A Proactive Political Football

Baseball will always be my favorite sport, but there is no denying it has been supplanted at the professional level by football as the sport that captures America’s imagination the most.

I believe part of it is cultural with our collective shrinking attention span in the age of the microblog. There’s many long breaks in baseball as part of the flow the game between pitches, between innings, etc. Also following all the ins and outs of a 162-game schedule is virtually impossible unless your social life is Direct TV or you are Peter Gammons.

Football is one day a week on a day most people have off. Plus, let’s face it, some fans like to see a player get “jacked up”– to borrow an ESPN term–the same way some fans watch NASCAR just for the 10-car pileups. Trying to break up a double play on a wide slide at second base isn’t the same.

Another reason is the NFL tends to be savvier and more proactive in addressing issues before they spin out of control. Obviously, major league baseball’s struggles with steroids and embarrassments such as Rafael Palmeiro testimony before Congress about his drug use come to mind.

Chalk another one up for the NFL in having the foresight to become active in the lobbying arena. It would be easy to gripe that Washington needs more lobbyists like you and I need extra holes in our heads. According to USA Today, the move is intended to pre-empt a Congressional backlash if a strike comes about when the league’s collective bargaining agreement with players’ union expires in two years.

This is a smart move. Creating political goodwill to draw upon when things go south probably can be traced back at least as far as ancient Rome. Furthermore, my guess is in the long run this won’t be needed.

Think of how the last two strikes in pro sports ended.

Baseball was saved by what now appears to be a drug-induced power explosion in scoring. The National Hockey League has never recovered, its tenuous hold as the fourth “major sport” shoved aside by Tiger Woods (a.k.a. golf) and NASCAR.

The NFL is smart to take precautions. My guess, and hope, is that knowing how dominant they are will help shore up a new union deal before it even becomes an issue Congress would even care about.


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