Football. It's America's favorite sport.
Football is probably the only sport that people in the US talk about 12 months a year.
Last year, they ran an NFL Sunday Night Game head-to-head against the World Series.
Guess which had higher ratings.
Now, the Saints were the defending Super Bowl champions and the Steelers are a popular NFL team, but why do I have a feeling that if the Bills and Cardinals played against the World Series the NFL would have still come out on top?
Don't get me wrong, I like football.
I am just sick of this country's infatuation with the sport.
It seems as though the sports world revolves around football. For example, college sports is almost entirely governed by football.
Due to football, TCU is in the Big East. I pity any Syracuse and Pittsburgh athletes that have to travel to Fort Worth next year or vice versa.
Due to football, great basketball schools like VCU, Butler, several MVC schools, and—to a lesser degree—Temple and Xavier are forced to play in mid-major conferences and have less of a chance to make the NCAA Tournament.
Meanwhile, also due to football, college basketball deadweights like Nebraska, Rutgers, South Florida, and TCU get upgrades to major conferences so they can go 0-16 and collect money when the other teams in the conference make the NCAA Tournament. In addition, playing these deadweights sink the RPI of the teams competing for NCAA bids and hurts their chances of getting into the tourney.
I think the US would be a far better country if baseball or basketball were America's passion (or if football was still first, but a lot less popular).
Here are reasons why I think football should not be America's sport (or at least why the sport of football is behind baseball and basketball in my eyes).
1. Not Enough Games
MLB teams play 162 games in the regular season. NBA teams play 82 games. Most college basketball teams play 25-30 games a year.
But the NFL plays only 16 (and many think 18 is too much) and college football plays only 12.
In the playoffs, MLB and NBA teams play best of five or best of seven series. College basketball is one-and-done, but 68 teams make the field—a team has to win six games to win the title.
The NFL is one-and-done and college football ... well, don't even get me started on the BCS.
You may be thinking "less is more" and because there are fewer football games, each is more important.
That is totally true.
Then again, if you don't want to watch 162 baseball games, don't—watch 100 or watch 50 or even watch just the playoffs.
During baseball season, if it's a Tuesday night and you're bored and want to watch a game, you usually can. Same for basketball.
Football? Good luck finding a game on Tuesday or Wednesday.
What if you have to miss a Cowboys game? You have to wait a whole week for the next one. The Yankees will likely play tomorrow or at the very least in two days and play six games a week on average. The 76ers or Lakers usually play two or three a week.
Now, I'm a day person and love day games as opposed to night games, and the NFL does cater to me.
But what if you are a night person? There are several NFL teams that don't play any night games at all, and some may play only one a year.
Not a problem in baseball or basketball—even the Cubs play quite a few home games—in addition to most of their road games—at night.
What if you work weekends? Good luck being a football fan, but there are plenty of games on weekdays in baseball and basketball, too.
It's also a lot easier to see other sports' games than it is football.
Since I moved to the Philadelphia area, I have seen tons of Phillies games, a few 76ers games (when Allen Iverson was playing), and even a Flyers game once—and I don't even like hockey.
The one team I haven't seen? The Eagles.
Before the Eagles dumped Donovan McNabb, I was a big Eagles fan. I can't even name the Flyers' goalie. Yet, I've seen more Flyers games than Eagles games. Why is that?
The Flyers play 41 home games a year. The Eagles play just eight (seven if the NFL steals one of their home games and moves it to London).
The Phillies sell out almost if not every game. They have far fewer tickets per game than the Eagles, but they also play 81 games a year. If you really wanted to see a Phillies game, you can. I usually pay about $20 for a ticket. I forget what I paid for the Flyers but I imagine it was close to $20 (I would never pay $30 or $40 for hockey).
Twenty dollars probably wouldn't even get you a Raiders game. Eagles games are higher demand—they're going to charge an arm and a leg for you to go (assuming you can even get tickets, as the supply is far lower).
And that's just for one ticket—imagine if you want to take your family to an NFL game.
As for Penn State, I think their single-game ticket prices are in the $40-$50 range. I saw a Penn State basketball game, and I know I didn't pay $40 for it.
Now, Penn State football is a lot better than Penn State basketball, but I'd guess football tickets are more expensive than basketball tickets even at Duke, North Carolina, and Kentucky.
So, if it is far easier and cheaper to see an MLB or an NBA game, you should feel more attached to those teams.
Wouldn't you like a team and/or its players more if you get a chance to see them live?
Well, if the average fan is more likely to have seen a MLB or NBA game, why should they like the NFL (or college football) more?
Sure, if you have season tickets for Penn State football or the Eagles, you should be big on those teams. But if you've never seen them live and never will, why should you live and die for them?
