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So it begins. The Patriots against the Steelers. Sunday it’ll be the Bengals against the Raiders, the Colts against the Bills, the Giants against the Cowboys, and so on, coast to coast. And there will be more on Monday.
A book that appeared in the mail this week is subtitled “In Defense of Football.” The line at the top of the back of the book reads, “Is there anything more universally American than NFL football?”
Despite the slings and arrows -- nearly all self-inflicted -- the game has suffered, all the numbers suggest the nation is once again ready for some football.
“Universally American” is an intriguing phrase, but never mind that. The point is that the season of pro football has come again, and despite the slings and arrows — nearly all self-inflicted — the game has suffered, all the numbers suggest the nation is once again ready for some football.
Over the past couple of decades, it has become obvious that the nation is not nearly as ready for baseball, basketball, hockey, soccer, tennis or golf as it is for football. Some of those sports still generate lots of interest, and Major League Baseball and the NBA can cite financials that demonstrate they’re operations are exceedingly healthy: When Donald Sterling was forced to sell the L.A. Clippers, Steve Ballmer paid him $2 billion. When the Dodgers changed hands a couple of years ago, the new owners also paid $2 billion, more than twice the previous record for the sale of a baseball team.
But dollars aside — and that’s a great, big aside — who can deny that it’s football that rules the sports landscape?
The NFL is wealthy enough to pay its commissioner over $44 million a year, so it does, though he’s regarded by the public — and even by some of his employers — as an embarrassment.
Then there’s the drama. On the field it’s about acrobatic catches, runs toward daylight and violent hits and their concussions and repercussions.
Off the field it’s about cheating, conspiracy and cover-up. In what other sport would the first whistle be preceded by long ESPN and Sports Illustrated stories about how the league’s most successful team has allegedly been involved for decades in illegal activity, which the league’s commissioner has been urging the owners of the other teams to ignore, lest the U.S. Congress stick its nose into its business? That development, according to one of the former NFL head coaches cited in the ESPN story, “could kill the league.”
What? Is he nuts? This is America. This is football.
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