The rise and fall of football

Mention the concept of the NFL or football for that matter falling from its rank as the dominant sport in the United States, and be prepared to be labeled a fool. The NFL is enjoying the greatest success any sport in America ever has right now, and is somehow doing it all under the guise of a non-profit organization. The NFL is in the business of making the rich richer while making the poor feel rich, if only for a while, and it’s more efficient at reaching that end than most any industry.

But like great teams destined to rule for years as a dynasty (Cowboys, 49ers, Steelers, Patriots, etc.), great industries (newspapers, automakers, etc.), and great music (swing, disco, grunge), everything gets old. Everything reaches a highpoint and then realizes that the only thing that can follow a highpoint is decline. The NFL, football is at it’s highpoint. The Fall of Football has begun.

Now watch the Rise of Football. Excuse me … Futbol. American spell check doesn’t know what means, but it won’t be long before that’s fixed.

Soccer is the world’s game, and although we in the States like to think of our stuff as being the best, American football can’t hold a candle to the economic and social impact of soccer.  The figures below are from 2009, but still show the disparity in global popularity and prosperity.

While one argument I always hear about the NFL is that it’s too big to fail. If size matters, then it’s soccer who cannot fail and it’s not even close.  You don’t have to look at the international game to see it, either. In an article by Forbes in November of 2013, the undeniable success of America’s own Major League Soccer (MLS) accounts for the first giant steps to a monumental shift.

According to the article:

Now, there are 19 teams – with another New York City team scheduled to launch in 2015 and one in Orlando in the works. And with Hunt selling his second soccer team, Columbus Crew, for an MLS record $68 million this July, ownership is as dispersed and valuable as ever. Average attendance has surged to 18,600, a more than 35% increase from the 2000 nadir of just over 13,700.

Of course, these numbers pail in comparison to the NFL or even major college football, but the true signs of demise are not at the top, but at the bottom. Youth football is experiencing a drastic decline in participation, the likes of which they haven’t seen in decades. Hinging largely on the health issues of the last five years over concussions, parents simply don’t want their children put in harm’s way. According to a report by ESPN’s Outside the Lines: The nation’s largest youth football program, Pop Warner, saw participation drop 9.5 percent between 2010-12, a sign that the concussion crisis that began in the NFL is having a dramatic impact at the lowest rungs of the sport.

And then there’s market saturation. I used to enjoy watching NFL pregame shows for an hour or two before kickoff. Now, I spend my mornings watching the English Premiere League games that start just as I’m waking up and usually lead me right until 1 p.m. It’s fantastic. The athleticism is astounding and the action is not boring as football purists would have you believe. There are more soccer games available on TV now than ever before.

Should I also get into the shifting demographics of the United States? Suffice to say that with a population becoming more diverse,  most of those different nationalities have one thing in common — their love of soccer.  It is infused in the blood of those who will make up a minority majority.

If this post were a thesis, I’d keep going, but I think the point’s been made. And I didn’t even play soccer, I played football. Pop Warner and high school. I love the game, I’m just not “in love” with it anymore.

It won’t happen soon. Not five or 10 years. But in a full generation, I expect the shift to be clear. Baseball had its run and the NBA’s highpoint proved to come at a time when the NFL was reaching its own so it will never hold the top spot. But when all of these economic and social factors eventually add up, it will be to the sum of soccer.


Time to take back control from Time Warner Cable


I, like millions of others, pay too much for cable from Time Warner. I deal with it like most of those people. And by “deal with it” I mean bitch about it on social media. Even as I swipe these words on my phone, the TV is on and my new remote is warm from use.

My cable service isn’t new. Just the remote. I needed a new one because the old one would work for about five button presses at a time, then stop for five minutes, or eight minutes, or just 10 seconds after I give up waiting. Whichever came first.

One of my errands today was a stop at the Time Warner building, my faulty remote in hand. I walked up to the counter ready to wait in line.

“Broken remote? Here us go.”

The guy reached into a drawer of individually wrapped remotes and selected mine like it was waiting for me with my name on it. Done.

Instead of being happy with the quick fix, I’m offended that they know their equipment is so bad that they need a box of extras at the ready. It’s cheaper to make two or three or for bad products than it is to make one good one.

Now I don’t believe in Bill Cowher anymore! That’s on you, Time Warner Cable.

As I started this post, I caught about 10 minutes of a story on the Al Jazeera America channel about a family who cut cable in favor of Roku and Hulu. The irony isn’t lost on me, but Syracuse plays Duke on Saturday and the Super Bowl is Sunday. Sports hold me hostage and then charge me rent for my cage. But after this weekend is my best chance to escape — nothing but the NBA and NHL to keep me locked up.

NASCAR is the guard at the gate you slip past with “What’s that behind you?!” So, that’s not a problem.

Just gotta get out before March Madness … Before it’s too late.