Why Professional Sports are Not as Fun to Follow As They Used to Be
I know by writing this article I am admitting I am now OLD! But that’s ok because that is the truth, I am old. One of the benefits of being old is that it gives me perspective on things, I have something to compare today to.
If you think I am one of those guys that sits around bitching about today’s generation, well, you would be absolutely right! But in my defense, I have solid arguments why sports were better in the 70’s than they are today. So you are about to read my reasons why I feel this way. Please feel free to comment if you think I am wrong.
Proliferation of sports on TV
I grew up in the 1970’s and 80’s and my team was the Cincinnati Reds. The first season I remember is 1975 (not a bad year). In 1975, the Reds television station WLWT broadcast around 44 road games and around 2-3 home games a year. So while it is great to see all your home teams’ games today, you lose the special feeling as a kid that you got when you could go home after school and watch your team play. It also made the experience of going to a game even that much more special because you rarely got to see a home game and then you were actually able to be there. Some of my greatest moments were when my dad would come home a couple of times a year with tickets to the Reds game. I will never forget the feeling of walking into Riverfront Stadium and seeing Johnny Bench, George Foster, Davey Concepcion in person!
Video games have also damaged the connection to sports. Remember playing a pickup game on your street? You don’t see that very often anymore. And you can forget about seeing kids trading baseball cards or flipping baseball cards. Believe it or not, in the 70’s and 80’s, the NBC Game of the Week was a huge deal. And it was made even better in 1977 with Mel Allen and This Week in Baseball.
I picked on Baseball here, but it goes for every sport. Let’s face it, most regular season games no longer carry the special aura that they used to. Plus, with every game on TV, the Vin Scullys, Joe Bucks, and Joe Nuxhalls disappear. Baseball on the radio is no longer a huge deal like it used to be.
I am not one of those people who bitch about how much money a ball player makes. I hope they get every dime that they can out of the owners. My problem is that in my opinion, players are not as good as they used to be because. Let’s face it, once you have made 50 million dollars, the hunger you once had has to subside, it is human nature.
Look at Boxing, for example. Nowadays a champion (and there are 10 in every division) fights maybe twice a year. Why is that? It’s money. Fighters are afraid to take on a big risk in the ring out of fear they might lose. So instead of taking one mega fight and making 8 million dollars, maybe they take a couple easy fights and make the money there. Boxing is a sport that is really missing the warriors of the past. I am afraid that because of the money in boxing, there is nothing that can be done to change that.
I will use the NFL as my example here. Look at the way team owners will now move their billion dollar businesses if cities won’t flip the bill for a new stadium. Now remember the owners, for the most part, are millionaires and billionaires who are almost guaranteed money because of the NFL TV deals. On top of that, the retired NFL players are largely ignored and their pensions are not enough to live off of. Then you look at tax-payer funded stadiums and the best seats are saved for other corporations’ bigwigs and a lot of times the fans are left out.
The Super Bowl is a prime example of corporate America intruding in the NFL. Instead of the game being for the fans, it is more about Roger Goodell schmoozing with big corporations and basically trying to line the owner’s pockets. In all actuality, if the owners paid for their own stadiums and took care of the players who years ago built this league, it wouldn’t bother me. But sadly they don’t.
How to Fix this?
Unfortunately, you can’t. There is no way you could ever put the genie back in the bottle. Luckily for all of us “Old Folks” we got to live through it and we know what those days were like, and we are the lucky ones. Nothing like getting up on a Saturday morning and eating breakfast while watching Saturday morning cartoons, then going outside to play Wiffle Ball with your friends until it was lunch time. After lunch, you hear the voice of the legendary Mel Allen and “This Week in Baseball”. And it was time for Joe Garagiola and the guys on NBC with the NBC Game of the week. Nothing was quite like that.