2. Too Many Positions
A starting basketball team has five players. A starting baseball team has nine (ten if you have a DH).
Now, baseball teams have a four- or five-man starting rotation, but even that is 12 or 13 "starters."
Football? You have 22 starters (11 offensive and 11 defensive)—and that's not even counting kickers or punters! Good luck remembering 22 different players.
I can name all starters on the Phillies (pitcher and position). If the 76ers were winning 50 games a year, I could probably easily name all five starters. I knew all five starters on the Illinois 2005 basketball team. I knew Pete Myers and John Paxson and Toni Kukoc when I lived in Illinois while the Bulls were winning.
Even in Donovan McNabb's Super Bowl season, I would have been lucky to be able to name half of the Eagles starters that year.
Keep in mind Title IX in college sports. To yield a competitive college football team, you need probably at least 80-90 players. There wouldn't even be a problem with Title IX if they didn't have to give out 80 scholarships to football alone.
Maybe if they didn't need 80 football players, schools can then have a baseball team or a men's track team or a men's tennis team or a wrestling team—I don't hear Butler or Gonzaga complaining about Title IX.
I personally think any revenue-making sport should be excluded from Title IX (that's a different issue). But, if you have to deal with it, most men's sports probably get cut because football takes away too many scholarships from other sports.
As for the NFL, teams are larger, meaning they have to take care of more players. Because they have to pay so many players, it's a lot harder for the stars to get what they are worth—NFL compensation is far worse than MLB or the NBA on average.
Plus, the NFL is the only league with non-guaranteed contracts. You can sign a player for a six-year contract, cut him after one year, and not have to pay him another dime.
However, the team owns your rights as long as they want. If you outperform your contract, you can't test the free-agent market, and you will be lucky if you can renegotiate your contract.
Not even the real world works like this—most of you can be fired from your job at any time but can also walk away at any time.
Not only are there are too many positions but football also has ...
3. Too Many Irrelevant Positions
In baseball, anyone (with the exception of pitchers) can be the star. While it is rarer to see players succeed offensively in the harder-to-play defensive positions (ex. catcher or shortstop), there are some good top-hitting catchers and shortstops (Joe Mauer, Derek Jeter, etc.). Any of the eight players can be your hitting superstar.
In basketball, a player at any position can lead his team in scoring—whether it be a "short" player like Michael Jordan or Derek Rose or a tall player like Shaq or Tim Duncan.
Remember that I am talking about the being the best player consistently—even players who aren't that good in baseball and basketball can have moments that can make them famous for life.
In baseball, a guy can hit .200 or worse, but if he gets a hit at the right time (for instance, a game winning hit), he can be a hero in his city for life.
Joe Blanton (a Phillies pitcher) once hit a home run in the World Series—anybody can be the hero.
In basketball, Chicago Bulls fans remember Jon Paxson's three and Steve Kerr's huge shot. Jon Paxson and Steve Kerr would never get Hall of Fame recognition, but their shots will live in Chicago lore for years to come.
In football, there are only a handful of positions that score on a regular basis. As meaningless as Reggie Bush was to the Saints, he probably scored more points for them last year than the entire Saints defense did.
In football, half of your starters can score only in turnover situations. I remember an Eagles cornerback named Lito Shepherd. The only reason I remember him is he once intercepted a pass intended for Terrell Owens and returned it for a touchdown in TO's first game back in Philadelphia as a Cowboy.
For defensive players, these moments are rare—how many touchdowns do the Eagles defensive tackles have in their careers?
Heck, I don't even know their names.
Tackles and sacks are fine and dandy, but they are equivalent to put-outs in baseball if you think about it—so who cares about them?
It's not just defensive players that rarely score. You know who scores less than defensive players? Offensive linemen (with exception of tight ends).
Heck, not only do they never score, they can't even create turnovers (except when the defense already took the ball away and then the linemen just get it back).
With defensive players, you can count interceptions, fumble recoveries, even tackles, and sacks. You can't even measure offensive line stats. Sure you can measure the effectiveness of the offense, but that's indirect. Offensive linemen can create holes for the running backs, but the backs have to find them. They can give quarterbacks extra time, but quarterbacks still have to find open receivers.
I'm not saying these guys aren't important to the success of the team, but clearly football says certain guys are the "important" guys.
Basketball doesn't say that. Baseball may glorify pitchers more than other positions, but there are clearly big stars that aren't pitchers.
There is no question what the most glamorous position in football is. Let's say I've never heard anyone complain there aren't enough African American ... kickers.
Only in football can the sport be 75% of one race and people can claim the sport is racist against those 75%. Why? Because there aren't enough African American quarterbacks.
Then comes the NFL Draft, where most of the draft choices made are the irrelevant positions. Only four of the first 32 picks in the last NFL Draft were quarterbacks, and they already think that's too many. Only one pick was used on a running back.
