as possibleabout separating fans from their money. You know: Like pro sports."
Well, I'm both a sports fan (I have season tickets to both football and men's basketball at the University of Louisville) and sci-fi/comic geek (I'm a low-level staffer for the local sci-fi convention, I attend both a science fiction writers group and a sci-fi/fantasy book club, and I have a standing account at a local comic book shop). My own wife describes me as a "daywalker" with ties to both the geek and the mundane worlds. (Yes, that's a Blade reference. Yes, I married the perfect woman.) Since I have some authority to speak on behalf of both sports fans and sci-fi/comics fandom, I feel I have some shared perpsective on the difference between the two. There is none.
A geek is a geek is a geek, only the preceding adjectives change. My wife's eyes glaze over just the same whether I'm talking about a full court press or the Phantom Zone or World War II combat history or the political ramifications of campaign finance reform. My wife's friends' eyes glaze over when she and I start reminiscing over favorite Next Generation episodes or start quoting lines from The Princess Bride. Anyone who has a passionate interest that you don't share comes off as a geek.
As to why sports fans are more readily accepted by the media: 1) Sports fans are more common than sci-fi fans, because sports are easier to follow and relate to than science fiction, 2) Because the audience for sports is larger, sports generate far more revenue for mass media than do science fiction and fantasy.
Don't believe me? Consider this: LOTR: Return of the King grossed a little over $1 billion at the box office, second all-time only to Titanic. The Washington Redskins are worth more money than that, and they are only one of 32 franchises in one of four major sports in the U.S (and the one with probably the most unmarketable logo and nickname in all of pro sports). The Star Wars franchise may seem like a big deal—until you compare it to the NFL.
Geek is often a synonym for outsider, and outsider can be a synonym for a member of the minority. In terms of raw numbers, sports fans will always outnumber science fiction fans, so sci-fi aficionados will always be—statistically speaking—the relative geeks.