>"lack the trademark support systems"
A dog musher needs two things: A truck and a wife.
and they both need to work.
All of them have tremendous skill and drive and dedication. Many of the top contenders and many of the middle of the pack are humans in great shape. But there are others who are competent mushers and I can think of at least one winner of a MAJOR event (there being only two major events) who's overweight and out of shape. And a LOT OF middle and red lantern guys who do a lot of pot, don't own a comb, and, well, you wouldn't want them on the Wheaties box because it would put you off your feed at the breakfast table.
As for wider interest, of course things bumped up with cute blonde Libby Riddles' win in 1985. Followed by Susan Butcher who wasn't near as photogenic but seeing her in a gas station or wherever and even without registering who she was, she just carried herself in way that conveyed that she could face down a moose on the trail 100 miles from anywhere. The era of her 4 wins had T-shirts in all the shops, "Alaska, where the men are real men. And women win the Iditarod."
There was that reality show that followed several mushers one year (2008?) including a co-worker with an insulin pump (who made the mistake of saying on camera once, "I could die out here." which they reused endlessly.
It's a hard sport to broadcast real time. NO ONE knows the standings at any one time. In-state, schoolchildren follow the results, but they are hours to a day old when reported. That's a handicap that football doesn't have. On the upside, there is the longer story - 9 days of competition that, for me, make it far more interesting than a bunch of muscle-bound dudes in tights chasing a ball around.