In baseball, you can hope the draft pick will either be the next great hitter or the next great pitcher for your team.
In the NFL, you can hope that defensive end you drafted can one day become a great ancillary player.
It's ridiculous. If in baseball you drafted a guy who would never hit a home run or strike out a player, baseball fans would either ignore the player or boo the choice.
Only in the NFL can a 4-12 team draft a center and their fans will celebrate like they won the Super Bowl.
In football, there are set offensive positions and set defensive positions.
Imagine if the Phillies had nine guys in the batting lineup and nine different players in the field. Would you care about the team's shortstop if he never scored a run?
What if in the NBA you had two players who never crossed half court and played only defense and two others who only played offense and stayed under the other team's basket? The "defensive" players would never score a point or get an assist.
Would you care about them?
Finally, the root of all the other problems in football...
4. Football is TOO VIOLENT
Why are there only 16 NFL games and people cry so much about two extra games? Why are the NFL playoffs one-and-done when they could have best of five or seven or even best of three to make sure the best team actually wins? Why does college football refuse to even have a four-team playoff?
Too much violence.
The whole sport prevents more games. Can there ever be too much baseball or basketball? Not really. But too much football? Absolutely.
Of course, this violence causes injuries.
Injuries are a major part of football, much more so than basketball and baseball. You can't have a long-term football contract when Peyton Manning or Tom Brady are just one hit away from the end of their careers. You don't have to worry that much about your favorite baseball or basketball player being injured anywhere near as much as your favorite football player.
Because the quarterback is "so important," if your QB gets injured, you can kiss your season goodbye (look at the Cowboys without Tony Romo last year).
An injury to one player can turn your team from a Super Bowl contender (which the Cowboys were pre-season) to a 6-10 team (and of course people still watched them, probably more than any other team).
Can that happen in baseball or basketball? Sure.
But then again, if it did, your team wasn't that good to begin with.
In baseball, Chase Utley can be injured (he was earlier this season), but Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins are there pick up the slack. Imagine if the Phillies needed to find a second basemen that could hit—Utley's replacement second baseman could barely hit, but the Phillies can afford for him not to if other guys hit instead.
Sure, the Miami Heat would suffer if Lebron got hurt, but Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh can still score.
If a team's QB goes down, you either have to have a great running back or you're screwed.
How many football injuries are career ending as compared to basketball or baseball? The Spurs once lost David Robinson for a season (and were so bad that they were able to draft Tim Duncan), but Robinson came back and won a championship (actually two) for San Antonio.
Because of injuries and violence, the average career of an NFL player is far shorter than that of a player in the NBA or MLB.
In football what's one of the positions with the shortest average career? One of the two most important—the running back. The guy that leads the league in rushing or leads a team to the Super Bowl may be out of the league in two or three years.
It's also the reason why NFL contracts are the way they are.
Can NFL teams make the same commitment to their QB as the NBA or MLB to their stars? Too much financial risk. That's why NFL stars aren't properly compensated compared to their peers. It's the reason why there is more turnover in football compared to basketball and baseball. Of course, injuries require you to carry so many more players than in other sports, which I have already said is not good.
Only in the NFL can a team tell a Super Bowl Champion winning QB (who went 13-3 and made the NFC Championship in his final season with the team) to hit the road and replace him with a guy who never started a game before.
Look at what the Eagles did with Donovan. Don't give me Michael Vick—they got rid of McNabb because they thought Kevin Kolb was the answer at QB.
Then there is the NFL's glorification of violence and big hits, and that can't be good. I think I heard once that the day of the Super Bowl is the biggest day of the year for domestic violence.
Coincidence? I think not.
Don't tell me America wouldn't be a better country if we glorified hitting balls more than hitting other people.
So, you expect me to like football as my favorite sport?
You expect me to like football when there are too many players, most of the players are irrelevant, and all the other players try their hardest to hurt the relevant players and knock them out of the games?
You expect me to like a sport in which the players change teams so much it's hard to become attached to any of them?
You expect me to like a sport that gives me only 16 regular season games and single-game playoff series over a sport which can give me more games and more entertainment?
The more you think about it, why would anyone like football more than baseball or basketball?
Finally for those of you reading in Dallas:
Last October your baseball team made the World Series, beating the New York Yankees in the LCS.
This past June, your basketball team swept the Los Angeles Lakers and won the NBA Championship.
Last season, the Cowboys went 6-10. The Texas Longhorns football team was 5-7.
How many of you in Dallas don't know who Dirk Novitski is but can name all of the starting offensive linemen, all of the starting defensive linemen, and all the starting linebackers on the Cowboys?
Give baseball and/or basketball a chance in Dallas and in the state of Texas.
You might just like it.
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