This weekend, sports fans finally emerge from the barren, lifeless sports wilderness that is July and August.
Seriously, what do those months offer? Baseball? I have teenagers who can’t remember the last time the Braves won a playoff series. The World Cup? Come on. This is America. Golf? Not without Tiger. The WNBA? Get real.
Thank goodness football is finally here, and we can all lean back, relax, and bask in the glow of pleasant anticipation.
For now, anyway.
As I begin my 42nd year since I was first old enough to care about football, I have to wonder if the sport we all love will still be around, or at least recognizable, 42 years from now. Or even 30 years. Or less. Two decades hence, will the Falcons be holding taxpayers hostage for yet another new stadium?
Of course they will, you say. The NFL is more popular than ever. TV ratings are up. Fantasy leagues are a national obsession. The value of the 32 franchises is through the roof.
That’s all true. But is it sustainable? Or is the league on the verge of peaking, after which it will experience an inevitable decline? I tend to believe the latter, for a couple of reasons.
For one thing, the game is between a rock and hard place — or perhaps between a helmet and helmet — when it comes to injuries. With players getting bigger and faster every year, the number of season-ending injuries to big-name stars seems to be increasing exponentially.
At the same time, as the league continues to legislate against contact in an effort to protect itself from liability, it moves further and further from its roots as a gladiator sport. How long will fans continue to watch once the devastating hits have been all but eliminated, the game reduced to little more than flag football?
In addition, it seems to me that the NFL is marginalizing itself through slavish devotion to political correctness. Do the majority of football fans really care if Michael Sam is gay? No. They only care if he can sack the quarterback. Do they care whether their team’s head coach is black or white? Not one whit. Win, he’s a hero. Lose, he’s a bum. Race is irrelevant.
The league does itself no favors by focusing on divisive political issues that have nothing to do with football. Eventually people will become disgusted and look elsewhere for entertainment, as many have already.
I know what you’re thinking: Even if NFL owners manage to strangle the golden goose, thank goodness there’s always college football.
That’s true, at least for the time being. Until the major college programs begin paying their players, at which point they will become professionals. Then I guess we’ll have to start caring about their sexual orientation while wondering if they’re going to file suit for getting hurt in a contact sport.
Rob Jenkins is a local freelance writer and the author of “Family Man: The Art of Surviving Domestic Tranquility,” available at Books for Less and on Amazon. Email Rob at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @FamilyManRob.