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Have sports peaked in popularity?

Sports are seen as something the die-hards can’t seem to get enough of and for people not interested, it is constantly thrown in their face. Eventually, there is always too much of a good thing and it must come to an end. Sports have been relevant for a long time and for the last 30 years, has been a 24/7 special. With the decline of ESPN, political and power battles on the sidelines, and dangers looming from violent sports, we may have already passed the peak of sports interest and have begun the decline.

One of the most attacked sports right now football and in particularly, the NFL. No question it is the American giant and many think untouchable, but it is actually the most fragile and vulnerable sport right now for three reasons:

    The way Stan Kroenke forced his way to Los Angeles showed the greediness of NFL owners, even more than the lockout did.

  1. It is the ultimate .1% sport – The simple fact is the owners in the NFL have more power than any other group of owners in sports. Players basically have no rights compared to baseball, whose players get guaranteed contracts, and NBA players, who have max contracts for arguably doing the least work and have the least risk. NFL players can get cut on a dime and even if they have $50 million contracts, may not see much of it if a GM decides to cut them. Because the NFL is a very injury prone sport, this is a problem because they can lose their opportunity to be set for life in a blink of an eye because of a freak injury.

    The commissioner right now is also ridiculously biased towards the owners when he is supposed to be neutral. They want to prove they can go after anybody with a power move such as Tom Brady and Ezekiel Elliott. Now, Elliott had charges dropped against him and now has a federal injunction to battle his six-game suspension, but just like Brady with “deflategate” he will probably have to serve it all next year. This is a big problem for players’ rights because from all reports about his case, the girl Tiffany Thompson pulled off the bitter-ex move of accusing him of domestic abuse when there is textual evidence that said she was going to fake it to ruin his career.

    Goodell is targeting Elliott to make him the poster child of domestic abuse after Ray Rice and the problem with this is Elliott was cleared of all charges by the police, but the NFL is still targeting him like they would a male on a college campus. Most intelligent fans see right through this power/political battle and they are tired of it to the point where they may not mind seeing a lockout in 2021 once the union has to re-negotiate the contract with the owners.

    If anything, in 2011 most fans were neutral and just saw it as millionaires versus billionaires, now the fans see the players as more of political juggernauts than ever before and see the owners as the ultimate example of greedy, villainous behavior.

  2. NFL RedZone/Sunday Ticket and Fantasy Football – This is also a big problem because the NFL has reached such a Sunday popularity in a national environment that it gives casual fans virtually no reason to go to the games, especially if they’re located in a city with a bad franchise. The problem is, that popularity has peaked TV wise and they can’t replace the fans they lost from the games to TV. Fantasy football and RedZone allow fans to focus on individual players and essentially just watch the big moments in each game rather than being stuck watching a bad game on local TV or in a stadium.

    This is a trend that think is irreversible and will hurt the NFL in the long-term. They’ll never get fans to have the attention span for one game again (which is also why Thursday night football has hurt more than helped them). With fans losing interest in one game, it will not only hurt from a ticket perspective but also from a merchandise perspective. Yes maybe they’ll get jerseys of a player or two they like but team shirts and hats will go down along with secondary player sales.

  3. Dying from the ground up – The NFL mayl die because people will be too scared to have their kids play pee wee football and once that gets mainstream, there will be no prospects for high school, then we will first notice a heavy decline in the college football scene. Then it will finally start to take shape in the NFL.

    Most casuals following the NFL don’t realize how much of a game-changer the CTE revelation was. It basically took everything the NFL had under its rug and revealed it to the public. This was knowledge that the NFL was dangerous to a player’s brain and long-term health and that’d they would be mentally far gone once their careers ended. The ones most vulnerable were centers, the other offensive lineman, and defensive lineman. Fans in their 20’s have already seen guys they have grown up idolizing get affected by this such as Junior Seau, who committed suicide right after he had an arguably hall of fame career, donated his brain to research, and it was revealed he had strong CTE symptoms.

    Kurt Warner, Hall of Fame quarterback, has openly stated that he will not let his kids play pee wee football. Then there have been cases in lower level sports such as Eric LeGrand from Rutgers who ended up paralyzed because of a tackle he tried to make on special teams and there have been a couple of high school players that have died on the field and training camp whose stories went viral. Quite simply, football is perceived as too high risk for most parents to willingly let their kids get involved in if they have other opportunities.

    Football may be spared if they solely go after kids in poor neighborhoods and areas but I’m not even sure if that will be enough. It has the gladiator label attached to it and unless they transition to something like 7-on-7 flag football eventually, expect football to be extinct as we know it in the next 30-50 years, and be considered as a gladiator sport next century that we were barbaric for participating in. By the way this is part of the reason the ratings are going down, there’s a lot more penalties for soft hits now and fans notice the game is being watered down.

