With the first preseason game tonight, it feels realer by the day. As we inch closer to meaningful football with each passing hour, the excitement inside of me grows. And to be honest, there’s only a couple of experiences that match the euphoric feeling I get when Week 1 actually arrives (I’m sure you can guess what I’m referring to).
It’s not just me. Per a study a study conducted by the PRRI (Public Religion Research Institute), the United States is a football country. Somewhere around the mid 1960’s, football passed baseball as America’s favorite spectator sport, and hasn’t relinquished that title since. Despite the recent player protests, a whopping 38% of Americans prefer football, which almost matches baseball, basketball, soccer, hockey, and auto racing combined (41%).
Why is that? Is it because football is that much more entertaining? Or maybe other sports fall short in certain areas? I think it’s a combination of the two. So without further adieu, let’s pick apart the other major sports in America and point out only the bad qualities that support my narrative, and then heap praise upon the NFL!
Batting first: the MLB. Now, I readily admit that I have the attention span of a two-year-old, but talk about a snooze fest! MLB might as well stand for Major League Booooring.
Players literally stand still for about 80% of the game. The most action you’ll see in a baseball game is a ball being hit over a wall. Doesn’t exactly take an athlete to accomplish said feat (John Kruk once accurately stated “Lady, I’m not an athlete, I’m a professional baseball player”). Every highlight on Sportscenter is essentially identical. Strikeout. Homerun. Ground out. Pop fly. Game over.
Oh, and the constant manager and catcher visits to the mound, the pitching changes after facing one batter, paired with batters constantly stepping out of the batters box to adjust their gloves or kick the dirt, makes watching a baseball game an extremely tedious task.
Speaking of the managers, you aren’t fooling anyone with your fancy title – you’re a coach. Stop trying to be different. Also, why in the world are you wearing a uniform? Can you imagine John Harbaugh on the sidelines in full pads? It’s just bizarre.
Anyways, another thing: why can’t we have a universal set of dimensions for every field? There’s no reason that one team’s field should be larger than another. That’s like NBA courts having different three point line depths. Let’s just keep everything on a level playing field please.
The MLB seems to struggle in doing so. Exhibit B… the DH, or designated hitter. I’m sorry, it’s just terrible. It’s kind of similar to if the NFC required quarterbacks to play defense. Can we just use the DH in both leagues, or not use them at all? There’s just no reason for half of the teams to have a different set of rules than the other half.
Let’s talk about the lack of a salary cap too. Smaller market teams don’t stand a chance. They will never win out on a big free agent, or really, even go after one. It would handcuff the teams ability to put together a quality roster. But anyways, in baseball, pitching wins. Pitchers cost money. The Yankees and Red Sox have that kind of money. The O’s don’t. It just seems like an unfair system, and I don’t see how they will compete long term for the AL East.
I could go on, but I’ll have mercy on baseball. Before we pick on the NBA, just one more thing. WHY SO MANY GAMES? It’s too much to follow. Games just aren’t meaningful enough to really care about a loss, or five. 162 games is just overkill. I have a life and can’t watch baseball five nights a week.
Ok. So while the Golden State Warriors are relaxing this offseason after accomplishing the tough (and by tough, I mean easy) task of winning their third championship in the past four years, let’s turn our attention to the Super Team League, also referred to as the NBA.
At the end of the day, we watch sports for the drama, for the competition. But there’s none of that in the NBA. We all knew before the season that LeBron James would be going to his eighth straight finals, and we all knew that his opponent would be the Warriors for the fourth year in a row.
With Lebron now with the Lakers in the Western Conference, there’s some mystery in the coming season for a change. No, I don’t mean who will win in the Finals; it’ll be Golden State again. But at least the East is wide open? I’m trying here.
Seriously though, the NBA has to find a way to put a stop to the whole easy route mentality players seem to have. Parity in the NBA is a myth. There’s always been a team or two that dominate the league. But nowadays, there’s no desire for competition. They just want a ring, doesn’t matter if there’s an asterisk next to it that says sellout. Boogie Cousins literally just made one of the best teams better by signing a 1 yr./$5 mil deal, literally 20 percent of his worth. That should be illegal, and I’ll leave it at that.
Also, the officiating in the NBA has to be the worst of all. I mean, James Harden literally travels in every iso situation he sees. Never called. Three steps, slide behind the three point line, and buckets. But then again, it’s hard to call a foul when everybody and their mother is flopping. A game would take longer than a baseball game if they called that many flops.
My last gripe with the NBA (that I’ll point out, anyways) is the fact that over half of the league makes the playoffs. I remember for years seeing Eastern conference teams with losing records in the playoffs. Why are we rewarding losers? Can’t we just do like the NFL and reward the best teams with a first round bye and cut it to twelve? Honestly, I’m just nitpicking with his one. It doesn’t matter if a losing team makes he playoffs. They’ll get swept by the Warriors, just like the winning teams.
The last of the major sports, the NHL, was saved for last for a reason. And that reason is because my fandom has grown over the past couple of years and I respect the hell out of these guys. I don’t think there’s a sport out there whose playoffs match the intensity of hockey.
I really only have two things to point out that I don’t love with the NHL. First is that it’s not really easy to follow the action and see the puck, especially if you’re in the arena. They actually have to use a lift and siren to let people know that a goal has been scored. All I can say is thank goodness for slow motion replays.
Lastly, I’m not big on the point system. Specifically, why are teams earning a point for losing in overtime? A loss is a loss. You shouldn’t be rewarded for not losing in regulation. It’s just asinine. Other than that, hockey is awesome, and I think it’s gonna continue to rise in popularity as the years pass.
Finally, on to the GOAT: also known as the National Football League. To me, it’s the closest you’ll get to the perfect sport.
It’s the ultimate team sport. You cannot win with an elite athlete or two. There’s eleven guys in the field that must all be on the same page to win a game, let alone one play. It’s much more cerebral than the other sports. It’s a literal chess match with hard hits.
Which brings me to my next point. The NHL is the only league that can match the physicality of the NFL. We as Americans love hard hitting. It’s exciting, it keeps you glued to the action so you don’t miss a punishing hit.
Let’s not ignore the fact that the NFL has the perfect schedule of 16 games. At 6% of the season, every game means something. That’s not the case with the MLB (.6%) or the NHL and NBA (1.2%). You can go on a 10-game losing streak and recover. In the NFL, you’re done. That’s 2/3 of the entire regular season. The luxury of being off your game doesn’t exist.
But when I really think about why I love this league so much, it’s just the tradition of it all. Sure, every league has its own tradition, but I’m referring to my tradition as a fan.
Other sports are played multiple times a week, often on different days of the week. Thanks to the 16-game schedule and the physicality of the sport, NFL football is played once a week, mostly on Sundays. This allows us as fans to develop a routine and to watch every game. I can’t express in words the excitement I feel every Sunday morning during football season. It’s the same feeling I had as a kid on Christmas.
Sundays are holy. They are for football. All day. And I live for it.
September 9th can’t get here soon enough.