By Mark Esposito, Weekend Blogger
Good afternoon folks, and welcome to the sports holy day known as NFL Sunday. We mostly all love it. The collisions, the sparkling cheerleaders, the feats of athleticism that would have made an ancient Greek Olympian proud. It’s all there – drama, excitement, pageantry, bright colors and morality. Yep there’s bad boys (think Oakland Raiders, Baltimore Ravens) and good guys (anybody named Manning or Russell Wilson) and there’s music – marching bands, pep bands, loud speakers blaring just about any rap, punk, pop, or country song you like depending on locale. Football is king! Long Live The King!
But the king has had better seasons.
From the professional gladiators to the high school gladiators-in-training, football’s morality play has come off the skids. The carefully cultivated image of athlete as hero that echoes through the centuries from the plains at Marathon to an Olympic stadium in 1936 Berlin overseen by a bad man with a bad mustache, yes, and all the way to modern day techno-proficient, thunder booming, firework blasting sports theatres, Football America is suffering.
Maybe it was avarice or a sense of invulnerability or most likely hubris. All of football was riding high early this year. The NFL was enjoying record profits even having the audacity to ask its halftime acts to pay it for the privilege of sweating it out before millions of Americans at home and in person. It was pushing the Old Man of US sports, Major League Baseball, from the headlines by moving its pre-season draft of players to prime time in … gasp … May, smack in the middle of baseball season. The colleges had just finished a game of musical chairs and chicken all at the same time and got the venerable, doting NCAA to approve a bowl championship, an acknowledgment of the 5 Big Boy Conferences, and the shunning of anything approaching governing the Big 5.
Yes football was riding high — but there were signs of looming disasters to come.