Why Other Sports are Dying

Sports have simply reached their peak. We are officially at the point where we are being over saturated with sports, people notice, and just don’t have the attention span for 24/7 sports anymore with other viable entertainment options. We are heading towards a movie, TV show, and video game society because all of those things are more relative than sports in this day and age. Some people view sports as just something for less intelligent people and also, sports are no longer a playground game. Older generations played sports every day to socialize and as they played they looked up to the best players. now, the average kid does not just play sports for fun. Youth sports are hyper competitive and so organized that it’s becoming exclusive and turning off a mainstream audience more and more.

ESPN is still the standard of sports media, but has increasingly gone away from sports commentary and have gotten more and more political.

We also are seeing ESPN reaching its peak, getting involved way too much in politics, and are witnessing its large decline with incidents such as highly-respected Linda Cohn getting suspended for fairly criticizing the company, Jemele Hill getting special treatment with her political statements compared to others, letting great personalities go such as Chris Berman, Tom Jackson, Collin Cowherd, Keith Olbermann, and Mike Tirico, along with having a joke of a broadcast team in the Chargers-Broncos game with Sergio Dipp on the sidelines who could barely speak English and Rex Ryan who looked absolutely lost commentating the game. They are not getting away with charging cable companies nearly as much as they used to because people just don’t care about 24/7 sports channels like they used to.

The Olympics and FIFA are going to have a big problem and it’s already happening. They rely on countries to build brand new stadiums and arenas for the Olympics and World Cup, but countries are catching on and realizing it does almost nothing for tourism compared to the money they have to invest. There will no longer be competition to host and it will only go to established sports countries like the US and Western European countries who already have the facilities. Qatar could be a game-changer from a human rights standpoint in FIFA.

These organizations are the definition of greed and they have lost. It is also spreading to major sports teams like the New York Islanders, whose local fans voted against publicly funding a new arena to keep them in Nassau County.

The NFL is being targeted the most because it’s the most dangerous but plenty of other sports can start to take bullets in the next 30 years. Ones already on the way to extinction are boxing and baseball because they both fail to adapt to modern times. Boxing is viewed as inferior to UFC now and baseball is viewed as too slow and boring by most, so it loses the casual audience.

Then we have sports I can easily be seen targeted for having too much violence, kind of like the trend the NFL is on but it could take longer. These include the UFC, the NHL, and horse racing. Hockey can be a violent sport with its own concussion problems and players losing teeth and on top of that is a very exclusive sport because it’s hard to play hockey without an organized league. The UFC is an easy target because it’s a straight up fighting sport and horse racing can eventually be targeted for animal abuse.

The future is in these three sports:

    The NBA does seem like it’s going to take over as America’s most popular sport.

  1. Basketball – this will be the No. 1 American sport by 2050. It’s the last one left that has survived the exclusiveness of organized leagues and has minimal long-term health risk with a lot of fast-paced action. It is a perfect modern sport because it is still played in every neighborhood, is relative, has clear stars people can look up to, and people don’t end up mentally screwed up once their careers end. Not to mention it’s already a major sport so doesn’t need much growing.
  2. Soccer – There are injuries in this sport but it’s already the most popular sport in the world that kids on the dirt roads of Africa can even play so like basketball, it keeps the neighborhood sport growth very well and it’s inclusive. There are potential leg injuries but I think that this is an acceptable risk for most people, the money is already there in European leagues, and it is a worldwide sport.
  3. Golf – This is a distant third but the main argument for golf is that I see it being in absolutely no danger of being targeted as a sport compared to some others. The sport is trending upwards unlike most. There are a lot of young stars in the game promoting positive sportsmanship to young kids and careers of stars last a lot longer than other sports.

    It is also getting more competitive than ever, has players from all over the world, and it is a privately funded sport by the 1-percent so they are a lot less reliant on the fans than say football or baseball. Not to mention, there is A LOT of money to be made in golf with arguably the most minimal risk to health in any sport. My dad pointed that out to me and I realized from an opportunity and business standpoint, it is a great sport to introduce kids to. It’s not as exclusive as one might think either, considering there’s plenty of public golf courses in this country.

Should We Save Sports?

The answer is yes. There is one side of people that feel that sports are too competitive and over-idolize the players as role models. These are reasonable criticisms, but sports do offer values such as keeping athletes in top physical shape, motivation to get an education in college, teaches athletes how to win and lose with class, working together in a cooperative environment for the greater good of the team, and offering an escape for kids from poorer areas and/or less educated areas.

Where we went wrong was making sports too much about organized leagues while leaving out neighborhood pick-up games where kids can actually go outside, make friends, socialize, have fun, and compete in the games they love and instead made it too exclusive and too political (arguably too one-sided politically as well).

It is ok to try to bring outside events into sport, but not everything has to be a political battle. Sometimes it is best to leave sports as a great distraction from an already cruel world.

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Want to talk sports? John Galletley is the man to go to. He has been following sports of all kinds since he was a child but had a first love for baseball being in a family of Yankees fans. He also loves to travel and has used sports in order to do this including taking several road trips to MLB stadiums and other sports venues. John has always dreamed of working in the sports world and wants to make his way there as a writer in order to follow the philosophy of never working a day in your life if you love what you do.

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