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.