Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The State of the Leagues

I should note that I was inspired to write about this after Mike and Mike in the Morning brought this point up on monday.

MLB and the NFL couldn't be in different situations this week. Football's greatest players are getting set to battle for a spot in the Superbowl. Baseball's greatest players are gearing up to testify in front of Congress. The NFL is clearly the most popular league in the nation. Howie Long put it best during his Hall-of-Fame speech "Baseball is the national pastime. But football is its passion."

It's like the fans were Baseball's date to the dance for years, but one year Baseball called in sick with the flu. No sooner did the fans hang up the phone when Football showed up at the door, dressed in a tux. The fans haven't been returning baseball's calls.

Both football and baseball have had stars busted for steroids and HGH, yet only baseaball is taking the heat. How did we get here? I believe it can be traced to 1994.

Baseball was clearly hurting. The players strike damaged the image of the sport. It seemed to be "all about the money." I think if they could have salvaged a World Series the pain would have been less, but that hole in baseball history will always exist.

Football was reaping the benefits of their frugalness. They were expanding for the first time in 20 years. They were moving franchises out of shaky markets and planning to keep teams in solid markets. They had branded themselves world-wide so that Europeans at least knew what American Football was. And, probably the biggest point, they became the No Fun League. They had rules. Lots of them. If you didn't follow them you were suspended or fined. If you were too much trouble, teams could cut you. This helped keep the focus on the game and not distractions. These eliments have lifted the NFL to one of the top 3 leagues in the world, if not number 1.

The results carry on today. Baseball's "dirty laundry" is out for all to see. Since the players and owners can't agree, every dispute is out in the open. Which means when the steroids/HGH stories break the media sees everything. There is no sympathy towards players, maybe because they have guarenteed contracts and don't fear getting cut. Still, even if a player wants to apologize they are persecuted.

The NFL's problems are veiled behind their rules. They have drug testing in place and players could lose their jobs at any moment. Does the NFL have an HGH problem? Who knows? Because the NFL has a steroid policy we assume they are hard on HGH. That makes it so when NFL players get busted and make an apology we are glad the system worked and can learn to forgive the player.

To me, it is all about the commishioner. Paul Tagliabu and Roger Goodell have been strong and proactive. Bud Selig looks like the type of guy that has troubles ordering his lunch. Is it fair the way we treat the NFL and MLB? I don't think so, but baseball has noone to blame but themselves.


Klick4MU said...

I agree with you on your post, very well done. Which makes me very disappointed with the owner's call to keep Selig as comish. Yet it makes sense 'cause he hasn't done anything against the owners. I'm happy that there is any steroid policy in place at all and I hope, like you, that they will add HGH to every ban as well. I would like to add a couple of thoughts too, if I may supplement your thoughts. I think baseball gets alot of its attention from the "purists" who long for the days of little league and teambuilding days gone by of which I am also guilty as charged. However, football never really had that. There's no "Field of Dreams" of sort for football and the sense of nostalgia that it does have goes to the 'icebowl' and the two 'goon' leagues of professional football (before the merger). Football's nostalgia is in the college ranks and there are plenty of rules and regulations to guide that. Yet I digress, in baseball, fans are living nostalgically, while in football, fans are living vicariously. In other words childhood is at stake when it comes to baseball, and being able to hit someone and 'throw some back' is at stake in football. There is a psychological and emotional attachment that comes with our 'heroes' and the games they play. In my opinion, that's where the divide lies. They all do it for the money but we expect our baseball players to play for free and "for the love of the game" just like we did when we were kids yet in many cases footbal has always been a release for us. Even in high school we cared less about what was going on with the players on the field and more about off the field issues; band, relationships, academics, just to name a few. There's a detachment. However in baseball there isn't. We cheer for those who can beat adversity; Hank Arron, Jim Abbott, Curt Flood, Jackie Robinson etc, who seemingly did it out of sheer will and determination but our national conscience is damaged when we hear about steroids or HGH or whatever is false or untrue. I like football but I love baseball and I think this is the reason why. I hope I'm not alone in this sports nation but I don't know that's just my opinion...I could be wrong.

Ricky said...

Nicely put. Baseball will always be my number one, football second, and now soccer third.

You are right, we are nostalgic people and baseball has history. Name me a single meaningful stat in football before 1980. OJ Simpson 2000 yards? the '72 Dolphins? Otherwise you can't tell me squat about football before the 1960's.

Now try this: Who are the top 5best players before WWII in baseball? That is a debate. Names that live today like Ruth, Gehrig, Robinson and Cobb. Don't forget Walter Johnson. Heck, the Cubs haven't won the series in 100 years! No other American sport can boast that.

I think it's because the game hasn't changed all that much. Strategy maybe, but not the game. Football "invented" the forward pass at somepoint. Shoot, the spread offense has changed the game.

Baseball can get back there, just not with Selig. Here's to 2012 and a new Commish.