The NFL’s wide-reaching power
On Tuesday night, my 8-year-old brother asked me a simple question: Why isn’t football on now? I didn’t really have an answer; it seems like football has been on nonstop since the Saints won the Super Bowl.
Today, we’re in the midst of the NBA and NHL playoffs, the MLB regular season, Tiger Woods’ alarming return to golf and a phenomenon that has become a sport in itself: LeBron Watch 2010. We’re also on the cusp of the world’s biggest sporting event -- the World Cup.
And still, nearly all of it seems irrelevant when compared to the NFL.
Perhaps there’s no better example of this than what happened Tuesday. NFL owners approved a New York/New Jersey Super Bowl in 2014, marking the first time the game will be played outside in a cold-weather city.
The talk surrounding this decision was more widespread and more compelling than anything else going on in the sports world — and Tuesday wasn’t a dud sports day. The Lakers and Suns played in a pivotal Game 4 in the Western Conference finals, the Rays and Red Sox contest was one of a few compelling MLB matchups, and the United States played against the Czech Republic in a friendly soccer match.
But it was the NFL stealing most of the headlines.
Good or bad, the league has been doing this much of the offseason, starting with the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis on Feb. 24 — just 17 days after Drew Brees & Co. hoisted the Lombardi Trophy.
Three days following the combine’s conclusion, one of the league’s biggest stars, Ben Roethlisberger, was accused of sexually assaulting a college student in Georgia. Though charges were never filed, it resulted in one of the biggest sports news stories of 2010, overshadowing a thrilling first-round of the NCAA Tournament.
The league’s overtime rules — at least for the playoffs — were changed on March 24, which coincided with much of the investigation into the Roethlisberger sexual assault claims. This, too, did not bode well for coverage of the three other major sports.
Furthermore, within 10 days of each other, two of the league’s most polarizing figures, Donovan McNabb and Brandon Marshall, were traded to new teams. The addition of McNabb to the Washington Redskins changed the complexion of the upcoming NFL Draft, in which the ‘Skins held the fourth overall selection.
The draft’s new format, featuring the first round in prime time on Thursday night, was considered a rousing success. And, again, the NFL dominated the news for the coming weeks — thanks in part to Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor being charged with raping a 16-year-old on May 6 — even with the NBA playoffs in full force.
The truth is, the NFL has become so powerful, so ubiquitous, that even its negative news can’t knock the league off its pedestal.
With the possibility of a lockout in 2011 looming in the background, the NFL’s reputation remains unscathed, its fans carefree and whimsical about the upcoming season. Somehow questions of rampant use of performance-enhancing drugs stick to Major League Baseball but not the NFL, even after Brian Cushing’s suspension this offseason.
And as the concussion epidemic gains more traction in the public, it’s hard to say that it has affected the NFL’s popularity.
If anything, the league is starting to look like the good guy, especially after Commissioner Roger Goodell’s recent request for a law that would prohibit young athletes from returning to the field too soon after a concussion.
Indeed, even when not in season, the NFL is everywhere — something my brother will soon understand.
Scott Miller, who will be a senior at the University of Iowa this fall, is a contributor to the National Football Post. Follow him on Twitter: @stmillr.