Friday, December 07, 2007

The Golden Child

The NFL is golden. Bulletproof. Untouchable.

Monday's Patriots-Ravens game was the highest rated show in the history of cable television, a domain typically dominated by professional wrestling. True, the Patriots are chasing a perfect record, but the Ravens aren't terribly exciting and Monday night ratings have trended downward for some time now. But never underestimate the power of the National Football League. The league makes millions off merchandising rights, has its own television network broadcasting live games and is making serious noise internationally.

Other sports cycle up and down. The NBA went through a bad stretch in the '70s before Magic and Bird came along. These days, it's trying to pump some life into it's seemingly endless regular season by requiring coaches to wear microphones for national telecasts. Major league baseball is taking a big hit with the steroid controversy, and whatever happened to the NHL?

It's amazing to think that back in the day this was a baseball nation and pro football hardly registered. Sports sociologists have debated exactly how and when this happened, but more important is the danger the NFL presents to other sports. In a sports media sense the league is threatening to marginalize all other sports. Ratings declines have been noted for the World Series, NBA Finals, NCAA Final Four and other major events, but not for the NFL. ESPN, the NFL Network and other sports media have now made the league a 365/24/7 business. If the NFL ever found something to fill up the spring months (besides waiting for the league draft), we could become the equivalent of a one-horse town. Maybe the NFL Network slogan is right -- it's an NFL world and we're just living in it.


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