The news pierced the heart of football fans.
Junior Seau, Dead At 43
What? How? Tell me it’s not true?
He played the game with intensity.
That’s what we’ve come to expect in “our” NFL linebackers. Intensity. Ferocity. Passion.
Watch video of history’s great linebackers, you’ll see it in their eyes. We felt it vicariously through television. Tackling opponents as if their very lives depended on it. In their minds, it did.
Dick Butkus. Jack Lambert. Lawrence Taylor. Ray Lewis. Mike Singletary. Jack Ham. Ted Hendricks.
Different, these men were when they played (or play, in Lewis’ case) the game. Wired differently to excel to the highest level. Beyond human limits.
The NFL is big business.
According to dailyfinance.com, just the NFL-Nike apparel agreement is worth over $1 billion.
“The company is reportedly paying the NFL $1.1 billion over five years for the right to sell its jerseys, and the payoff should be strong. Analysts have predicted that Nike will add $500 million in annual revenue from the deal — not insignificant even for a company with revenues of $22.7 billion a year.”
In September, 2011, the NFL and Pepsi announced a 10-year renewal on their relationship which could be worth $2.3 billion.
Beer, of course, is a big sponsor of the NFL. Anheuser-Busch replaced Coors as the official sponsor of the NFL in 2011 (deal announced in 2010).
Terms were not immediately available, but sources said A-B is paying twice what Coors paid. An unnamed source told The Associated Press the deal is worth more than $1 billion.
Only three sponsors of many but billions and billions of dollars for the business that is the NFL.
With Seau’s death, however, the dark cloud of litigation looms even larger today. Pat Rishe, Forbes.com:
From a non-lawyer’s perspective, it seems that a perfect storm is brewing that could put the NFL in a dire financial predicament:
- The (Dave) Duerson death;
- The wealth of head trauma data from SLI;
- The more unified voice of retired NFL players who feel more empowered in pursuing litigation;
- The ugliness of the Saints Bounty Scandal.
Just how bad could it get:
High ranking legal source w/ strong ties 2 NFL owners says concussion litigation has grown into biggest financial threat in league history.—
Charles Robinson (@CharlesRobinson) April 16, 2012
Should parents let their children play football? Parents have been increasingly asking that question over the last several years. Even former NFL players:
4 record: I LOVE game of football & all it did 4 me & my family! But as a parent I don't want 2 c my kids do ANYTHING that could hurt them!—
Kurt Warner (@kurt13warner) May 03, 2012
and media members who cover football in their job:
I love football, but, if I ever have a son I don't know if I'd let him play.—
Mark Ennis (@Mengus22) May 02, 2012
Should? Could? Will?
A change of the parental mindset in American sports culture is required to prohibit NFL’s dominance. Big business of the NFL, and college football for that matter, is a lure of fame, fortune, notoriety, pride = success. For the love of the game, too, but the mindset is “making it”. Making it to the league. Making it to the big-time.
Making it, involves fame, fortune, notoriety, pride.
But the cost. What is the cost?
The often decades-long physical, mental and emotional toll of working to get “there”. Then, the physical, mental, and emotional toll to stay “there”.
Is there another place for fame, fortune, notoriety and pride = success?
Baseball once held a special place in American hearts. The national pastime.
Well — it’s our game; that’s the chief fact in connection with it; America’s game; it has the snap, go, fling of the American atmosphere; it belongs as much to our institutions; fits into them as significantly as our Constitution’s laws; is just as important in the sum total of our historic life.— Walt Whitman
The African-American population in baseball this season has plummeted to 8.05%, less than half the 17.25% in 1959 when the Boston Red Sox became the last team to integrate their roster, 12 years after Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers.
…there is must-win pressure for the dwindling number of Summit League baseball teams. There are seven fighting for four playoff spots and all seven are within two games of each other.
The league will be down to six teams next season.
Evaluating the percentage of African-American football players, one report indicates the number at the NFL level is over 60%.
8% for Major League Baseball. Over 60% for the National Football League.
Baseball numbers dwindling.
Football superiority cracking.
What if the NFL loses its status as “King” of sports?
What if the current litigation involving former NFL players threatens the league as we know it? In February of this year, former Dallas Cowboy (and Super Bowl winning) quarterback, Troy Aikman, expressed concerns about the NFL’s future. From the Los Angeles Times:
League officials and owners are “very concerned about concussions,” said Aikman, who is now a television analyst. He added, “the long-term viability, to me anyway, is somewhat in question as far as what this game is going to look like 20 years from now.”
The fall of, or the very threat to, the NFL could become Major League Baseball’s gain.
The desire for MLB to become, once again, a destination sport for African-American athletes could be within their grasp. Simplistic in theory. The sport of baseball, as a whole, has a stigma to overcome for athletes of all ethnic background here in America (e.g. high cost of equipment, travel, access to quality fields, coaching). No small task for MLB. Intelligent leadership and smooth cooperation at all levels of baseball would be imperative.
But, it can be accomplished if the NFL were to fall. Troy Aikman’s gloomy outlook for the NFL in that Los Angeles Times article:
“I believe, and this is my opinion, that at some point football is not going to be the No. 1 sport”
Words that must be heeded given the circumstances beginning to engulf the NFL.
The fall of the football as we know it?
Or the rise of baseball as we knew it?