On ESPN radio news, I heard Mike and Mike talk about how the return of Tiger Woods would be great for golf. They listed the fact that viewing was down over the past year because Tiger was not playing. They also commented on the fact that "purist" fans of golf continually mention there are other players beside Tiger. Mike and Mike said, yes there are, but your average person will only tune in to see what Tiger is doing.
Therefore, Tiger is good for golf.
I started think about it. What other sports have a predominant figure that brings average people to watch the sport? I came up with a short list.
Baseball - Alex Rodriguez people are talking: who is his cousin? Did he use steroids more than three years? What was he thinking when he started with that (OK, this last question is about him and Madonna)?
Basketball - Michael Jordan. Everybody wanted to be like Mike! When he retired and came back all you heard was Mike, Mike, Mike. And people watch the games.
Bicycle - Lance Armstrong - Did he dope? Will he return to win the Tour de France yet again for the 19,000th time? Seriously, is there any other tournament besides the Tour de France in cycling? Is there? Average folk only watch that race if Lance is there. Who won it last year? Answer without using Google.
Swimming - Michael Phelps. He was the face of the sport until he hit the BONG!
Skateboarding - Tony Hawk. Well, at least folks have heard about his video game.
Soccer - Beckham (I guess?) (but does anybody know of this guy inside the USA?)
Hockey - Gretzky? Who is the new guy (I know of Crosby, but that is because I am a homer)?
Football - ?
Does the NFL have one player that is the face of the sport? The best example could be pretty boy Tom Brady. He gathers a lot of attention, from his on-field play to his off-field romances. He is intriguing enough that average people will watch a game—if he is playing. But was his season-ending injury bad for football?
No, in fact, I think it was good for football. From a football fans perspective, everybody (outside of New England) thought the same thing when he went down: My team has a shot to win the Super Bowl. There is no way that the Patriots can win it all without Brady.
As morbid as that sounds, that is exactly what every fan, especially in Indy, San Diego, and Pittsburgh, thought. And look what happened this season in the AFC. Indy, San Diego, and Pittsburgh, the three teams NE usually beats in AFC Championship games, all got to the playoffs. Their fans were all thinking, "At least we do not have to play the Patriots this year."
I know I was.
Moreover, Matt Cassell came in and played well enough for the Pats to win 11 games. Not nearly as big a drop-off as most would have thought. Cassell played so well there is a minor quarterback discussion (not a real controversy) about what the Pats should do.
So, does football have a face that represents the sport?
No. And we do not need one.